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This evening as I was riding my motorcycle along upper Bukit Timah road, I noticed that the bus lane was completely empty while the second and third lane was fully congested with cars, trucks, vans and a large number of motorcycles jostling for the limited space.  I used my common sense (my thinking brain) and simply weave into the EMPTY bus lane, not only for a safer ride (since motorcyclists are the most vulnerable in congested roads) but also to help relieve the jam-packed 2nd and 3rd lane.

But alas! there was this LTA man eagerly holding a videocam and taking a footage of my bike as I was using my COMMONSENSE to ride into the taboo bus lane during the peak hours.  In the brief moment as I glimpsed into his hollow eyes, I thought I saw the $$$$$ sign rolled like a jackpot but it was only a figment of my imagination.  I shuddered and dispelled that thought.

Back in my mind, I was thinking whether the fine merit the “offense” for a motorcyclists for using his brain for a safer and better road utilization effort.   Should a motorcyclist also pay the same rate as car drivers since the latter are often the culprit for obstructing the bus lane as their cars cannot weave easily out if necessary.

So if the onerous is to create a traffic system that is more efficient than the one currently practiced, it would be good if the authorities can come up with some mathematical and statistical calculations to establish if:

a.  Allowing motorcyclists to use the bus lane during peak hours can ease congestion to the other lanes and allow the faster and safer transport.

b.   Whether motorcyclist using bus lanes actually hog or obstruct the bus services and by how much as compared to them hogging the second and third lane if they are barred from the bus lane.  So the comparison is in relation to the existing scheme.  Slowing the other vehicles in non-bus lanes are also opportunity costs and how do they remunerate against the bus commuters in terms of COE, vehicle ownership cost and others.

During the early peak hours, many bus lane remain relatively free while the other two lanes are fully congested with cars,trucks, vans and motorcycles jostling for space.  So to impose a fine when the bus lane is pretty empty can look pretty absurd for a first-class nation.  It might lead others to conclude that fines is more of a fund making venture than a deterrent for whatever reasons.  Of course, I try hard to tell my foreign friends that it is not the case.  Many of them believed me and I am glad.

If LTA can allow motorcyclists a greater degree of self-regulatory by allowing them to use the bus lane during the peak hours there could be a more equitable distribution of vehicles on all lanes.  Motorcyclists do not hog or obstruct the bus lane and can easily weave if necessary. Currently a lot of motorcyclists are being penalised for using their common sense during the peak hour by weaving or using into the bus lane to relieve congestion on the other lanes.

If the authorities feel that fines over-rides all considerations then perhaps, maybe it should be lower for motorcyclists as they are generally the lower income lots.  Otherwise they be driving a car.  Likewise the dispatch and delivery firms would also appreciate if their riders can use the bus lane for faster and safer delivery while relieving congestion to either bus lane or non-bus lanes by visual inspection as they ride.

Perhaps allow a greater degree of self-regulatory for motorcyclists during peak hours is the conventional wisdom as practiced in many countries.   Too many regulations and fines can actually make “Jack a Dull Boy” and regulated complacency certainly affects our safety acuity.

So to all my motorcyclist friends, remember SAFETY FIRST.   Think of your loved ones.  Paying fines IS NOT AN ISSUE.

Take Care

Mikey

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Yeah!  I brought an entry level DLSR – Canon D1100 (just below S$900) a few months ago and this was the first panning shot that I was able to try out during the practice session yesterday at the Singapore F1 Night Racing 2011 at Marina Bay.

The camera is quite easy to use like other new models from Nikon or Olympus, I guess.  Basically, just use the Tv (or shutter speed mode) and set to 1/125 sec.  The aperture will be adjusted by the camera in this mode.  To get to focus length correct you can use a single pin point focus to get past the metal fencing onto the road and then flick to manual focus to set it.  Using the default multiple focus will not get a good focal point as it will take the fencing (nearer to you) as part of its overall focal length.  Next will be the panning shot.  This you have to practice and once the F1 car is just into your screen, you should start pressing the button while panning the camera to follow the vehicle whilst letting the finger remain on the button until you hear the click a moment later. It should be quite easy with practice even for a novice like me.  Notice that the background and people are blurred as my camera panned across them to follow the racing car to depict the impression of speed, in this instance, in excess of 300kmph.  ( do click on photographs too see in higher resolution. )

Panning Photography - Singapore F1 Night Racing 2011

 

Other photographs are here:

Beautiful Hula Hoop Girls - one who roped me with her hoop! Cheers!

