Andrew Loh / Deputy Editor
Update (August 5): The Land Transport Authority and the Traffic Police have replied to my email. The LTA says they are widening the road at Jalan Eunos and the bus stop will be shifted and a pedestrian crossing will be added by Oct 2010. The Traffic Police says that its officers will monitor the situation in Eunos and "actions will be taken against pedestrians who flout traffic rules."
Tens of people risking their lives every morning. A police post that operates only from 12 noon. A town council official who doesn’t acknowledge your email. And the Traffic Police who, apparently, doesn’t take the situation seriously.
Over at Eunos, on the eastern part of Singapore, a situation is developing which could be aptly described as an accident waiting to happen.
Every morning groups of workers alight from the buses at the bus stop located at the junction between Jalan Eunos and Eunos Crescent. They would then wait for an opportune time before making a dash across the road -- even though a traffic crossing for pedestrians is located just 30 or 40 meters away. This would normally not be alarming except that in this case the traffic at Jalan Eunos is very heavy at all times of the day. Vehicles are either heading towards the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) or coming in from it. Coupled with the traffic coming out from Eunos Crescent, the danger for both pedestrians and motorists is multiplied.
Yet, it seems that the authorities are not taking the situation seriously enough -- even when it is apparent that they have known about it for at least more than a year.
Where has common sense gone?
If you watch the video below, taken one recent morning between 7.30am and 8.30am, perhaps you will understand better what I am trying to say here. The alighting point for the workers requires them to make a big detour in order to get to the other side of the road, to either go to their offices at the industrial estate or to take the train at Eunos MRT station. They have to walk about 30 meters to the first crossing, get across the road, and repeat it again at the second traffic light junction at Eunos Crescent. I figure it’s about a 80 to 90 meters’ walk to get from where they have alighted to the other side of the road. A dash from the bus stop to Eunos Crescent saves them all that trouble. That is why, I guess, so many of them do it.
However, it is not only a lazy thing to do but also a very stupid thing to do -- to risk one’s life so carelessly, and irresponsibly too because doing this poses not only a danger to oneself, but also to motorists. There have been instances where motorists would jam on their brakes to avoid slamming into these people dashing across the road. You will also see in the video below the unnecessary danger these people put themselves in - by standing right where the buses are coming in to the bus stop. Your heart skips a beat and you hold your breath. You can almost sense the anxiety of the bus drivers as well, as they try to avoid hitting anyone.
Why anyone would tempt fate, as it were, in such a fashion every morning and evening, is beyond me. Where has common sense gone?
I decided to seek some answers from the nearby Kampung Ubi police post, located about two blocks away from the junction. Earlier this year, I had seen policemen posted at the junction to deter and "book" those who were crossing illegally. Well, the shutters were down at the police post. It surprised me. It was almost 9am. Why is the police post shut? I then noticed the sign outside it -- the operating hours for the police post was from 12 noon to 10pm daily. I was stumped. A police post which opens only at 12 noon and only for 10 hours every day? Perhaps Ms Sylvia Lim was right -- our Home Team is short of manpower and is stretched too thin. I decided that I would ask about that another day -- when the police post opens at 12 noon.
In the meantime, I went home and wrote an email to the Member of Parliament for that area, Mr Ong Seh Hong. The area is part of Marine Parade GRC, led by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. In my email to Mr Ong, I asked if he was aware of the situation at the junction, what was being done and whether he has brought it to the attention of the relevant authorities. Mr Ong also holds his Meet-The-People session every Tuesday at a block near that junction.
The property manager of Marine Parade Town Council replied to my queries. Well, sort of. He didn’t so much reply as to "carbon-copy" -- or cc -- me when he forwarded my email to the LTA and the traffic police. His one-sentence email said: “Please refer to the mail from Mr Andrew, appreciate your follow up action.” That’s all. Not even an acknowledgement to me, or that he received my mail. And he didn’t even bother to answer or acknowledge the questions I had posed for the MP either. Not even a simple “thank you”. So much for courtesy.
I encountered the same with my own MP in my ward in Ang Mo Kio GRC when I wrote to her about another matter. No acknowledgement. She too just “cc-ed” me when she forwarded my mail to the relevant authorities. I am beginning to wonder if it’s so hard for an MP to even type a short thank you or acknowledgement to residents or Singaporeans who bring important matters to their attention. But I have to say that the police officer who handled this other matter in my estate was extremely professional, friendly and understanding.
Back to the traffic situation at Eunos. On Sunday night, I made a trip back to Eunos to speak to the officers at the Kampung Ubi police post. The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the police post was that there was only one officer there. Later, I was told that the post was indeed manned by only one officer, and he would be stationed there from 12 noon to 10pm, as mentioned earlier. The officer didn’t really explain why this is so.
After I related the traffic situation to him, he told me that it was the responsiblity of the Traffic Police. When I enquired further, he suggested that I speak to the MP and he assured me that they, the police post officers, are aware of the situation. “So, why isn’t anything done about it for so long?” I asked. He replied that they are busy with other matters in the neighbourhood which are just as urgent and he repeated that this was the responsibility of the Traffic Police. “But people are risking their own lives and endangering others every day -- every morning and evening. Isn’t it important that something be done about it?”, I asked him again. The officer assured me that he will inform his supervisor about the matter.
I told him that I had taken a few videos of the situation at the junction and if he’d like to watch them. He didn’t express any interest. I left the police post feeling really disappointed.
What I would like to suggest to the Traffic Police, the LTA and the MP for the area are:
1. Put up barriers at the bus stop to prevent the workers from crossing there.
2. Re-locate the current traffic crossing. Perhaps an overhead bridge can be built instead, further down from where the bus stop is. After all, not many people use the current traffic crossing because of its incovenient location, and Jalan Eunos is a very busy road at all times of the day. An overhead bridge would allow traffic to flow more smoothly too.
3. That the Traffic Police take such matters seriously. If it’s important enough for the police to station officers at the junction to deter jaywalkers, then it is important enough to do something about it - a permanent solution - and not a temporary deterrent one.
4. That the MP for the area be mindful that just because something is under the purview of another government agency doesn’t mean that he should ignore it, especially when it involves the safety of the people in his ward. After all, he is in the area at least once a week, just two blocks away from that particular junction, and should be aware of such a situation which has existed for more than a year at least.
It’s been five days since my original letter to the MP, Mr Ong Seh Hong. I’ve yet to hear from him.
Meantime, let's hope the Traffic Police will be more responsive.
Otherwise, besides those who put their own lives, and that of others in danger, the police will also have to be held responsible if someone should be fatally injured one of these days at that junction. All it takes is for one driver to be distracted and a whole group of people will be very seriously injured -- if not fatally so.
The situation, to me, is an accident waiting to happen.