In the event of an emergency

First published

This morning.

The brakes on the #95 bus make a horrible screeching sound, ending in several deep thunks, as we come to a hasty stop on Kent Ridge Crescent. A couple of students have rushed onto the pedestrian crossing ahead of us, clearly in more of a hurry to get to their destinations than I am even though I’m already running about ten minutes late for my noon lecture. I’ve decided to blame my tardiness on a certain lady in a black skirt who stood and blocked the right side of the escalator in Commonwealth MRT station despite signs clearly asking patrons to stand on the left, causing me to miss the train stopped at the station by about ten seconds. The next one didn’t come for another six minutes.

But I don’t really care any longer about making it to class on time anyway.


From
Office of Campus Security
Subject
ROAD SAFETY - USE DESIGNATED PEDESTRIAN CROSSING
Date
To
NUS Students

Recently, Campus Security had received 2 reports of traffic accidents involving student pedestrians.

In the first accident on 19 August 2010, a male student had alighted from the internal shuttle bus along Lower Kent Ridge Road and was crossing in front of the bus when he was knocked down by a motor vehicle. As a result, he sustained a fractured ankle and a torn ligament on his right wrist.

The second traffic accident reported on 20 August 2010, involved a female student who was knocked down by a motor vehicle whilst crossing Lower Kent Ridge Road. It was established that the student had dashed across the road together with a fellow student. She sustained injuries to her forehead and fractured her right hand.


Yesterday.

It’s close to 6:30, and I’m waiting outside the Central Library for the shuttle bus back to my hostel. I’m tired and well out of things, a state not helped by the unrelenting humidity, but I can’t stop paying attention just yet — the last time I did that, I ended up getting on the wrong bus and traveling several kilometres in the direction completely opposite the one I intended. The bus driver was, thankfully, kind enough to drop me off at the nearest MRT station, despite the fact that it was supposed to be his last run of the night.

The sidewalk around the bus stop is packed; the crowd is two metres deep and still runs directly up against the curb. Buses are streaming in and out, but no one seems to be getting on them; everyone must be waiting for the same one I am. A couple of passers-by have taken to walking in the street to get around the ruckus.

One student edges out of a stopped shuttle and ambles down the road in the narrow gap between the bus and the throng of people barely standing on the curb. He doesn’t notice the driver trying to ease out of the lay-by behind him until his female friend makes an oh! sound and yanks him by his arm onto the sidewalk. She laughs light-heartedly, as if rather unconcerned, and the two of them head down the stairs to the Central Library in unperturbed spirits.

My bus finally comes about five minutes late and twenty seats under capacity.


Singapore has a rather enlightened stance on pedestrian traffic, at least compared to the other parts of Asia that I’ve been to. Overpasses and pedestrian signals are built on even the smallest of roads; where they aren’t, cars will regularly stop for people waiting at the side of zebra crossings to let them pass. This is in great contrast to, say, mainland China, where I’m pretty sure the rule goes something like You walk on our streets at your own risk.

Jaywalking, while officially a fineable offense, is routine.


Last Friday evening.

I’m not running late for a change, though I’m cutting fairly close. I’ve decided to kill time by heading to the welcome tea for the Japanese Students Society; I’m not taking any classes in the language this semester, so I’ve decided that I may as well make a token attempt at not forgetting everything I’ve learned over the past two years. Beyond simply watching anime, I mean.

The #95 bus is barely moving down Lower Kent Ridge Road. I don’t really mind the delay, since I’ve still got about seven minutes to spare, but this seems unusually heavy for the road into a university campus on the night before a weekend. Out in front, I notice cars moving in the other direction coming out of our lane, with a man signaling traffic in the median. It seems the other half of the road’s been closed. I’m not surprised; with the construction all around Singapore, part of the pavement’s probably being torn out for resurfacing.

The bus lurches gradually forward. I found a reason, goes the sample of Lou Reed crooning into my headphones. I found a reason….

My heart sinks as the scene comes into view. An ambulance is stopped on the opposite side of the road, next to a couple of cars curiously parked partially on the sidewalk. There are a handful of bystanders milling around the area, but I can’t make out much else from twenty metres out.

We finally get the signal to pull through after another minute has gone by and the heartbeat percussion of Teardrop has started in on my ears. A few of the other standing passengers have sidled over to the windows on the right side of the bus, wearing curious faces.

Two blue-shirted emergency workers are leaned over a body draped in white medical cloths lying on a stretcher. One of them beckons for help from a colleague, who runs in to assist.

Over the white striping of the road beneath them runs a small pool of blood.


The Japanese Students Society meeting ended up starting fifteen minutes late. After watching an hour of presentations, filling out a membership form, and paying the requisite fee of $5, I promptly left Lecture Theater 14 and walked directly onto what I thought was the eastbound bus to Commonwealth.

It ended up being the westbound bus to Boon Lay.