The iconic Singapore Flyer

The iconic Singapore Flyer

The mesmerised crowd

Crowd rushing for MRT after practice

Enjoy!

Mikey

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Just last week, I was in Phuket with my family and was driving  a rented car when it started to rain heavily.  As I was driving an unfamiliar car, meaning I do not exactly know where all the knobs and switches are, I had to fiddle and keep a look out for traffic.

Suddenly the windscreen start to fog up and I started to panic (a bit) but my wife was startled and worried.  I quickly switch to the airflow to redirect COLD air at the vent just beneath the windscreen (instead the car of course).  However, the screen seemed to fog up even worst and I told my wife to help to clean to screen as I could see where I was going and was driving at an extremely slow speed.  I also started to search for the hazard lights and found it after a while.  Meanwhile, the cars behind me were piling up and some started to honk at me.  But I remain steady and stay on course rather than submit to their honking a drive with a blurred vision that could be dangerous.

Then I remember, I have accidentally pressed the “AC” or aircondition controller button.  When it is “off” it is supposed to provide more power for the car since the power to the aircondition compressor is off.  However, during a cold rainy weather, it can become a death trap, meaning inside the car it is hot while outside it could be quite cold with the wind and weather.  As such, fog and moisture will develop inside your car and WORST still if you redirect the warm air (since you AC is off) to the vent beneath the windscreen.  The rate of fog buildup is relative to the country, climate humidity that affect the condensation rate.

Luckily I discovered the problem in time and press the AC button to “ON” and the windscreen started to clear almost immediately as the temperature inside the car and outside start to balance.

So, for the newbies and also those who had just obtained your car driving license, this is something that you should beware of.  The AC button, air vent switch and also the emergency lights should be memorized especially for unfamiliar or rented cars .  Always test the aircondition and air vent beneath the windscreen are working properly.

If your AC is really spoilt and the next best option is to wind down the windows to let in cold air and rain too to equalize the temperature so as to reduce the fog build-up.

I suggest to the authorities to have some sort of test for this.  Maybe the test could make the car driver drive through a cold rainy tunnel and let the student react to the fog build up and also the scenario when the AC button is in the off position or spoilt.  Should the student wind down the window or drive to the side with emergency lights on.  All these should be achieve within a certain time frame for safety.  This should be part of the basic course and not some defensive driving lessons as an afterthought because the new driver may never make it back alive for the “paying” defensive lessons as they would have already “paid” it with their lives.   Driving overseas can be hazardous especially the rented cars (the cheaper ones) are not so well maintained and do not have the new accessories like climate control etc.  So do not drive a big truck or mini-bus with lots of lives at stakes if you are not familiar with the car and weather condition there.  Worst still if you have to navigate using a map in a foreign country plus poor visibility.  Luckily this time round, I was using a rented GPS from the car rental company at about S$10 per day.  It was really easy to use and I need not constantly stop to check the paper map like in my previous trips.

Remember, places like Phuket have winding and steep roads that runs up and downhill that further reduce your reaction time if your visibility is reduce to zero within minutes.  Luckily I was driving in a straight road in the town and most tend to be wary of tourists in rented vehicles anyway.

By the way, most drivers do not even know where the rear windscreen heater button is and I can bet  most trainee car driver here have no idea what it is or even used during test on rainy days.  So those drivers on the road here driving real slow during sudden downpour could be experiencing the same condition like I do and did anyone helped them?

As for driving in a cool climate like in Melbourne during winter, I also remember once  I switch on the heater inside the car during a cold and wet night and again the screen started to fog up.  Then, I remember blasting cold air beneath the windscreen.  However, as I did not have enough warm clothing, including my family as we just step off from the airport a few hours back then, we were practically shivering.   I think there are heater for the front windscreen in such climate as opposed to only rear windscreen in tropical countries.  Another thing about setting the up heater inside a car is that drivers tend to slowly drift into a slumber especially for those not used to the climate and this is perhaps why some drivers from our tropical country get into accident when they turn up the heater inside the car, not to mention the possibility of fog.   If the outside of the car fog up, you can always use the windscreen wiper to clear away the fog but then it could mean your car aircon could be too cold inside.

