Singapore has built more rain shelters on expressways for motorcyclists to take cover or take breaks, but some bikers have still been spotted pulling up on road shoulders despite a horrific crash on the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) on March 11.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it has built about 80 motorcycle rain shelters under flyovers, mostly at the 10 expressways.
This is up 25 per cent from 2009, when there were 60 shelters, which could accommodate some 1,000 motorcycles.
At a cost of $2.58 million, the LTA doubled the number of shelters that year, from 29 in 2008.
Mr Yam Ah Mee, the then chief executive of LTA, had said that the shelters are "one improvement to our land transport infrastructure to increase motorcyclist safety".
The 42.8km Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) has the most shelters - 17, followed by the 26.5km Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and the 14.4km Tampines Expressway (TPE) with 13 shelters. The 11km BKE has seven.
The shelters are marked by umbrella signs as well, posted about 40m ahead of each one. They are demarcated by vehicle impact guardrails or spring loaded poles - installed depending on the configuration and space available at each site, said the LTA.
The March 11 accident has cast the spotlight on motorcyclists' practice of stopping on expressway road shoulders under flyovers for breaks or to take cover during bad weather.
A van ploughed into motorcyclists parked on such a shoulder on the BKE, under the flyover of the Seletar Expressway (SLE).
Two died and six were injured, all Malaysians. They had stopped as dark clouds gathered. Van driver Koh Boon Ping, 24, was charged last Monday with two counts of causing death by a rash act.
A recent check by The Straits Times (ST) saw many riders on the BKE using the designated rain shelters.
They said that news of the accident has left them wary, and they are more careful now.
Mr Alex Goh, 38, a technician who was waiting for a friend at a designated rain shelter on the BKE, said: "We move further in at shelters now, rather than stopping at non-designated areas under flyovers. We also try not to stand outside the barricades."
But ST also spotted at least four motorcyclists stopping briefly at the crash site within 15 minutes.
Motorcyclists are advised to pull over only at designated shelters, but road safety experts said it is almost second nature to stop by the shoulder if the shelters are too crowded during bad weather or if they are already caught in the rain.
Mr Norman Lee, general secretary of the Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association and a rider of about 20 years, said: "During peak hours and heavy rain, one shelter may not be able to hold that many bikers. They may spill over and obstruct the left lane.
"Riding in the rain is equally dangerous because visibility is reduced, and there is an increased braking distance."
Mr Ong Kim Hua, president of the Singapore Motorcycle Safety and Sports Club, said it would help to build more or larger shelters, especially on the BKE, due to the number of bikers using the highway.
There are an estimated 40,000 Malaysian motorcyclists commuting to Singapore daily, with many using the BKE and SLE.
Mr Ong said that unlike road shoulders under flyovers, designated shelters help to "channel" bikes off the expressway into a bay, away from oncoming traffic.
An LTA spokesman said that before building a shelter, it has to assess if there is enough space and height for motorcyclists to park and wait safely.
The spokesman said: "To ensure safety, there must also be an unobstructed line of sight for motorcyclists entering and exiting the sheltered area."
Don't wait for rain to wear raincoat
Designated rain shelters for motorcyclists on expressways can generally accommodate 10 to 20 bikers depending on size, said Mr Aman Aljunied from Singapore Safety Driving Centre.
But he added that it is best not to wait until rain is imminent before putting on a raincoat.
For example, he makes the decision before starting his trips.
"Everyone will end up stopping at the same spot, and it may get too crowded," he said.
The rider of 45 years said he takes care to leave his signal lights on when he pulls over, and he faces traffic so he can see oncoming vehicles.
"I will move behind the guardrails to do so," he added.
ACCORDING TO ROAD TRAFFIC ACT
l No vehicle shall stop on any shoulder or verge on an expressway unless in line with certain rules.
l Exceptions are made in cases of a breakdown, an emergency, for motorists to give help to others, or to recover a fallen object.
l Motorists who stop on the shoulder are liable to a fine of up to $160 and four demerit points.
TRAFFIC POLICE ADVISORY FOR MOTORCYCLISTS
l Pull over at dedicated shelters under vehicular flyovers along expressways when seeking shelter from the rain.
l At the shelters, stand behind the railing, face oncoming traffic and switch on hazard lights.
l Motorcyclists should always remain visible and keep a lookout for traffic.
This article by The Straits Times was published in The New Paper, a free newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.