Our otters and us: we are all connected

While I was cycling towards downtown to start my food delivery shift this morning, I spotted a lone smooth-coated otter on the other side of Kallang River.

I noticed debris in the water, which includes litter from drains probably washed into the river by the recent storm.

There is also some algae bloom on the water surface, which could be caused by eutrophication, which can harm aquatic plants and animals.

It occurs to me that while many of us have the privilege of staying in our cosy homes during the coronavirus crisis, our beloved otters have their homes threatened by pollution time and again.

It is a reminder of the fact that how we treat the environment matters a lot because as the Covid-19 virus pandemic has demonstrated, we are all interconnected and our actions affect both ourselves and others.

As we continue to practise safety measures such as social distancing to protect ourselves, let’s also continue to keep in remembrance those who are most vulnerable among us, including the less privileged or disabled folks as well as our animal friends who are voiceless and cannot speak up for themselves.

P.S. You can also help by sharing this post to spread the message on environmental awareness. It costs nothing, except perhaps a few seconds of your time.

Xenophobic attacks on East Asians in the West are a wake-up call on the true nature of racism

Mustard and Olive Chic Lifestyle Blogger Quote Social Media Graphics

I happened to see the recent news coverage on racist and xenophobic attacks on East Asians in Australia, the US and Europe, including the latest one involving a Singaporean Chinese student in the UK, which are related to coronavirus fears. For example, one article reported:

“Since knowledge of the outbreak first occurred, disheartening incidents have been reported in Australia, Europe, and the US of people of east Asian appearance being verbally abused, kicked off public transport, denied entrance to shops, spat on and even violently attacked.”

I think that it is a wake-up call for East Asians, especially Chinese, to realise that despite their efforts in trying to act like “honorary Whites” or being labelled as “model minority” (which is anti-Blackness in disguise), in reality, they are treated no differently than the rest of the people of colour, aka Black and Brown people, by the majority White demographics in the West who use systemic racism and White supremacy to their advantage.

It highlights the fact that racism is more than just about skin colour — it is also rooted in economic privilege and classism. For that reason, “reverse racism” doesn’t exist. For example, it is impossible for a privileged White to be subjected to racism from a person of colour who belongs to a less privileged demographics or identity. (The same can be said of a privileged Chinese in a Chinese-majority country who benefits from the system at the expense of the minority races.)

If anything, instead of simply calling out racism in these recent incidents in the West, the East Asians should also, individually and collectively, take a long hard look at their own internalised self-hatred towards their own race and towards those who are of darker skins, and ask themselves whether they have been complicit in their own systemic racism and light skin privilege that has resulted in the marginalisation of Black and Brown people all this while.

After all, where have the Chinese and other East Asians been when activists, such as Sangeetha Thanapal, have been pointing out that the other Asians who are of darker skins are not represented equally in the movie “Crazy, Rich Asians” (which “is simply the ongoing systematic erasure and oppression of Singapore minorities on a global screen”)?

And where have the Chinese and other East Asians been when the news has been reporting cases of how Aborigines (or indigenous people) and Black people in Asia have been marginalised by the system?

I, for one, do not sympathise with the Chinese or East Asians who continue to be wilfully ignorant or in denial of their own light skin privilege, even if they become targets of race-motivated attacks due to coronavirus scares in the West, until or unless they own up to their programmed desire to become like Whites or worship White, and they consciously seek to divest themselves from the oppressive racist light-skin privileged system and stand in solidarity and speak up for the marginalised Black and Brown people in their midst.

As for me, dealing with social injustice, such as misogyny, systemic racism and racial privileges, has become part of my personal awakening journey. When we realise we share a common destiny and humanity with the marginalised minorities and participate in their pain and suffering, we are compelled to stand in solidarity with them.

As the late civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr once said, “no one is free until we are all free”. It is a perennial reminder and inspiration for me, hence I want to share my knowledge and observations of such issues through writing from the perspective of a Southeast Asian Chinese man. And in the process, I will also continue to challenge myself to be aware and conscious of how I can choose not to participate in the system that continues to oppress and subjugate the less privileged.

