Friday, January 13, 2017

Cycling Two Abreast on Roads

Recently the Active Mobility Bill was passed on the second reading. Soon enough there are cyclist who question the reason for the limitation "cycling two abreast will be allowed on all roads with at least two lanes in that direction, except those with bus lanes during the bus lane operational hours".

Now, before we talk about the new bill on this topic, lets just see the existing laws regarding cycling on roads.

The title of Article 7 is "Travelling abreast prohibited". Article 7.1 specifically indicate bicycle cannot ride "on the right of another vehicle". There is no explicit definition of vehicle in the article. According to Oxford Dictionary (and others) it generally means "a thing used for transporting people or goods". It is quite clear cut that bicycle cannot be excluded.

Article 7.2 then restricts Article 7.1 by prohibiting "cycling on the right of any two other bicycles proceeding abreast".  There is absolutely no ambiguity about cycling abreast in this two article.

Unfortunately, those who have bias always ignore Article 7.1 by treating "vehicle" as equivalent to cars, lorries and buses. Furthermore, they read the word "two other bicycle proceeding abreast" as that the law allows two cycling abreast not withstanding that Article 7.1 already prohibits and that it is taken out of context.

It is quite confusing why the specific article mentions two bicycle. It is assumed that overtaking 2 bicycle is still allowed due to the fact that the space taken by two bicycles is small enough. Obviously, those  who are biased towards cycling abreast take it as cycling two abreast is allowed.

Article 7.2 actually refers to the prohibiting of the third third bicycle with respect to the first two (while the second bicycle is overtaking). "Proceeding abreast" was interpreted as cycling abreast. However, "proceeding" could also means "begin a course of action" in addition to "move forward". Anyhow, Article 7.2 is not about allowing, it is about prohibiting and the subject is on third cyclist. Naturally, when you are biased you tends to read the words that conform to you bias instead of open interpretation.

With the biased understanding of "two cycling abreast" being allowed in the old law, they objects to the idea of "putting restrains" in the Active Mobility Bill". They event question why it is not stated in the bill. However, LTA already specifically indicated that it is "key regulation for on-road cycling in the Road Traffic Act".

LTA never specifically explain why cycling abreast is not allowed on certain roads. I have done a bit of measurement and come out with an explanation.

According to an article in asiaone (dated 2012-08-28), Mr. Francis Chu measured the width of roads around Toa Payoh, Ubi and Buona Vista. He concluded that "standard car lane width to be 2.8 Meters" but it can be as wide as "4 Meters".

A bicycle generally measures 0.5 to 0.75 Meter wide. Lets take the shortest width as standard. In order to be safe from swings and water grills on the road, it is generally advisable to cycle just to the right of the double yellow line. That is about 1 meter from the curb side. Now there is a campaign to promote 1.5 Meters safety gap between cyclists and other fast moving vehicles. Assuming, the safety measures are all in place, the total distance that other vehicles must move will be 1+0.5+1.5 = 3 Meters. Even with the widest of road lanes, other vehicles will have to end up partially on the second lane or opposite lane.

If cycling two abreast, then you have to add another 2 Meters (bicycle width plus safety distiance). The total gap (5 Meters) will be wider than any road lane width. Therefore, defining cycling two abreast on "at least two lanes in that direction" is appropriate safety measure rather than restriction.

On single road lanes and bus lanes (multi lanes are not excluded), the safety distance for one cyclist is already 3 Meters. It will be dangerous for other vehicles to overtake. They generally have to go on to the other lane to pass safely. Many cyclist feels the pressure when other vehicles overtook them too close. They do not realize that they have the rights to be on the road so is other vehicles. I do know that it is flesh against steel. Motorcycles also face the same issue. but because their speed is equal to cars, they feel less intimidated because less vehicles overtake them and they are not blocking others.

Cyclists cannot expect other vehicles to follow them because even the slowest speed limit (40 KPH in HDB areas) is also faster than the average 30 KPH that a cyclist can do (except some very good ones). While overtaking bicycles, the other vehicles are also restrained by other vehicles in the same direction or opposite direction. It is inevitable that they sometimes misjudge the safety gap and go uncomfortably close to cyclists. It is not bias on the driver part because they do it to other drivers too.

There are many drivers who question the reason for allowing cyclists on roads. They even say "cyclist do not pay road tax". We can understand their frustration because cyclists used to obstruct their ways. However, cycling on roads are explicitly allowed by law. Cyclists have the right to use roads. It is a matter of accommodating each other.

