Every morning around 9.30am I am witness without fail to an epic journey undertaken by an elderly man. This senior, disabled with a leg problem, struggles to cross a particular road near my HDB block. Step by agonising step, the whole process will take at least 15 minutes. I do not know why he has to make this morning crossing to his destination – from which he would presumably have to return later in the day.
Sometimes he would be accompanied by his wife. More often, he trudges alone. Fortunately, the road he crosses happens to have minimal traffic. Just imagine if there is heavy traffic and he has to use an overhead bridge not served by elevators.
Yes, overhead bridges. In the early years, they seemed to be a good solution to maintaining vehicular traffic flow. One overhead bridge cuts down on the need for a number of pedestrian crossings and traffic lights. Plus, climbing these bridges would be good exercise. Win-win. In the end, some 600 of these bridges were built island-wide.
These bridges are still useful, provided there are lifts built at both ends for older pedestrians. Those that still do not have lifts can be a nightmare for the old and disabled.
I am not exactly clear about the Land Transport Authority’s policy towards these overhead bridges. There seems to be a problem of decision and commitment.
It is reported that LTA is looking at installing lifts in 250 bridges on top of the 77 that have already been retrofitted with lifts as at last year plus another 30 that will be upgraded the next three years. The Straits Times stated that due to constraints and costs (especially maintenance), it is unlikely that all of the 250 “under study” will be fitted with lifts.
The LTA should look at the issue much more closely. It should study it from all angles – better traffic flow, needs and rights of ageing population, convenience for mums with prams, time saved, potential loss of lives, and so on. MP for Toa Payoh-Bishan GRC Saktiandi Supaat said it right. He said lift installations will help connectivity….the benefits definitely outweigh the inconveniences.
Sometimes, the urgency is impeccably clear. MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling probably had no problem convincing LTA that lifts are necessary for the overhead bridge just outside the polyclinic along Aljunied Ave 1. There is the Geylang polyclinic serving so many seniors on one side and the bus stop on the other, with the Geylang East Library nearby.
Sometimes, an overhead bridge may have outlived its usefulness. For years, the overhead bridge in Mountbatten Road between Roxy Square and the row of shophouses opposite has served pedestrians fairly well. But when a decision was made to have a pedestrian crossing connecting Katong V shopping centre and the shophouses on the other side, that overhead bridge, which does not have lifts, has turned into a white elephant in the end.
So, in the end, many overhead bridges will scar our landscape as ugly white elephants on our landscape simply because hardly anyone wishes to use them. Waste is a bigger sin than necessary action and cost.
Lawrence Wong: Guitarist, singer, scooterist, biker, what next? Bungee jumper?
Suddenly, we see Lawrence Wong on a motorbike. The DPM and Finance Minister, who holds Class 2, 2A and 2B licences, said he picked up riding when he was a student in the United States, and he previously owned a Suzuki street bike that he used to get around Madison, Wisconsin.
“When I returned home and started work, I had a scooter for a period of time,” he said.
“But it has been more than 20 years since I last rode a bike. So I was glad to have the opportunity to ride with Riders Aid Singapore this time to support a good cause.”
The ride was for a children’s charity for cancer.
Guitarist, singer, scooterist, biker, what next? Bungee jumper?
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.
Send in your scoops to firstname.lastname@example.org