Concerns over potential risks of underground construction impacts on wildlife in central nature reserve

The following is my unpublished letter sent to Straits Times Forum.

Dear ST Forum,

I read with concern about the potential risks of underground MRT tunnel construction impacts on wildlife in the central nature reserve, as reported in the Straits Times on 9 September 2019.

Despite the fact that EIA was carried out and mitigation measures were planned to reduce the construction impacts, we cannot fully ascertain the full extent of the impacts on the wellbeing of our vulnerable native wildlife species, such as pangolin, mousedeer, civet cat and so on.

It is a fact that animals in the wild are far more sensitive than humans to subtle environmental

changes and habitat disturbances.

For example, it is reported in Channel News Asia on 2 October 2019 that “Thailand was hit by drought this year and the elephants may have been looking for new sources of drinking water, but it is also possible they were trying to avoid contact with humans.”

As a result of disturbances around Khao Yao national park, the elephants had strayed near the dangerous waterfall and ended up falling over the cliff, and 11 of them died.

According to an article, studies have conclusively shown that noise and vibration can adversely affect breeding in laboratory mice. Continuous exposure to vibrations can impose fatigue and sleep deficiencies. Random vibrations occurrences have been known to invoke panic in mice whereby they cannibalize their pups when low frequency vibrations are suddenly perceived coming from under their bedding possibly sensing an intruder is approaching.

Another article noted that “In February 1975 hibernating snakes abandoned their hideouts in the north-eastern city of Haicheng. The city was evacuated and February 4, the region was hit by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.”

Therefore, I urge the authorities to reconsider the construction of the direct MRT line underneath the central nature reserve. We cannot risk harming the wellbeing of our wildlife residents. The construction works would invariably cause habitat disturbances, and the vibrations caused by the construction deep underground can resemble seismic activity, which can profound impact their lives in ways beyond our understanding. Not only their breeding and other survival behaviours may be adversely affected, but also they may be compelled to flee from the forests and become displaced, homeless or even end up as roadkill.

Finally, NParks signboard explicitly states that we are only guests in our vulnerable nature reserve, which should be left undisturbed, so that we and our future generations can continue to enjoy them. Surely it would be a moral and criminal offence for us to do any kind of major construction works in the nature reserve itself, whether in the air above, on land or below the land.

Spotted at night in Singapore: Colugo or Malayan Flying Lemur

Colobus or Colugo?
If someone were to ask me about these two animals ten years ago,
I would say I have heard of the Colobus but not the Colugo.
Why is that so?
Because I used to read Gerald Durrell’s books on his fascinating wildlife experiences during my teenage years.
One of his books is titled “Catch me a Colobus”.
Now what is a Colobus?
I can’t really remember offhand, except that it must be living somewhere in Africa or South America, but certainly not in Singapore.
But if anyone had told me back then that the Colugo lives in Singapore, I would have batted an eyelid.
Or many eyelids in fact, for I hadn’t heard of Colugos in my entire life….
Until several years ago when I signed up for a free nature walk in Bukit Batok nature park organised by NParks.
It was on that fateful day when my volunteer guide Kwa Kee Lang suddenly stopped my group in our tracks in the forest.
He pointed towards a tree and told us that a Colugo was on that tree trunk.
That was my first acquaintance with an animal I never knew exists on Planet Earth, not to mention in Singapore.
I learnt that it is also called the Malayan Flying Lemur.
A few nights ago, I encountered this shy nocturnal creature again.
It was hanging on a tree in front of my block while I was making my way towards the nature park.
From the corner of my eye, I saw its dark shape that resembles a large batlike entity.
It is perhaps not unlike some fictional character from a Batman movie.
But it is as real as it could get, for I could photograph and record it on video.
Shortly after I took the video, it glided away across the road back into the forest…
To safety and an unknown abyss whence it came.
But one thing occurred to me before it vanished into the darkness.
When it was soaring across the road, it flew low enough to be struck by a passing double decker bus.
It is fortunate that the road traffic wasn’t really busy at that time.
It might have easily ended up as yet another statistic of animal roadkill.
That colugo is a picture of our rare and vulnerable wildlife residents that are seldom seen or heard in Singapore.
Meanwhile, our trees are routinely being cut down all around the island in the name of development and “progress”.
Bukit Batok nature park is one of the very few sanctuaries left for them to take refuge and survive.

