Friday, September 12, 2008

Residents call it 'cemetery road'

Two cyclists have died on this Pulau Ubin slope
Desmond Ng, The New Paper 11 Sep 08;

IT'S called Jalan Wat Siam, but its nickname has a more sinister ring - 'cemetery road'.

And true to its nickname, this road at Pulau Ubin has already claimed two lives.

On Sunday, Madam Lee Yan Inn, 41, died after she was flung off a tandem bicycle together with her daughter.

The housewife had lost control of the bike while they were going down a steep slope.

She hit her head, lost consciousness and died 11 hours later in hospital.

Another fatality occurred two years ago when student Zawiyah Mohd Muliana, 18, fell and hit her head while cycling on the same slope.

She slipped into a coma and died later in hospital.

The slope looks deceptively easy to navigate but it's a 200m- long, curvy slope with a sharp incline of about 30 to 40 degrees.

To novice cyclists, it can be quite a challenge, said seasoned cyclist November Tan, who helps organise guided cycling tours of the island.

And there's an average of one accident along the stretch every month, though most are minor, islanders told The New Paper.

There are four street signs along the stretch of the slope warning cyclists and motorists to go slow.

But old-timers on the island have dubbed it 'cemetery road' because there's an old Chinese cemetery on top of the slope.

Longtime resident Ong Kim Cheng, 50, said he avoids cycling along that stretch because of stories about an old female ghost lurking there.

He said in Mandarin: 'I don't like to ride around this area because of the stories about this place being haunted. People say that they've seen a female ghost here while picking durians, so I am not surprised about the accidents.

'But the slope is really quite steep and can be quite dangerous if you're not careful.

'I've seen cyclists with scratches and bruises walking back to return their damaged bikes after falling along this slope.'

Superstition aside, the islanders agree that this is one of Ubin's most dangerous roads to cycle on.

It's called Jalan Wat Siam because there was previously a Thai temple there. It was relocated to Jalan Kayu last year.

When The New Paper visited Jalan Wat Siam yesterday, four cyclists, all foreigners, were riding on the slope.

All had no problems cycling there.

Japanese expatriate Momo Matsutani, 28, was shocked to hear about the death.

She said: 'It's not difficult to cycle here. We just came down slowly and we didn't speed.'

At the bottom of the slope, there's also an NParks signboard with a map of the area and a warning: 'Always wear a helmet when riding in this area'.

Warning ignored

But it seems very few visitors pay heed to the warning.

All four bike rental shops we visited at the main village offer helmets for rent at $2 to $3 each, but they have found few takers.

Yen Fa Bike Rental's Mr K H Sit, 55, said in Mandarin: 'Some people think it's too expensive to rent the helmets. To many people, it's just not a habit here to wear helmets and cycle.'

Mr Sit had rented the bikes to Madam Lee and her family on Sunday.

He said that if she had worn a helmet, the accident may not have been fatal.

Owners of bike rental shops there said that only one out of every 10 people rent helmets.

It costs about $3 to $15 to rent a bicycle for the whole day.

When The New Paper was on the island yesterday, no cyclist was seen wearing a helmet.

Cyclist Nick Ward, 25, said: 'I don't think there's a need to (wear helmets). It's not that dangerous.'

Some islanders felt that the road should be closed.

Said Mr Sit: 'There's nothing to see there, so there's really no point for anyone to cycle up there.

'If people tell me that they plan to cycle there, I'll just tell them to go elsewhere. The authorities should either close the road or make it safer for cyclists.'

Editor's Note: I was quoted as a "seasoned cyclist" which is hardly true. I think they gather that from the fact that I've been guiding with Pedal Ubin for the last 5 years! I kept emphasizing to the reporter that I'm hardly the person to ask about cycling since I consider myself a novice amateur.

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More news report on Ubin Cycling Fatality

Editor's note: With regards to the Straits Times report below, helmets do not cost from $100 upwards. There are cheaper ones available. My helmet cost $25-35. There are also helmets for rent on Ubin. Depending on the shop, it cost about $2-3 to rent a helmet from the bike shops.

