Riding Rants

A trip to Pasir Ris

Start at Toa Payoh 0 km
To PIE 1.0 km est
Exit PIE 14.7 km
To Pasir Ris Drive 3 1.1 km
To Eastvale 1.3 km
Back to home 18.2 km

With my car's FC at 9.5 km/l and petrol at $2.024/l (RON92), the trip costed me $7.73.

Fuel surcharges

News: Taxi firms mulling over fuel surcharge

Date: 29 June 2008. Source: ST.

Flat tariff of 30 to 40 cents may be imposed to help cabbies offset soaring cost of diesel

Just months after taxi fares rose sharply, cab commuters may have to brace themselves for another cost hike: fuel surcharges.

The Sunday Times has learnt that taxi companies here are proposing what airlines have been applying since 2004 - a surcharge on top of stated fares to defray rising fuel prices. In the case of airlines, the surcharges are sometimes higher than the fares.

I support adding fuel surcharge to make the price more transparent. A flat tariff doesn't seem very fair, though.

The truth is, as fuel prices change, the business model has to change. Taxis should be waiting for calls and not cruising around empty.

Aidios, Amigo

News: Wife of opposition member Tan Lead Shake arrested for suspected murder

Date: 28 June 2008. Source: CNA.

Police arrested a 26-year-old Chinese national in connection with a murder at Paya Lebar Crescent on Saturday.

She had allegedly stabbed her brother-in-law and slashed his wife.

Life is unpredictable.

Ever since I started riding, I realized I may go any time too. That spurred me into doing things I had put off forever. My attitude also changed somewhat.

I have come to realize three things:

  • Do what you like/want — now
  • Enjoy the journey
  • Nothing is forever

I'm still the "Great Procrastinator", though. I'll be working on that — soon.

Expressways are incident-prone

News: LTA to deploy traffic marshals on all expressways from July

Date: 27 June 2008. Source: ST.

THE Land Transport Authority on Friday said traffic marshals will ply all expressways in Singapore from July 1 to keep them smooth-flowing and help clear road incidents speedily.

These marshals first came to the scene last October and were deployed to clear traffic holdups on the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE), Central Expressway (CTE) and Fort Canning Tunnel.

They have since been zipping around in their Piaggio scooters or Subara Imprezas, helping to clear incidents, such as breakdowns and accidents, that impede traffic flow.

I find it interesting that there is a record of 250 to 300 incidents a week. That's 35 to 40 incidents a day.

Higher bus fares (soon)

News: Premium bus fares to go up

Date: 27 June 2008. Source: ST.

PREMIUM bus fares will soon go up, as operators here feel the pinch from higher fuel prices.

SBS Transit, which runs more than half of such services, will raise fares by 30 to 60 cents, up to a maximum of $3.60 per trip.

The fare hike will affect all of its 40 premium services. Details are being worked out.

No one can escape from higher oil prices.

Increasing premium bus fares is easy because the commuters are already willing to pay a premium. Even PTC gives its go-ahead implicitly, even though its permission is still needed.

I don't believe that it is not possible to make a profit with a full (or near full) bus of commuters paying premium rates, even after the increased cost. If it can't, then how about the same non-premium bus prying the same route?

The only explanation is that fare increase is to maintain a certain profit margin from the premium bus service.

It is advisable to be a shareholder of the public transport companies in Singapore.

Carrying bags around

I used to carry a big bag around with my notebook inside. Talk about weighing yourself down. I leave my notebook at home these days.

I have several colleagues who move around without any bags, but I found it impossible to do so until I got a motorbike.

Not carrying any bags when you are taking public transport requires some sacrifice. It can be said that carrying a bag marks you as a public tranport user.

I observed a few days ago in Orchard road that about 10% of the guys did not carry bags. I only saw one girl who did not do so.

The Government does not make money from ERP

Mr Lim Swee Say says so. He said the Government would collect $70 million a year from the ERP increase, but would lose $110 million due to the 15 per cent reduction in road tax from next month.

Unlike everyone else on the Internet, I believe him.

I believe that the Government does not lie, but it likes to fudge with statistics. The Government likes to give a high figure for costs and a low figure for profits. It also does not tell you the boatload of assumptions that gives the final number.