My concerns about the plans to build a direct underground MRT tunnel underneath MacRitchie rainforest in Singapore

Several days ago, I emailed Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore to voice my concerns about the plans to build a direct underground MRT tunnel underneath MacRitchie rainforest in Singapore, as follows.

Dear sir/madam,
I am writing to provide my feedback on the cross island line construction.
I am concerned about the environmental impact on the central nature reserve that may be caused directly or indirectly by the direct alignment option.

Such impact can be detrimental to both wildlife and natural vegetation in profound ways that we may yet fully understand.
Below are my specific concerns:
1. NParks signboards state that we are only guests in the fragile nature reserves, and we should preserve it for ourselves and future generations. Therefore, no construction works should be carried out within the central nature reserve, even if they are deep underground or along the periphery of the rainforest.
2. NParks also states that any noise within the zone will affect sensitive wildlife in the central reserve. Please see attached screenshot. We cannot guarantee that the construction works won’t generate noise or vibrations, whether they are carried out along the forest fringes or underneath the forest floor, even if it mainly comprises hard rocks underground.
3. We cannot totally rule out the possibility of any tunnel accident or collapse, whether during or after construction. The Nicoll highway MRT tunnel construction accident is a cautionary tale for us. In the event of an accident or incident in an underground tunnel below the nature reserve, any rescue work will likely affect the nature reserve, especially if a shaft needs to be bored deep into the earth, like in the case of the dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners some years ago.
4. Last but not least, we cannot fully ascertain the vastness of the underground hot spring around Sembawang. I believe there is a reason why the existing MRT tracks are built above the ground along the North-South line between Kranji and Bishan MRT stations. It is possible that the northern and north-central parts of Singapore may have hot underground reservoirs, which may extend to the area between Lower Peirce reservoir and MacRitchie reservoir. If so, it would be dangerous for any kind of deep underground construction works to be carried out in this region. Please see attached diagram for reference.
The nature reserves are the only remaining primary rainforest and wildlife habitat we have left in Singapore. With the ongoing development works that have been destroying other green spaces including Bidadari, Lentor and Tengah forest, we cannot afford to risk losing or affecting the last vestiges of our original forests. They are our most important natural heritage, and they serve as our green lungs, refuge for our wildlife residents and sanctuary for our soul.
Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to your positive response.

I then followed up with a second email to LTA.

Dear Sir/Madam,

In addition to my first email, I would like to add the following point.
While LTA may be concerned about time and cost factors, as stated in the EIA report, my stance is that no amount of time and money can recover or compensate for the potential loss and/or disturbance of the fragile biodiversity.
A case in point:
Years ago, Singapore built Bukit Timah expressway that divides between Bukit Timah nature reserve and Central nature reserve, which invariably affects the migratory routes and long-term survival of our native wildlife species.
As a result, we recently have had to spend enormous amounts of money and resources to build an Eco-link to hopefully restore some amount of ecological balance in the nature reserves.
Isn’t it better to leave the natural ecosystem untouched in the first place instead of creating disturbance and then spending even more time and money to rectify the situation?
Finally, there is no doubt that LTA wants to enhance the mobility and convenience for people in Singapore even further by building the cross island line.
But we have to bear in mind that many, if not all, of our native wildlife species, which we share our home with, are not as resilient or adaptable as us human beings in the face of rapid urbanisation, as shown in the innumerable cases of wildlife species being driven to extinction around the world by unsustainable development and environmental degradation over the years.
The following is the reply I received from LTA.