Anyway to drive safely in temperate countries like Australia during winter like many Singaporeans do during their vacations, you can read this article with views from an Aussie :  “What’s the best way to clear a foggy windscreen?” –  Dr Caecilia Ewenz, a lecturer in meteorology and environmental science at Adelaide’s Flinders University was interviewed by Stuart Gary link

Take Care

Mikey

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I thought I should comment on this article even though I am now having breakfast in Phuket with my family, after all I have been writing and following this development closely.

In a way, it is a step forward. But a word of caution.  Do NOT let the trainee riders go up to the maximum speed of 90km per hour.  Most new riders do not try to reach this speed immediately but after a few days or even weeks, months on the road.  They need to get used to braking the front and back brakes correctly and properly.

But there are many other factors and conditions that can be improved for riders safety.  Like riding in windy and rainy conditions.  Know where is the hazard lights if any on class 2b bikes and how to filter to a safer lane during vehicle break down or is it better to stay in between lanes for a while when the bike breaks down or what?

Do the authorities even know that many class 2b bikes does not have hazard lights.

Firstly, new bikes being introduced in the Cat 2B (<200cc) are NOT really aerodynamic, in fact on the contrary, they have a plastic cover around the coolant tank which is more for fashion than aerodynamic design for riders’ safety.

I have to remove the plastic add-on to prevent my bike from wobbling in the increasingly strong windy condition in this region.  Plus trainee bikers do not add a big box behind their motorbikes.  Even with the new training on the expressway, I doubt the traffic police will emulate this real condition whereby most riders will add a box onto their bike and which will drastically alter their stability factor.

Maybe the authorities could employ our new wind tunnel testing in Singapore could make it compulsory for manufacturers to test and validate their new bikes for sales in Singapore especially for class 2b catergory.  It besides ensuring safety, it could be source of income too for better wind tunnel facilities.

I have to go now …..  (to continue later…)

take care

mikey

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Glad to be able to see glimpses of a Chief Justice great wisdom in dealing with so-called minor road skirmishes that many car users nowadays thought so and took for granted whilst failing to comprehend the severity of  the so-called minor grazes that could sent a motorbike into a uncontrollable fatal spin.  Because of the “road rage” the plight of motorcyclist can be better appreciated here.

Today’s Straits Times “Road rage biker spared jail” (26 Aug, 2010) saw the Chief Justice pointing out to Deputy Public Prosecutor Gillian Koh-Tan who insisted that a motorcyclist’s violent reaction was disproportionate to the slight wobble on the bike when a car driver bumped the it when trying “squeezed” between the bike and another car.   According to the DPP, the biker was unhurt and the motorcycle was not damaged.  However, disagreeing, CJ Chan said’: ‘Don’t you know it’s very dangerous to knock into a motorcycle because the rider could fall and be run over by a car. You see the accidents. Who gets killed? It’s the cyclists and motorcyclists.’   (ST 26 Aug 2010)

I am sad that the DPP failed to comprehend the severity of the incident.  Should the biker fall and substain heavy injuries to himself and his bike before he can evoke some anger . It is very difficult to be slightly angry, not to mention rage when someone actually tried to  a maneuver that could cost your life.  I am not proposing the motorcyclists should go berserk in any minor grazes or  near miss. But in the event of any court case, the circumstances have to factored in and it takes a wise person to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation.  How many fallen riders whose bikes have been grazed by reckless car drivers, have the opportunity to speak up, assuming they are severely injured or even dead.  It takes an astute judge to see things in perspective to remind car drivers of their social responsibilities to the “poorer” citizens who have to use a motorcycle.

This sort of wisdom coming from the top is something that motorcyclists should really applaud  and treasure especially when the death toll average is about 100 riders and pillion riders each year!  Translated to about one death in every three to four days.

Nevertheless, we can and must always continue to count on the Traffic police to assist us in every possible way, especially those who use their bike for transport and work (including postmen and dispatch riders).    I always look up to the Traffic police’s Shared Vision when in doubt:

“We are Protectors of Lives on the Roads.
We inspire the world by making Singapore roads the safest and most pleasant.

We are Champions of Road Safety .
We build strategic alliances with our key partners.
We work with the community to inculcate personal responsibility for road safety.

We are a Vibrant Organisation.
We value our officers, developing them to their fullest potential.
We are one united family.”

I was hoping maybe the Traffic police riders can have a Class 2B version of the their big bikes to be better appreciate the safety and concerns of those who only ride small bikes (200cc) and below as imposed by the current riding school.  Since not many could afford to upgrade to higher and heavier bikes due to budgetary constraint or somehow can never pass the Class 2A or 2 tests for whatever reasons.

