Painting Over A Problem

Some 30 years ago in Bangkok, the authorities found out that many of their old bridges spanning the obsolescent canals were approaching the limit of their lifespan. In the name of safety, concerned officials set a weight limit for vehicles that could use these bridges. After much consultation with the experts, a weight limit was set at 5 tonnes. This new regulation caused much inconvenience to many truck drivers whose vehicles exceeded the weight limit. The irked drivers, who were spiritually confident that they would not be the last one using any creaky bridge before it collapsed, responded by totally ignoring the signs, rattling their overweight monsters over the bridges with impunity.

This caused a tremendous loss of face to those who implemented the policy, but deploying enforcers was not an option due to budget and manpower constraints at that time. Finally, after numerous meetings, a committee came up with a brilliant solution – at minimal cost to the city. They just painted over the old signboards and changed the weight limit to 10 tonnes. By doing so, the committee had quite ingeniously made a law-abiding citizen out of every truck driver – except for the occasional truck that exceeded 10 tonnes.

Today, this problem has largely disappeared in Bangkok as many khlongs (canals) have been drained and filled. Now teleport yourself to present day Singapore and something interestingly similar had just happened.

Last year, I saw signboards posted at approximately 1km intervals along the Sungei Serangoon park connector. They expressly prohibited the use of motorised vehicles like e-scooters and e-bikes at places where the jogging and cycling tracks merged. Needless to say, two-legged folks like me who often felt endangered while we’re either running or strolling on the park connector, welcomed the move. After all, the track was meant for responsible cyclists and runners/walkers. What business did these motorised vehicles have on the track?

To our relief (at first) the signboard also warned that offenders were liable to a $5000 fine, making the offence as serious as that of misusing the emergency stop button on the MRT train. I took a picture of that signboard, but unfortunately, I can’t seem to be able to find it anywhere on my computer. Fortunately however, while running along the Punggol park connector this morning, I found an old signboard that is quite similar to the original signboard at the Sungei Serangoon park connector. And here it is:

This is not exactly the same signboard which threatened a $5000 fine. The original warning sign used to appear every 1km or so on the Sungei Serangoon park connector. While hardly anybody presses the emergency stop button on MRT trains to attract a $5000 fine, our e-scooter riders paid absolutely no heed to these signboards at the park connector. Every time I strolled or ran down the Sungei Serangoon stretch of the park connector, I would encounter at least half a dozen of these potentially lethal scooters with the morons riding them announcing their presence with loud music and flashing lights, racing down the jogging/cycling tracking, weaving past two-legged creatures as if we were slalom poles.

In fact, the scooter morons’ sense of ownership of the track is so great that they even removed the height limiting bars which were suspended from gantries like the one above. A tall person wearing a helmet and standing on an e-scooter can easily exceed 1.9m. What do you call this? And what’s the punishment for vandalism? Caning. And yet, these folks have the audacity to remove these bars without any fear of getting their butts lacerated.

I’m not sure how many complaints National Parks received. We assumed that they would step up enforcement and nab at least a handful of these selfish, inconsiderate morons. I thought it would only be a matter of time before one these morons got hauled up and publicly shamed, but alas, the latest move worked in favour of the morons. The new sign says NO UNAUTHORISED VEHICLES (cars and motorcycles).

I wonder if there had been more scooter morons complaining about us standing in their way than us complaining about them endangering our lives. Or could the sales figures for these motorised vehicles have indicated that two-legged creatures are going to be the minority in the next General Elections? To solve the problem of illegal e-scooters, National Parks came up with the ingenious 30-year-old Bangkok solution. They painted over the old signboard. They have now excluded the motorised vehicles that run on electricity. Had they not omitted these vehicles, I wouldn’t have noticed that they had included cars and motorcycles in the old signboard as well. Laughably, yet so obviously, the folks in charge don’t seem to realise that cars and motorcycles were never an issue on these tracks, especially when you have barriers like the one you see below.

Anyway, the writing is on the wall, so to speak. From now on, there will be no more illegal e-scooters. They are officially legal and that should satisfy the self-deceiving Ah Qs among us. Meanwhile, the two-legged creatures need to be constantly on the lookout for inconsiderate scooter riders. If you examine the newly painted signboard carefully, you’ll still see the ghostly image of the old signboard embossed on it. The diagram of the e-scooter is buried under the car and the motorbike, but the following words are still discernible.

FINE UP TO $5000

From an offence deserving a $5000 fine to something perfectly legal. What a nice and cost-effective way to turn every e-scooter rider into a law-abiding citizen. So are they going to raise the gantry, perhaps to 3 metres next?

© Chan Joon Yee

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