Sunday, July 12, 2015

Transport Thoughts for the Future

I've talked about self-driving cars before, but after seeing this video I realized just how advanced and far the technology has come!

I am really excited about the future of self-driving cars. Imagine if you can travel back and forth with a self driving car, you could prepare your agenda for the day and read your emails on the way to work. If you had a long night, you could even take a nap!

I really like the prospect of this, especially from a safety standpoint. Maybe in the future our children will wonder why anyone would be so stupid to dangerously "manually" pilot a car and risk an accident.

I'm still waiting for the day when public transport turns 24/7 and that people will realize that the cost and "prestige" of owning a car is ridiculous for the premium paid for transportation.

In the big picture perspective, I think too many people are looking at the recent SMRT fiasco in absolute terms. I was out on Tuesday when the trains broke down too, so I was affected too. I have every right to complain, but I'm taking it in stride. I think the only people that should complain are SMRT shareholders if they kena fined, haha. I just met a friend that came back from Europe that was bitching about all the public transport strikes that screwed over his travelling plans. This incident was unfortunate, but really what is the downtime as a whole? I still think that our public transport system is good.

Another thing that I'd like to also talk about is cyclists. I've been a driver since 2009 and I really think that cyclists are the most dangerous things on the roads. I have also been a cyclist and commuted 8km a day on a bicycle before, so I think I have the right to talk about cyclists.

I don't see anything wrong with people wanting to cycle to work and to go to places, but I do not think that the current road infrastructure in Singapore is suitable for cyclists. If people want to cycle, there should be proper infrastructure to support this in an efficient way. Having existing users share the road not only slows down the flow of traffic, but creates unnecessary unsafe situations for both the cyclist and the driver. I personally find it very uncomfortable when I see a cyclist because I know that my driving pattern as well as all the other road users will be shifted slightly.

Whenever a cyclist is on the road, even as much as he stays to the side of the road, basically the entire lane is closed. Regardless how straight or steady a cyclist is, the other factor is also how a regular car driver is able to give space and accommodate a cyclist within the same lane as them. Most feel uncomfortable and give a lot of space in between, and that is fantastic for the cyclist, but shitty for the rest of the people using the roads, especially those in the other lane since the car drive beside the cyclist will "eat" into their lane.

The ones that don't feel uncomfortable, they drive right up beside the cyclist and freak them out. Which is why we have so many cyclists road raging about inconsiderate drivers that almost killed them.

Recently, I've also seen lots of electric bicycles being driven around like circus motorcycles. I saw 3 young boys on a single electric bicycle plying the roads with no helmet. Dangerous? Obviously.

How are people supposed to travel around safely if their preferred mode of transport is cycling or through light electric vehicles, like an electric bicycle or kick scooter? Should they be sharing the roads with cars? It seems very dangerous and bad for traffic overall in my opinion. Should they be on the sidewalk with pedestrians? It also seems very dangerous as well. 

Ideally our roads should be created to safely accommodate light electric vehicles and bicycles, and I think the best and safest way is to look how the bicycle-riding country of the Netherlands have created their roads.

When in denser metro areas, the bike lanes are completely separated from the main road used by cars. This keeps it safer for both the cars and cyclists since the only point of crossover contact is at intersections.

Of course, it might not always be possible to widen the existing roads and have clearly seperated spaces for cars, pedestrians and cyclists together all at the same time. Widening the roads by a metre and clearly demarcating that it is only for cyclists would also make it safer, although there is now no curb between cars and cyclists. Swerving or reckless driving / cycling could lead to accidents in this design, but it is still objectively much safer than the current way we share the road now.

While I think that it is sad that cyclists can get into serious accidents on the roads, I can't help but feeling like many cyclists are completely underestimating the hazards and risks that can be caused by others. Even as drivers, we are all at the mercy of other "idiot" drivers using the roads with us. For the cyclist, they are not exempt to "assholes" on the road as well. However, they have much less mechanical protection compared to drivers and even motorcyclists. Most people that have driven a car before have been in an accident once in their lives. Imagine getting into an accident on a bicycle. With that kind of probabilities, I have decided not to cycle on the roads in Singapore for now until things have changed.

I love cycling, but I really think that cycling in Singapore on the roads is way too dangerous. If I could hop onto my bicycle and cycle 5 minutes down to the shopping centre safely, that would be amazingly awesome for me. Cheap form of transport that is also good for health! But who knows if that would ever really be possible in Singapore?


  1. Hi GMGH,

    I share similar thoughts as you. Driver-less electric cars from Tesla, maybe? I really think Tesla is going to change how we drive cars in a decade's time, although I doubt it's going to be a good investment. =p

    I have a feeling the government is experimenting whether building a cycling infrastructure is going to be worth it. The key is still the demand. Do people really want to cycle to work? I personally doubt I would, especially if I have to be at work in shirt and pants.

    But running errands in singlets and berms? Why not? =)

    P.S. Haven't commented in a while but still reading (and well, your disgust for Piketty is pretty extreme). Keep the good articles coming. =p

    1. Hi Mr15HWW!

      Nice to hear from you!

      I think that electric is the way that we would eventually have to go in the future. In a small, dense country like Singapore with capable infrastructure, I think it can be easily adopted once it is economical and safe to do so!

      Personally, I think developing and improving the "last-mile" would be the most effective, which I would imagine MRT stations and bus interchanges being the points that branching out to capture traffic to them, move people quickly through the bulk of their journey, then spit them out to hit their final destination.


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