母女乌敏岛骑脚踏车失控 母不治 女受伤
Lianhe Zaobao, 刘丽仪









Woman dies after falling from bike
She was not wearing helmet when she was flung going down a winding slope
Sujin Thomas, Straits Times 10 Sep 08;

THE death of a woman who was flung off her bicycle on Pulau Ubin has highlighted Singaporeans' tendency to skip wearing safety helmets while cycling.

The owner of Yen Fa Bicycle Rental on the island, who gave his name as Mr Sit, said when Mr Tiew Sin Keng, 44, turned up with his family of six on Sunday to rent four bicycles, including two tandem bikes, 'they didn't ask to rent helmets and I didn't offer them either'.

Each helmet costs $2 to rent for an entire day. Despite this low cost, only two in every 100 of his customers ask to rent them along with the bicycles.

Mr Sit, who has 50 bicycles and 10 helmets for rent, said: 'They don't like to wear helmets because they say that they are uncomfortable.'

Mr Tiew confirmed that the shop did not ask whether his family wanted to rent helmets.

His wife, Madam Lee Yan Inn, 41, was on one of the tandem bicycles with their daughter aged 15. They were then going down a winding slope along Jalan Wat Siam, which has an unmarked hump at its foot.

The family's lead rider, Madam Lee's mother, made it down the slope and over the hump safely at low speed.

But Madam Lee and her daughter, who were next, shot down the incline.

Mr Tiew said the hump might have stopped the bike suddenly and flung them off, or that his wife might have braked too hard, throwing her and their daughter off.

Madam Lee died at Changi General Hospital 11 hours later. Their daughter escaped with bruises.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck, himself an avid cyclist and triathlete, said cyclists should wear helmets for safety - even when riding short distances.

He said a helmet saved him from serious injury two years ago when he was riding in a tight convoy with five others along Upper Thomson Road. His front wheel clipped the rear wheel of another bicycle and he fell, but 'I was fine because I was wearing a helmet'.

He said a friend who fell the same way was also unscathed but his helmet took the impact and cracked.

Depending on the brand, helmets cost upwards of $100 each.

That stretch of road where Madam Lee died is a known accident spot. Other bicycle rental businesses on the island said four accidents happen there every month.

A Land Transport Authority spokesman said that, aside from the usual warning signs like 'Slow' or 'Bend Ahead', additional signs saying 'Caution Steep Slope' have been put up along Jalan Wat Siam.

The president of the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association Victor Yew said that when going down slopes, cyclists should brake gently on their rear wheels.

'If you slam on the front-wheel brakes only, the momentum will cause the bike to flip over,' he said.

For Mr Tiew, tips like these are moot.

He said he would insist that his three children wear protective gear when cycling, but with the memory of how his wife has died, he added: 'I don't think I will cycle ever again.'

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mum of three falls off bike and dies on family outing

Grieving Dad, Daughter say they will never cycle again
The New Paper, 9 September 2008

Page 1 Ubin Cycling Accident Page 2 Ubin Cycling Accident
Click on thumbnail for full size article.

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Capital 95.8fm Report of Cycling Accident on Ubin

Editor's Note: Upon verification with New Paper and Lianhe Zaobao's reporting, this report is absolutely erroneous. Time of accident and age of victim's daughter are wrong.

一对母女在乌敏岛骑脚踏车时滑倒 造成一死一伤
9th September 2008, 0700 hrs
Capital 95.8fm News





Translation below by November Tan:

A pair of mother and daughter slipped while cycling on Pulau Ubin resulting in 1 death and 1 injury.
9th September 2008, 0700 hrs
Capital 95.8fm News
While cycling on Pulau Ubin, a mother and daughter lost control of their bicycle, slipped and fell, resulting in 1 dead and 1 injured.

Police reported that 2 nights ago (7 Sep 2008, Sunday) at around 8.30pm, a 40 something years old chinese woman was cycling with her daughter pilliontandem on the bicycle. While on the way back to the Ubin Jetty, lost control on a steep slope and fell, resulting in severe head injuries.

She was sent to the Changi General Hospital for treatment but died at 8 Sep 2008, 12.10am from her injuries.

From what the reporter understands, the victim's 10 year old daughter suffered some light injuries.