Dear Jimmy,

Thank you for your interest and feedback on the Phase 2 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Cross Island Line (CRL).

During the EIA study process, measures to avoid or reduce impacts associated with the proposed alignment options were prioritized. This has led to the placement of worksites as far from the primary forest patches within the CCNR as possible. For both direct and skirting alignment, there will not be any surface construction works or above ground structures within the CCNR. Railway construction and operations, including and not limited to emergency procedures and escape provisions, will conform with current codes of practices and operational requirements in the existing MRT lines.

Measurements were undertaken to establish the vibration baseline levels within the CCNR, and vibration generated from tunneling activities were assessed to be below the baseline vibration levels that are currently experienced by wildlife. As a precautionary measure, LTA will carry out vibration monitoring during the tunnelling works to ensure the levels are kept below the baseline levels. The vibration levels generated during railway operation were assessed to be even lower than those generated during construction, it is therefore not expected to give rise to impacts to wildlife within the CCNR.

In view of the value and sensitivity of the forest habitat, LTA will be exploring further means to optimize the worksite footprint at the Advanced Engineering Study stage of the Project, so that site clearance can be minimized. In addition, LTA will be collaborating with NParks on reforestation plans to restore connectivity between forest fragments around the Project area. A comprehensive Environmental Management and Monitoring Plan (EMMP) to mitigate the impact has also been developed in consultation with various stakeholders. The EMMP will be a framework for monitoring and checking of mitigation measures, so that changes can be made to ensure these measures continue to remain effective throughout the Project construction.

Based on the EIA, both underground alignments for the CRL are feasible and the residual impacts are largely moderate or below. These impacts can be managed with mitigation measures. Thus far, the Government has not made a decision yet on the alignment option. In deciding on which alignment to adopt, the Government will have to consider the full range of factors such as travel time, commuter benefits, impacts on home owners and environment.

Once again, we thank you for sharing your views with us. Views and suggestions of different stakeholders will be taken into considerations for Government to make decision on the final alignment of the CRL.

There is no mention of my concern about the underground hot springs in their reply. I suppose they probably need to look into this matter first.

Our fragile nature reserves in Singapore

Last Sunday, I took a plunge into the last remaining primary rainforest in Singapore, which I haven’t visited for some time.
I decided to hike along South View trail, as I didn’t recall having taken it before and I wanted to be far away from the crowd who took the main path to the summit.
I was rewarded with a view of the surrounding area at a lookout point at South View hut.
Though the view is mostly covered by the foliage, it is at least better than the view from the summit, which is almost completely covered by trees (not that it’s a bad thing, as the trees are important too).
As I sat at the South View hut, I read the NParks signboard that says we are guests in this place, and it is our responsibility to conserve our fragile nature reserves both for ourselves and future generations.
The words are so true, and yet so ironic… because the transport authorities are considering to build an underground MRT train tunnel underneath the Central nature reserve near the reservoirs.
No words can adequately describe the sense of tranquility and ancient heritage of Bukit Timah nature reserve, which must have retained its original form for millions of years (possibly surviving cycles of sea level rises in between ice ages due to its elevation).
It is the last stronghold for the native green spaces that are relatively untouched by humans in Singapore.
Its fragile existence is made all the more pronounced by the fact that one forest after another has fallen prey to development over the years, including Bidadari forest, Lentor-Tagore forest and Tengah forest.
Even the forest around Poyan area in western Singapore is being cleared for development (as reported by avid Nature explorer M Saniroz AR) – this is being carried out quietly while the mainstream media distracts us with news of all kinds.
All this talk about climate change mitigation measures might sound impressive, but …
As long as deforestation continues in our midst, and our wildlife residents continue to experience genocide and displacement, the words ultimately sound hollow, for we are failing in our responsibility to conserve Nature as a nation.

Climate change: Time is of essence

It was a hot and stuffy night.

I woke up this morning at around 5 am, and cast a bleary eye on the phone to check the weather forecast.

It showed “28 degrees Celsius”.