But suppose the $70 million number is real. Is the Government really making a loss? For the first year, yes. The Government's policies have a way of ramping up their profits, but it doesn't have to tell you the figures after the first year!

Fewer budget cars

News: Pricey petrol dampens appeal of 'budget' cars

Date: 27 June 2008. Source: ST.

Models priced under $60,000 are hardest hit as monthly payment matches petrol bill

RECORD pump prices have put the brakes on budget-car sales, as monthly petrol bills begin to match or overtake car-loan instalment payments for some models.

Trade figures for the first five months of the year showed sharp falls of 50 per cent or more in sales of brands like Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia and Ford. Models priced below $60,000 were hardest hit.

It's so cheap to own a car on a ten year loan — under $300 p.m.!


Carpooling will make a comeback if the car operating costs go up — which is likely to be the case.

Carpooling is not easy to arrange. However, it is a prime candidate for a match-making service.

The driver enters his car details, route, schedule and fees. The passengers do likewise. The website matches them.

The passengers pay the website in advance and the drivers will collect the fees monthly.

If this is made simple enough, a driver can even look for passengers on ad-hoc journeys. If I'm going out for lunch, I can advertise a seat or two for $1 one hour in advance and see if someone is going the same way.

Taking public transport

I had no transport for the day, yet I needed to join my friend at Orchard road.

5:16 pm Waiting for bus 175 at the NOL bus stop
5:24 pm Bus arrived
5:51 pm Reached Orchard road after a tour of the neighbourhoods
5:57 pm Reached Midpoint Orchard

The bus journey was okay. If I had to stand, I would have rated it much worse.

Along the way, I saw someone miss this bus because the bus pulled out of the bus stop too quickly. The person flagged and flagged, but the bus continued to move off. I hope the person can take some other buses, or it's going to be a 15 minutes wait.

Going home:

8:23 pm Waiting at Orchard MRT
8:25 pm Train arrived
8:32 pm Reached Toa Payoh
8:52 pm Reached home

If I had taken a direct route (I wasn't familiar with the way), jaywalked and walked faster, I might have been able to reach home in 20 minutes.

Waiting for the bus to arrive is a huge waste of time. You can't concentrate on other activities, such as reading, as you might miss the bus! I can't help but think how much time we lose just in waiting for buses.

The bus journey is usually pleasant enough if you get to sit. Otherwise, it's only bearable.

MRT is pretty fast, although you never get to sit these days. The problem is getting home if you don't live near the MRT station. I hate taking feeder service because it takes just as long to get home on foot.

Avoidng ERP at all costs

Some people can't stand the idea of paying for ERP. They die die will not do it, so they lament about having to go to work early, having to go home late and so on.

What I say: it's their choice.

Some other people said the objective of ERP has changed. It was used to divert traffic to other roads, now all alternative roads are charged.

What I say: the objective has changed. Get used to it.

Will the new ERP charges increase business cost?

It would, but it shouldn't. ERP gantries do not operate all the time. If there is no time pressure, it is better to wait for the off-peak hours to stock up and transport your goods.

Ideally, goods should be delivered in the wee hours of the night. Then we won't see so many vans and pickups in the day time.

Missed the point on the new ERP charges

I read through many people's reactions online. Many of them lumped three things together:

  1. higher cost of car usage
  2. public transport not up to standard
  3. poor road design

The increase in ERP charges affects only the first one. Using (2) and (3) to say that the increase is unjustified misses the point: the Government is trying to make cars more expensive to use.

Public transport not up to standard is a red herring. Everyone who is taking public transport is suffering today, not just the would-be ex-drivers. Why should the ex-drivers expect the public transport to improve just for them?

It takes time to change the road design. Personally, I would do away with as many signalized junctions and pedestrian crossings as I can, and increase the penalty for illegal roadside parking/waiting. But then I'm not Mr Lim.

Human Congestion Pricing (HCP)

Hot off ERP is HCP. Cynical people are already speculating about it online.

Interestingly, it isn't difficult to implement at all. Just impose an extra fee on selected bus stops and MRT stations.

Right now MRT/bus fares are based on distance. With HCP, if you alight at, say, Orchard road during the peak hours, you have to pay $1 extra.