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fatal cycling accidents on Ubin

Was informed today that there was a fatal cycling accident on Ubin today (or perhaps yesterday? unconfirmed as yet). It would appear that somebody fell from their bicycles while cycling on Pulau Ubin. Details remain unconfirmed. Waiting for news to appear in the press. Just got word from a reporter that the accident happened at Jalan Wat Siam as the cyclist was coming downhill. Still awaiting for the news to appear in the press but it seems that it might not appear for a few days yet. [update at 9 sep 08, 1.38pm - this incident is headline news on The New Paper. Read TNP article here] There is a lot of discrepancies between the report by Capital 95.8fm and The New Paper. The time of the accident and ages of the victims are all different.

I was asked where are the places to be cautious of on the island and to my limited knowledge, here are the main roads on Ubin that may pose serious threats to the unwary cyclist.

1) "Cemetery Hill"

This is the slope up Jalan Wat Siam where the previous Thai Temple and Kekek quarry is, after the fork to Ketam Quarry. So named because of the chinese cemetery located beside the steep slope. Not quite auspicious but easy to remember. This is where the accident happened.

2) Slope in front of Belatok Hut

DJ Zhou Chong Qing fell at this slope last year. Personally I've only gone down this slope once and it was quite frightening especially since (if I remember correctly) there is a speed bump at the end of the slope which may throw off the cyclist's balance if they've been going too fast from speed accumulated from coming down slope. Braking too suddenly may not help either!

3) Road to Chek Jawa
Now that the boardwalk is open, many people cycle to Chek Jawa but the road is off road, unpaved, rocky and at several points, steep. A fellow pedal ubin guide, Athena, wrote that her friend, a seasoned cyclist with his own, very expensive bicycle gear, crashed at the road beside the quarry en route Chek Jawa and ended up with his lungs punctured!

Pedal Ubin's original objective was to promote safe cycling on the island and every so often, I feel the importance of our objective when accidents like these happen. It's so important to remember:

  • always use your gears accordingly
  • moderate your brakes as you come downhill (press down gently throughout the process of coming downhill)
  • do not suddenly jam your brakes
  • use your back brakes and not your front or you'll be thrown forward in front of your bike!
  • do not panic (this is very important when you see obstructions in front of you)
  • ride safely and cautiously!

If a lousy cyclist such as myself can survive these slopes without a scrape in the last 5 years then surely, anyone can manage it too with the right practices! But even experienced and expert cyclists get into accidents so beware all!

Latest Update @ 9 Sep, 8.35am
Heard on Capital 95.8fm reporting news of this fatal accident on Pulau Ubin but could not find the transcript on the website. Still waiting for media to come up with the print version.

A fellow Pedal Ubin guide, Athena, emailed the list regarding this accident having read it from the togoparts forum.

"tragedy at p. ubin yesterday. a cyclist loss control of the bike going down a slope and flipped with the bike. evacuated to mainland hospital but did not make it later in hospital. died of head injuries.

wat started out to be a weekend family outing, ended in tragedy. my sincere condolences goes out to the family.

but can this be prevented by wearing a helmet?......
i think it should be compulsory to wear helmets while riding in ubin. there's just too many accidents. i hope this tragedy never ever happens again."
Latest Update @ 9 Sep, 12.56pm
Thanks to the comments left on this blog post, apparently the police took half an hour to locate the scene of the accident. According to reports from Capital 95.8fm, the accident happened at night. Read the radio news transcript. However, The New Paper reports that it happened in the late afternoon.

In case of emergency on the island, here are some useful numbers:
Ubin NParks: 65424108
Ubin coastguard: 65428664

However, always remember that the island is not as accessible as mainland Singapore and dangers do exist. There is little to no public street lighting on the island as electricity is available only through generators on the island. As such I would not advice people to cycle in the dark of Ubin if you are not familiar with the island! Coming down a steep slope in the dark of the night is quite dangerous. Tandem bicycles are also difficult to control.

Related Reads:
"Mum of three falls off bike and dies on family outing", The New Paper, 9 Sep 2008
一对母女在乌敏岛骑脚踏车时滑倒 造成一死一伤 [capital 95.8fm report of this cycling accident], Capital 95.8fm, 9 Sep 2008
Ten cyclists injured each month on Pulau Ubin's 'danger spot'" Channel News Asia, 9 Jun 2007
"Days earlier, other student dies after fall from bike", The New Paper, 18 Jul 2006