“Ok, it is a bit higher than usual, but it seems to feel warmer than that,” I thought to myself.

I scrolled down the screen to check the humidity.

It showed “88 percent (feels like 33 degrees Celsius)”.

That explained why it felt like being under the hot afternoon sun, even though it was barely pre-dawn at this time.

Meanwhile, the table fan continued to whirl, doing little to cool the air around me.

I don’t recall Singapore getting this hot and stuffy, even at this time of the year.

I think that climate change is affecting us all at a faster rate than we might have expected.


Time is of essence.

A verse came to my mind later today.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

The psalmist who wrote that verse had prayed for a heart of wisdom by being taught to number our days.

I realised that once we learn to count our days, knowing that we have a limited time on earth regardless of our attempts to increase our longevity, we will learn to make each day count.

For many (if not all) of us, we would learn of the passing of a loved one or someone we looked up to, every so often.

I am also coming to realise that it is not only individual lives that are temporal, but also humanity as a collective.

(After all, from the perspective of the geological time frame, humans have only existed for a fraction of the entire history of the earth.)

In other words, it is a matter of time that human extinction becomes a reality.


Is this another bogus “end of the world prophecy” that we are too used to seeing in the media?

No, I am not referring to any religious belief or superstition that uses fear mongering to control people.

Nor am I referring to some political agenda for depopulating the earth (though there are indications that can serve as evidence of it being carried out in some places).

Rather, there is scientific reason to raise this concern (which isn’t new by any means).

The signs are everywhere, both close to home and abroad.

Some signs are gradual, such as rising sea levels and temperatures, which are slowly killing coral reefs and flooding low-lying coastal settlements; they are so imperceptible that many of us miss them as we go about our hustle and bustle of life.

Other signs occur suddenly in a big way, whether in terms of extreme storms or heat waves or some other natural disasters, which can result in casualties.

As another writer has observed in her blog:

“What can we reasonably expect to see every year for the next ten years?

More heatwaves like in Japan. More wildfires like in Greece and California.

More crop failures like in the UK and Australia. The big dry will continue.

The flooding will continue.

Food and water will continue to be just out of the reach of those who need it most.

Millions of people will be displaced by sea level rise or some other climate related catastrophe.

If the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, the next ten years do not look promising.”

Some people may continue to ignore these signs.

Some people may dismiss efforts by individuals and companies in recycling, reusing or reducing waste.

(After all, it has been said that privilege is when you think something is not a problem because you aren’t affected personally.)

But I find it rather ironic that many people would choose to observe the signs of the stock market et al than pay attention to the signs of the environmental crises.

No doubt, following the stock market accurately may bring them and their families material wealth through investment.

But the environmental crises affect us all – humans, animals, plants, the entire planet.

Also, some people are willing to pay thousands of dollars to learn all kinds of persuasion skills to sell products and services and make more money.

(I suppose there is a place for that, so long as we are in this unsustainable capitalistic economic system, and it depends on how we utilise that, if we choose to do so.)

But I think that the environmental issues require no persuasion skills.

I have nothing to sell by highlighting environmental crises, and I have no persuasion methods to employ, except to present these evidences as they are.

I also have nothing to gain, except perhaps the pleasure and satisfaction of seeing Nature preserved and conserved just a little bit more, a little bit longer.

A case for conservation of Tengah forest in Singapore

Why we need the forest 🌳🌳🌳🌳

A couple of days ago, I took time off after my morning shift for hiking.

It is part of my voluntary project for nature conservation and environmental awareness.

The photos and videos of the hike serve to preserve the memory of Tengah forest for posterity.

I am also inspired to make a special video that combines video clips from my previous hike to make a case for conservation.


Because climate change affects all of us, including plants, animals and humans.

According to an article:

“New research has found strong evidence that climate change is spurring conflict, which is driving people to abandon their homelands and seek safety elsewhere.”

In Singapore, it is already happening in some ways.

Birds and animals have been displaced from their homes ever since urban development started some 200 years ago.