The peak periods for HCP will probably be different from ERP. You don't want to tax people going to work, but want to tax them for shopping/entertainment.

Weekends will probably end up having higher taxes than weekdays.

There must be a way to ensure people move out of the train station and not wait for the peak period to be over.

One way is to monitor the crowd in the station. If the crowd exceeds a certain density, the station will remain in peak period. A busy station like Orchard station may be in peak period the entire day.

Definitely more cars

There is an increase in the number of cars in my MSCP. Every morning, I can see about ten to fifteen cars on the topmost level. There used to be none.

Even motorcycles need to park on the topmost level. But this could be because they used to park illegally and the parking wardens are now stricter.

Possible spike in COE for motorcycles?

With ever higher ERP charges, will more people switch to motorcycles? If so, does it mean that COE for motorcyles will go up?

The COE for motorcycles is $1,102 on 18/6 (2nd COE bidding for June). The renewal COE (PQP) is $1,125. PQP is the average bid for the last three months.

This is important to me as the COE for my CB400F is expiring in August. If I think it will spike up (to $3,000, say), I should renew the COE now. The historic high was $4,006, but it had not cross $2,000 in the past few years.

I have to renew the COE after two more COE biddings. I hope it still stays around $1,000.

Looking ahead at new ERP gantries

The new Singapore River Line ERP gantries don't affect me much, unless I go to Funan Centre, Central Library or SLS — my usual haunts in CBD. My usual route to CL and SLS is to enter CBD at Anson road, drive past Esplanade drive and then turn into Middle road. I will go past two gantries.

The only way to go past one gantry if I'm going to Funan Centre is to enter CBD using River Valley road. No more going past Eu Tong Sen street. If I'm going to CL or SLS, I can also enter CBD from Bencoolen street, but this requires a long roundabout route as I'm coming from the west side.

I can still go my usual route provided I go past the gantries before 6 pm, which is usually the case. I like to go into CBD early as the jams start around 6 pm.

Farrer road and Lornie road are prime locations for new ERP gantries given the daily jams. Farrer road is now safe due to construction (of the Circle Line). Despite whatever names you can throw at LTA, LTA is fair and knows that the bad traffic there is partially due to the construction.

My feelings are mixed because I am sick of the daily jams, now even present at 7 am — excluding school holidays — but paying $2 is an additional expense ($1 on motorcycle). I am looking for alternative routes already.

How accurate is your odometer?

YBR125 16.4 km +0.61%
CB400F 17.3 km +6.13%
MX-5 15.8 km -3.07%
City 16.3 km 0.00%

I took the same route and start and stop my measurements at the same spots (1 meter accuracy).

(This is the route I take when I'm driving. My usual route is only 13.4 km on my YBR125.)

According to a tyre-size calculator, the MX-5 speedometer is slower by 2.3% — I am using 205/45/R16 instead of the original 185/60/R14. I believe the odometer is lower by the same amount, so I actually travelled 16.2 km.

In view of this, it looks like the real FC (km/l) of my CB400F is 6.1% lower.

Update: I tested this using my brother's City and got 16.3 km. It looks like 16.3 km is the correct distance. I have more faith in the City as, (i) it is new and stock, (ii) it has a digital odometer.

Leasing woes

News: Six other rental cars missing

Date: 19 June 2008. Source: ST.

THE discovery of a stolen car in Malaysia has solved one mystery, but a bigger one has now surfaced concerning the company that leased it out.

Cash-strapped businessman Lau Cheun Kee, whose seven-seater Honda Odyssey was stolen while leased to a rental company, has been told by the police here that the missing car has been found by Malaysian cops.

His problems are far from over as he still owes the bank outstanding car loan payments, and he also faces possible prosecution by the Land Transport Authority.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. High rate = high risk.

Proof that ERP works

News: Many in CBD may alter after-work routine

Date: 19 June 2008. Source: CNA.

Ten out of 18 drivers interviewed say they will try to avoid the CBD tolls

FOR those working in the Central Business District (CBD), next month could be the start of late dinners and happy-hour drinks near the office.

Faced with extended Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) hours from July 7, 10 out of 18 drivers interviewed told The Straits Times that they plan to change their routines after knocking off to avoid the tolls.