With the above reasoning, cyclist should be glad that it is now explicitly allowed two abreast on certain roads and not whine about cycling abreast on all roads.

One last thing. Roads are designed for commuting, it is not specifically designed for convoys. Many cyclist like to use the road for recreation/sports in a group. There is no law against travelling in convoys/groups. Remember that cyclists are not travelling faster than other road vehicles which could easily out run them. Out of courtesy, you should consider that they need to overtake you thus try to give way to them whenever possible as a cooperation between road users. There is no law against cycling in groups that does not means you sacrifice other's right to move faster.

I myself am cyclist. I advocate mutual acceptance rather than biased toward cyclists. I do full heartedly support the campaign of having cycling paths on roads. That will alleviate a lot of issues.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pedestrian Crossings Away from Intersection

Pedestrian walk ways are usually running along roads. Pedestrian Crossings usually cross at the junctions or intersections. Recently, Singapore constructs some pedestrian crossing 20-30 Meters down the road. This blog is to explore the pros and cons of such crossings.

First lets discuss on what type of crossings that are used.

  1. Non-signaled crossings
  2. Signaled crossings
  3. Zebra crossings
Non-signaled crossing usually are built on small roads where there are much less traffic. Pedestrians cross at their own risk. Signaled crossings are generally on more busy roads where there are needs to stipulate a period of time where pedestrian can cross safely. It has two divisions. One is non-automated. You have to press a button to trigger the change of traffic lights. This is usually on very busy roads where priority is given to vehicles. The other one is automated signaling. This type will automatically alternate between pedestrian and vehicular signal. Zebra crossings near intersections are rare. It is usually constructed near schools and where multitudes of pedestrians cross at a certain point.

We now talk about where will the crossing be built. Most of the crossings are built at the point where the junctions or intersections are joined. Some are built further away from the junction.  Zebra crossings are usually built much further in.

The following are discussions specifically on pedestrian crossings that are built further in instead of at the junction itself.

Non-signaled crossings are usually built across car park exits and small roads. It may be just an opening to the road or is built on raised platforms with ground markings on both sides.

  • It allows vehicles to turn in first rather than wait at the junction thereby blocking other traffics.
  • It allows pedestrians to see the vehicle coming in thus avoid ambiguity.
  • Vehicles used to think that they have the right of way thus pedestrians has to always avoid crossing when the vehicle is moving in.
  • Vehicles exiting to main roads used to block the crossing while waiting to exit to the main road as there is no signboard or marking on the ground indicating that it is a crossing.
  • Vehicles don't bother to slow down when the crossing is not a raised platform type.
  • Pedestrians used to avoid such crossing especially when they are already walking along the road on the pedestrian walk way.
  • This type of crossing will be useful only when there is little vehicle traffic otherwise either pedestrians is unable to cross or vehicles still blocks the main road traffic.
Signaled crossings are usually built at intersections. Some are even built on side roads like those near Admiralty MRT at junction between Ave 7 and Ave 6.

  • It allows alternate period where vehicles and pedestrians can move.
  • On less busy roads it is usually a non-automated signaling where user just waits for their turn to cross. No conflicts.
  • On busy roads vehicles usually have the right of way till pedestrians change the signal by pressing a button. Yet to see one with sensors to detect people waiting. Good for improving vehicle traffic.
  • Again this is only feasible if the vehicle traffics at the junction is not heavy otherwise there will be two sets of traffic within a short distance for the vehicles (at the junction and crossing)
  • Pedestrians are still responsible to watch out for traffic. It does not equals to pedestrians have the right of way. This is evident at a court ruling that pedestrians are 15% liable to damages because the injured did not look out for traffic.
  • Pedestrians tends to rush across when the signaling shows that it is less than 10 seconds before change.
  • Older people might not cross in time. There are some junctions that allows longer time of crossing when user tap their senior citizen cards on the reader.
  • People actually stopped in the middle of the road to chit chat.
  • Can you imagine the dilemma of pedestrians who need to cross over to the other side across the intersection? The person need to walk 30 Meters down to the crossing. Wait for the signal, then cross it. Walked another 30 Meters down to the intersection then walked 30 Meters further down to the other crossing. Waited yet again before crossing then finally another 30 Meters to continue the original direction. 120 extra Meters just to cross the two roads. Older designs means they only have to do a L shape crossing. In some countries, they could even cross diagonally.
  • Pedestrians could potentially block the walkaway. Intersection crossing usually have road islands where people can wait thereby freeing the walk ways for other users. 
  • Think also for drivers. They wait at the junction for signals to cross the junction. Before they could accelerate, another traffic light is right in front. 
  • On heavy traffic, vehicles will have a bumper to bumper queue across the junction (making a right turn). Each vehicle takes 3 seconds to respond to the traffic change or the front vehicle's movement. This means they probably have to wait another 9 seconds to clear (3 cars within 30 meters). 9 seconds could means that the traffic light at the junction could already changed thus causing traffic blockage at the junction because they cannot cross in time. it is even worse if the intersection is a yellow box. You may say that they should wait at the junction. You think they will wait if there is a very long queue? They are not wrong to move into the junction.
Zebra crossing. It is yet to see one such crossing so near to intersections. Again, this will cause more issues at busy roads since pedestrians are given priority.