With the ongoing clearance of Tengah forest, the baya weavers, otters and other animals are in danger of losing their homes.

It probably wouldn’t be long before more and more of us humans will also become environmental refugees due to climate change affecting the liveability of our environment.

To where will we seek asylum?

To where can we really migrate since the effects of climate change are ubiquitous?

What happens in one country will affect other countries, as seen in the case of the Sumatran haze and many other examples.

The future is in our hands.

Farewell walk at Tengah forest

As we entered the forest, we were welcomed by convoys of mosquitoes.

Thankfully, the mosquitoes left us alone for the most part as we ventured deeper into the woods, away from the river canal.

We were also greeted by a wide array of flowers, such as daisies, mimosas and morning glories.

Along the way, we saw some other wildlife, such as bees, dragonflies, baya weavers and an eagle.

Since eagles are at the top of food chains, their presence implies that there is a fairly complex ecosystem of plants, herbivores, carnivores and omnivores in the forest.

The impending destruction of Tengah forest would result in a significant loss of biodiversity in this region.

No amount of artificially created “forest” in the upcoming “forest town” would be able to replace or restore the current biodiversity.

In addition, what will happen to the baya weavers’ nests when the forest is cleared for urban development?

Wouldn’t the birds, as well as other animals, experience trauma from being displaced from their natural habitats?

History books have traditionally been written by the victors, and it is perhaps high time that the marginalised wildlife be given a voice and be heard.

At the rate things are going, it is probably not too far-fetched to imagine a dystopian future whereby Singapore will end up in some kind of self-destruction.

It is a stark future where Tengah forest will be gone, only preserved in memories, pictures and videos.

When our grandchildren and great-grandchildren look at the high-res screen showing pictures of the forest, they can only see the surface of things.

No amount of high resolution pixels can enable them to feel the earth or smell the flowers or inhale the fresh air or soak in the healing energy.

Not even virtual reality technology can recreate the actual experience of being in a real forest.

Then they will ask us why they cannot experience the forest first-hand like we once did, and we can only sigh and apologise.

“We tried to conserve the forest, but they will not listen to us. I am sorry….”

Meanwhile, the much hyped “forest town” will have become something like a “forbidden city”, where the land prices will skyrocket out of nowhere.

And only the elites and the “haves” could dwell on a piece of land that was once inhabited by wildlife and visited by nature lovers freely.

Recommended reading

Tengah forest is a significant chunk of real estate for nature, not just people: Nature Society

A psychoanalytical perspective on road rage involving truck driver and cyclist

Last month, a conflict happened involving a truck driver and a road cyclist in Singapore.

To me, it seems almost inevitable that such an incident would take place sooner or later because of the ongoing tensions (and misunderstandings) between motorists and cyclists.

Many motorists don’t welcome cyclists to share the roads, considering them as hindrances to speed.

Many cyclists do their best to stay alive whenever they cycle on the roads, by attempting to not get in the way of vehicles while taking care to not stay too close to the kerb to avoid hitting it.

Most of the time, it works fine when both parties practise tolerance and patience.

But when either or both parties happen to want the right of way, then it takes an extraordinary amount of self-control and understanding to maintain peace and safety.

Otherwise, anything can happen in the heat of the moment.

We are all complex psychological beings capable of repressing emotions to function with a certain level of temperance in society.

But if we don’t process our hurts and pains in a safe space, our repressed anger and resentment can erupt when we least expect it.

I believe this is what happened during that fateful road incident.

How it might have happened

1. Illusion of time and relativity of speed

In the days leading up to that incident, I have been observing as a cyclist myself that some motorists seem to have become more impatient.

These drivers have been honking at other vehicles at the slightest inconvenience or provocation.

Sometimes, I think to myself that the motorists have forgotten how blessed they are to be able to drive because they can travel much faster than pedestrians, cyclists and even commuters taking public transport.

Hence, if the motorists aren’t able to appreciate the fact that they are already moving faster than most people, why then the hurry to get somewhere?