I think they will be feel safer and have more confidence on the road if they also see the Traffic police riding smaller and more nimble Class 2B bikes along the highway in rain and strong wind conditions with tail boxes for goods carrying or their personal belongings.  After all we should learn from the best, the “protector of lives on the road”.  The TP can also learn and better appreciate the problems faced by the new class of light 2B bikes in  a actual road condition and can give better inputs during accident investigations.

We salute you Chief Justice Chan!

Yes.  The road rage biker should be fined for punching the reckless car driver that could have killed him in the first place.

Mikey

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I was at the Bras Basah road junction just next to the new Bras Basah MRT.  There were quite a number of people milling around the junction.  My younger son  decided to cross the road thinking there was no traffic lights when lo and behold a taxi turn left and honked at my son who reeled backwards.

We looked up and indeed there is a traffic light, in fact a full-fledged normal looking traffic lights.  But why did we and many other people around there did not see it?

Well, firstly, the road is actually a one-way carriage just for one car (I think) to pass it.  So, using a common sense approach, shouldn’t the height of the traffic light be lower to commensurate with the length of  the crossings.  This should be so in order for people to be able to see the traffic lights rather just a pole that could have been a street light if not that the pedestrian have to raise his head to actually realize “hey” there is a traffic light there.  The traffic light should not only be solely for vehicles usage or line of sight but considerations for pedestrians as well.

I hope good creatures with the commonsense can inform the relevant authorities to either add a lower traffic light for not only adults but especially for kids who will not realize or even see the existence of a traffic light since it is not proportionate to the length of the road for quick recognition.  A zebra crossing may be a better option, if the road usage is not too heavy.

The authorities should spend sometime there (at the junction between the Bras Basah MRT) and the National Arts Centre (formerly Saint Joseph) to better appreciate the problem.

ANOTHER POTENTIAL PROBLEM AREA

Similarly, at many cross junctions, where the road is not a perfect “plus” or “+” intersection, there is a potential danger that pedestrian crossing the road could be looking at the traffic light meant for cars rather than pedestrians. This split second differentiations is crucial and could have the cause of many accidents or near miss.

For example, the NEW intersection from Gombak Drive to Cashew Terrace is one such potential danger since the road is slanted from Cashew Terrace, so pedestrian standing at Point A waiting to cross to Point B will be looking at two traffic lights, namely, the new traffic lights for cars that is directly infront of them (since the road is slanted) and also the actual pedestrian crossing lights.  I hoped that there will not be too many accidents, or near miss in the future.  Not that I anticipate, but I actually told this to a friend when we were crossing that road recently.

Perhaps, the authorities can check if the engineers who designed both the traffic lights and road directions at the Bras Basah MRT and also the Cashew Add an ImageTerrace/Gombak intersection took these into considerations or was it really an afterthought.

 

 

 

 

 

Take Care!

Mikey

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Hi, I thought perhaps the best way to help motorcyclist is to find ways to surface our problems to the authorities; namely the Land Transport Authority (LTA)  and the Traffic Police.

I believe our problem solving skills is at best, flawed for reasons that I do not want to speculate and will suggest a new approach requiring multi-dimensional analytical skills and statistics that will truly put the safety of the motorcyclists a priority and at heart.

This is even more urgent with the increasingly “foul” weather, generally attributed to global warming that will see sudden gusto of strong winds and rain appearing in a even shorter notice or any warning.  The “freak” accident on 20 Jul 2010, saw a gusto so strong that it topple a tree onto a car, killing the driver. Even the Ch 5 news (21 Jul) showed an expert stating how strong the wind was that simply uproot trees.

Just imagine what the same gusto could do to the poor motorcyclists riding a light weight (class 2B) motorcycling a braving the strong winds and slippery road conditions during this rainy season.

Now, how can the traffic police and LTA help?

Firstly, they should allow the newly “graduated”  rider to have the license to ride up to 400cc instead of the present maximum of 200cc.  Why so?

The 200cc and below motorcycles are light-weight and with the increasing strong winds experience, the new riders riding at higher speed along the highway as compared to their speed in the riding schools will not be able to cope with this “new” situation.  Worst still, more new riders will install a box behind their motorcycle to hold their accessories like raincoat and helmets. However, in very strong wind conditions, these boxes unwittingly becomes a vertical rudder (at the tail section of  airplane) and even an experienced rider like me will have difficulty navigating and have to slow down alot to prevent losing control of my motorbike and hopefully not be chalked as another “misadventure”.

