BY CHERYL TAY
Given its comprehensive road network, Singapore should be a relatively convenient and hassle-free city to drive in.
In previous surveys done, Singapore ranked ahead of cities such as Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris and Tokyo in terms of smooth traffic flow, efficient road network, road quality, as well as public transportation system.
Neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand face severe traffic conditions due to poor infrastructure and vehicle control, so as bad as the traffic in Singapore has become, we are still better off.
But many Singaporeans overlook that.
Said Tham Chen Munn, 36, director of a local traffic consultancy, “Compared to many other developed cities, Singapore has a very efficient road network which pretty much guarantees smooth traffic flow throughout the day (with the exception of the occasional traffic jam caused by road works or accidents). But drivers tend to take this for granted.
“Spatial comfort breeds the notion of ‘I own the road’ and it becomes more evident – drivers become selfish and inconsiderate. Drivers honk to tell others to get out of their way, instead of friendly tapping honks to signal friendly intentions. In fact, anyone pressing the horn in Singapore for whatever reason is usually perceived as confrontational. This compared to harmless, but incessant, honking in Vietnam or China.
“On the end of enforcement, there is complacency. We have an efficient road system after all, so why do we need to spend tax payers’ money on enforcement? Some drivers go overboard with taking things for granted. In fact, they find a loophole to speed where there’s no speed camera. They modify their cars and some drive recklessly because they know when the cops have a sting.”
A surge in vehicle ownership over the past decade has seen the government implement several vehicle reduction methods, the latest of which is a cut in annual growth for car ownership from January 2012 onwards. The biggest reason behind this move is the growth of cars on the road exceeds the amount of road available as Singapore’s limited space makes it extremely difficult to continue building roads to serve the rising car population.
Heavy traffic during peak hours and unreasonable drivers on the road are not experiences unique to Singapore, but common in other countries as well. Still, locals, permanent residents and foreigners who drive in Singapore have some views to share about the best and worst things about driving in Singapore:
5 best things about driving in Singapore
1. Clear and well-marked directional road signs
Nearly all road signs in Singapore are in English, except for some road names that have Malay origins and thus have “Jalan” (meaning “Road”) or “Lorong” (meaning “Lane”) in them. There are also multilingual road signs for historically ethnic areas like Chinatown or Little India.
2. Efficient and orderly road network
If anything, Singapore boasts a well-connected road network, with efficient traffic systems operations and smooth traffic flow.
3. Smooth and clean roads
The roads are of good quality and unlike some countries with badly-maintained roads; Singapore’s roads are smooth and not bumpy.
4. Effective traffic enforcement
Strict laws, resourceful speed and red light camera systems, plus an efficient traffic police force ensure that traffic rules are obeyed and well abided by.
5. Relatively crime-free and safe streets
Brightly-lit roads and regular police patrols, as well as generally law-abiding citizens make it safe to drive in Singapore at any time of the day.
5 worst things about driving in Singapore
1. High costs of car ownership
Strictly speaking, we do not actually own cars in Singapore but rather, we bid for a ‘licence’ to have a car for our own consumption and usage for a period of 10 years. This ‘licence’ is the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system which basically acts like a lease from the government to own a car in Singapore. Costing several thousands of Singapore dollars, successful bidders will gain permission to own the vehicle for a period of 10 years after which the vehicle must be scrapped or another COE can be paid for extension of usage. Thus, a Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk6 2.0 TSI 5-door from authorised dealers in Singapore will cost S$204,300 with COE (Cat B at S$75,889) whereas one from Malaysia will cost RM209,888 (S$85,545) before insurance and road taxes.
2. Bad and rude driving behaviour
Every city has its own set of complaints about the drivers and Singapore is no exception. Ask what are some of the pet peeves of driving in Singapore and some common answers you get are — road hugging, pointing the middle finger when not getting their way, sudden overtaking without signaling, motorcyclists and cyclists ‘taking up’ road space. There is also a phenomenon called the ‘trapping technique’ where drivers intentionally slow down to ‘trap’ or ‘box out’ impatient drivers. All these form part of the ‘I own the road’ mindset which many in Singapore have adopted due to the high costs of owning a car.
3. Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges
The purpose of the ERP scheme is to deter traffic congestion during peak hours at various roads, but therein lies the problem that everyone needs to get to the same areas at the same time. Some drivers have given up their cars, switched to off-peak schemes or engage in car-sharing, but peak hour traffic is still inevitable. The ERP electronic gantries deduct a fee from a cashcard fit into the In-vehicle Unit (IU) within the car. Some may argue that the fees are cheaper than what neighbouring countries pay for tolls, but there’s no denying that ERP charges do make up a significant portion of car maintenance costs.
4. Taxi drivers
It’s sad how taxi drivers are just out to make a living but have been labelled generally as some of the worst drivers in Singapore with their sudden braking and lurching, and aggressive driving on the roads. They spend most of their time on the roads and should be more familiar with the roads — probably why they are bolder in their driving.
5. Expensive parking
Other than not having enough roads to accommodate the growing population of cars, there is also the issue of insufficient parking to house these cars as they shuffle from point to point. As a result, parking costs have been on the rise.
*This was first published on Yahoo!