All in all pedestrian crossings away from intersections is only feasible where the traffic is not heavy. It cause more issues to both pedestrians and vehicles at busy junctions and intersections. 

Pedestrians usually take the shortest distance to cross roads. They will ignore the crossings if they have to walk extra 60 Meters. This means more people will take risks and thereby causing unnecessary accidents.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

To Observe without Evaluating

"The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence" - Jiddu Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti was groomed to be world teacher by Theosophy organization but withdraw from it. According to Wikipedia he constantly stress the need a "revolution in the pyche of every human being and emphasized that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social." He even said "I used to be an atheist until I realized I was god".

In a 1929 statement he said "Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence" (Wikipedia). This statement has quite a close connection to the quote. His purpose is to stress the ability to observe without limitations of any form.

Since he has quite a close association with psychology, the quote is basically a psychological term adapted to his philosophy. In psychology, it is a practice to "observe without evaluating". In other words to observe without conclusion. The facts collected this way reveals the truth about the subject being observed an not the observer's opinion. This practice is also used in many other fields.

The beginning of the quote "The ability to" and the last part of the quote "is the highest form of intelligence" is probably Krishnamurti's "conclusion." In his purest sense, one should not come to any conclusion (evaluation). By adding the extra words, it is already a conclusion. But by the word "observe without evaluating", it has no value except for the fact that it is a sort of practice or action. Inevitably, the quote must have some value (conclusion) so that people will see and accept its value thereby appreciate the practice or action.

Now, observation is fact (data) collecting. What do you do with the facts? Without forming conclusion, what is the use of facts? What is the good of having large amounts of facts without conclusion?

Sherlock Holmes (a fiction figure by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ) said "you see but you do not observe". He made this comment when Dr. Watson admit he did not know how many steps let up to the sitting room of 221B Baker Street. Obviously, Sherlock Holmes have a keen observation ability. But what can Watson do with the knowledge that there are 17 steps? It is just one fact that by itself does not have much use. It has to be put together with many other facts to produce a result. In other words, it has to produce a conclusion. Sherlock Holmes is able to put all the observations together to produce an analysis to solve crimes.

Krishnamurti may have a purpose in his quote. It is, in my view, just a part of his broader philosophy to encourage people to not be limited by external factors (religious, political, personal) that may obstruct one's view of reality. By the quote itself, one cannot easily grasp what is the purpose of the quote.

I do not agree with his view that religion limits one's view of reality. One can be religious but still able to see reality itself. I accept this quote's value but not his full philosophy.

Also by not taking the values of religion, he is already not open. By holding an absolutism view, he is excluding the values of religion (including politics and personal views) thus putting his philosophy in an exclusive view. Surely, this is not what "freedom" means. His freedom is "free from". It should be "free to". The former is restrictive, the latter is inclusive.

In actual fact "free to" is already limiting. You only choose what you want but all are available to choose. "Free from" is you already say certain area is out of bound before you choose what is within bound.

Most people, especially those absolutist/authoritarian, prefers "free from" because it is less troublesome and less confusing for their followers and they have control. However, it goes against the idea of "freedom".  For him to choose "free from", he is trying to control of what can or cannot be included instead of his own ideology of "freedom". He did form a group of thought by his own ideology. The ideology dictates that one must be free from "external factors."

Why do I talk in length about Krishnamurti's ideology? His ideology actually interferes with this quote. By excluding, he actually evaluates when observing. He already conclude that external factors interferes with freedom (in this case "observation"). That is evaluation. He is stepping on his own feet. He says but does not practice what he says (說而不練).