The Traffic Police can help here but keeping proper statistics of both fatal and non-fatal accident, noting the weight of the bike and also whether it had a box (rudder) and also the wind condition.   I believe these data could put to rest many of unsolved mysteries of “misadventure”.

LTA could install more wind shield at wind-swept “open” area and which could have been an notorious bike accident-prone area to help more motorcyclist especially those new riders.

The riding schools should have a few lessons where the trainee could try riding bikes with boxes and simulated strong winds and wet road to give them the feel of how their  “rudder” boxes will vibrate.  Maybe have a vibrating bike to simulate those conditions in a safe environment.

By allowing new riders to ride up to 400cc, their motorbike will have larger tire surfaces that allow better grip during rainy and windy conditions.  Many will argue why many Malaysian riders are using smaller capacity bike and able to ride well.  Firstly, I notice their boxes are installed a very small and close to their back (even infringing into the pillion rider seat).  This will effectively streamline the aerodynamics of their bike.  Secondly, not many install boxes behind their bikes.  Thirdly, they are more experienced and their bikes are NOT modified like ours which have a speed limit cap that somehow affect the throttling during wet weather condition.  Maybe an independent engineering team can put this to further test to ascertain the truth.

Imagine a new rider who is quite a large person riding on a small motorcycle and this top heavy ratio can easily topple him during a strong wind condition especially during cornering.  A lighter rider on a light bike is not without peril too as he could not use his body to shield his rudder-like tail box and contribute to another uncontrolled wobbling “misadventure” case.

The Traffic Police is indeed very smart and we should follow their bike design as close as possible to our budget, because if you look closely, their heavier motorcycle with modification is truly very stable in windy condition.  They have two side box and notice that their top box is just a small casing.  Perhaps some wise manufacturer had put their bike through a wind tunnel to check their aerodynamics and safety.

Since the traffic police bike is  as such, maybe they can hold a campaign to educate the new and even experienced rider of the perils of having a large tail box that could act as a rudder in this increasingly strong windy climate.

Another aerodynamic police motorbike from Malaysia

If the fear is to prevent  new riders from excessive top speed afford by larger capacity engine, which I think is not really a problem since the 400cc bikes here also have their top speed capped at the engine fuel intake, then I see why is there a problem at all.  There are other means of enforcing speed limits with present technologies.

Hopefully the TP and LTA can take all these into account and allow the new riders to ride up to 400cc and those with class 2A to ride all capacity classes. I can assure you that this is wise move and perhaps lower the “misadventure” cases of youngsters riding their bike at high speed and suddenly lose control in a perfectly fine day, not knowing that their newly installed tail box is the rudder that comes into play at higher speed.

I have test my new Yamaha FZ150 and found that the normal box (which hold two helmets) that comes together with the purchase is not a good idea at all.  I almost lost control of my bike along the TPE highway and have to slow down considerably.  The Yamaha’s authorized technician asked me to remove the box to prove his theory and indeed it was true.   So, for the 80 percent of riders using tail boxes, especially those new riders on their default light-weight bike, I can only hope that the authorities can see the light and put their heads together to help us.

Defensive riding course will not really help much if these technical specifications and accessories are not really factored in during accident analysis.  However, I have high hopes that the new generation can think and help themselves given the availability of statistics provided by our fallen riders.  May this writeup which I have analysed carefully through my 20 years of riding experience put to rest some of the possible nagging doubts how your loved ones could have departed.  The aerodynamics of the bike is another important factor that we often overlooked as we tend to take established things for granted.

Finally, if the TP, LTA and even the riding school have their hands tied, perhaps, the dealers, Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki can come up with a side-box version as part of their sales gimmicks to boost their sales plus safety considerations.  The mechanics should also advise their customers rather than for convenience sake put up a high-rudder like box that affect balance too.

Anyway, I have changed to a much smaller rear top box that can only hold 1 helmet and a set of rain gears due to necessity.  I have also changed the original tyres (which is actually a non-tubeless one although it came with a sport rim) to a better and safer tubeless tyre.   The smaller box and better tyre afford be grip and wobbling during riding in strong wind and on wet surfaces.

Take Care!

Mikey

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