But this is also a reminder to myself because I sometimes find myself cycling as quickly as possible to reach my destination, even though I am already moving faster than if I were to walk.

Technically speaking, by cycling quickly, I can run my errands faster or deliver more orders to customers in less time, but is it really worth the haste?

So then, speed is relative because even if we are moving fast, the illusion of time in this matrix world is so real that we desire to move even faster, in order to feel as if we are accomplishing something greater.

Likewise, that truck driver might have felt a similar pressure to drive quickly at that time, and ended up honking at the cyclist in front of him.

This leads us to the next point.

2. The crude language of the horn

It is rather unfortunate that honking has very limited vocabulary.

Regardless of the type of vehicles a horn belongs to, all honking sounds have only one flat note.

Whether it is a blaring honk of a truck or a high-pitched beep of a car, it sounds monotonous and often irritating.

Perhaps it depends on the intention of the driver using the horn.

It seems that a number of motorists use the horn to tell other road users to get out of their way, rather than warning them to stay in their lanes to avoid hitting them when overtaking them, or for some other reasons.

Cyclists, for the most part, have been bearing the brunt of being honked at by motorists because they are seen as hindrances.

More significantly, cyclists often get honked at because they are the weaker parties, therefore more easily bullied by motorists who drive bigger vehicles that are capable of harming them.

Hence, it is unsurprising if the cyclist was irked by the loud honks of the truck, which he would have heard umpteen times in all his experiences of cycling on the road.

The unfolding events may have built up to the boiling point when he decided to vent his anger by hitting the truck’s side mirror in retaliation, instead of quietly submitting to a (perceived) road bully.

This leads us to the final point.

3. Entitlement or equal rights?

Perhaps the biggest question behind the incident is:

Was the cyclist justified in taking the left lane (and thus blocking the truck behind him) or was he merely feeling entitled to ride as if he owned the road?

Existing road rules do allow cyclists to ride in pairs abreast along the leftmost lane of a road.

But the rules also state that cyclists should not hog the road (especially when there is considerable amount of traffic).

Then again, it is a fairly common experience for cyclists to be overtaken by large vehicles at uncomfortably close range if they had kept close to the roadside, and their bicycles might risk hitting the kerb.

If that cyclist had moved to the left to allow the truck to overtake him, he could not be assured that the driver would give much space to manuerve his bike safely (though in this case, the left lane doesn’t really look that narrow).

The cyclist might also be counting on the fact that his road bike could match the speed of a truck at 40-50 km/h, and wanted to get up to speed after crossing the traffic junction.

But in all fairness, there are errant cyclists who blatantly flout traffic rules and pose a risk to themselves and others by cycling erratically or dangerously on the road.

Then again in this case, it seems to me that the cyclist wasn’t wilfully breaking traffic rules.

Even though he did commit an offence by damaging the truck’s side mirror, he did so only after having been honked at and probably thinking that he was bullied by a bigger vehicle.

Regardless of his intentions, the way the cyclist responded in anger is inappropriate, and so is the truck driver’s subsequent act of swerving into the cyclist.

It seems that the cyclist has become the scapegoat of the town because after the incident, he has been mocked by the society at large.

Nevertheless, I believe that all things work together for good because the news and the discussions that follow help create a better awareness of road safety and etiquette for motorists and cyclists.

In fact, a day after the incident, I could hardly hear any honking while I was cycling on the road doing food delivery.


In retrospect, cyclists have all along been marginalised in society because they are neither welcomed by many pedestrians on the footpaths nor by many motorists on the roads.

They are often treated like outcasts, and when they stand up for their right to be on the road, they are seen as entitled and selfish by many other road users.

But cyclists must continually find ways to speak up and make known their concerns and challenges because no one else truly understands their struggles.

They also need a safe space to talk about and process their experiences in dealing with road bullies, so that they can manage how they deal with challenges better when cycling.

Having said that, it is important for cyclists to exercise care and responsibility, not only for their own safety and well-being, but also for others’ at all times.