CBD gantries will operate until 8pm, an hour later than now. Five new gantries will also go up along the Singapore River, which will charge motorists headed towards the City Hall and Bugis areas.

For ten years, motorists seem to defy basic economics — increasing prices don't seem to change their driving habits, leading to widespread criticism that ERP doesn't work. The reason is simply that the price is too low. Now that the charges are substantial (especially when crossing multiple gantries), motorists have to choose which is more valuable: their time, convenience or their wallet.

"The biggest change is that if you pay, you will get to enjoy a smooth flowing ride — which is not always the case now."

Very strong words.

Fuel surcharges

News: SIA to raise fuel surcharge by up to US$30 from June 24

Date: 18 June 2008. Source: CNA.

Singapore Airlines is raising its fuel surcharge by up to US$30 in some sectors. The new surcharges will affect tickets issued on SIA and SilkAir flights from June 24.

It is the third time this year that SIA is raising its fuel surcharge to cope with rising jet fuel prices.

Cost to fly to US: 200 passengers x US$180 = US$36,000. (66% load.)

Cost to fly to ASEAN countries: 100 passengers x US$110 = US$11,000. (50% load.)


New fuel sources

News: Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

Date: 14 June 2008. Source: The Times.

Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide 'renewable petroleum'

"Ten years ago I could never have imagined I'd be doing this," says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. "I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to - especially the ones coming out of business school - this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into."

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs - very, very small ones - so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls "renewable petroleum". After that, he grins, "it's a brave new world".

There is no limit to what we can't achieve, as long as we put our mind to it.

ERP News

News: Higher ERP rates and new gantries from July 7

Date: 18 June 2008. Source: ST.

Changes are aimed at making city traffic flow smoothly in the evenings

TOP up that CashCard. Driving into the city is going to cost more.

Five new gantries along the banks of the Singapore River go live from July 7, bringing the total number islandwide to 65.

Gantries in the business district will stay on an extra hour, to 8pm on weekdays, and on Saturdays, Orchard Road gantries will start an hour earlier, at 11am.

Higher Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges kick in, too. Motorists will pay up to $2 more in the most extensive review of tolls since the first gantry went up 10 years ago.

The focus of this review is to speed up city traffic, especially from 6pm to 8pm.

I do not think the new charges are sufficient to deter motorists. I expect another round of increase in November.

A journey of some sort

Today marks the first day of my seventh year in my current company. Six years, what a long time! I have changed location once, shifted my cube three times and worked on four products. Every change always introduce a little turmoil.

Some of my colleagues I have worked with are leaving. (One was laid off, one resigned and another relocated.) One of them started work on the same day as me. Although we are not very close now (we used to be lunch mates in the early years), it is still sad to see a familiar face gone.

One thing I have learnt is, never say never. Things I dismissed right out of hand six years ago, I have done them since. Things change. That's the only constant in life.

To Turf City

Start at Toa Payoh 0 km
To PIE 3.1 km
Exit PIE 4.1 km
To Turf City 2.3 km
Back to home 10.0 km

With my car's FC at 9.5 km/l and petrol at $2.024/l (RON92), the trip costed me $4.15.

Creative financing

An idea just occurred to me.

A car in Singapore has paper value due to PARF and COE. However, they count towards the price of the car, so you need to finance their portion too.

Since PARF and COE are guaranteed by LTA, we should be able to break up the car loan into two portions: one that is backed by the paper value and one that isn't. The part backed by the paper value should have very low or even zero interest rate. The other part has normal interest rate.

Take a car with OMV of $20,000 and COE of $15,000. Its price should be around $69,000. At the fifth year, its PARF is $15,000 (75% of ARF), and COE is $7,500.

Suppose you get a 5-year loan from the bank. You should only need to borrow the non-guaranteed portion of $46,500 even for a 100% loan.

Worth it?

A friend is considering buying a $101 COE Sunny and converting it to OPC.

Suppose the Sunny is asking for $24,800 with OMV of $16,265. At the end of ten years, its PARF would be $19,428 ($16,265 * 0.8 + $2,200 * 35 / 12). The depreciation is thus $1,842/year.

It does sound pretty good, but there are three things to watch out for:

  • Interests: how much is he borrowing? The more he borrows, the less he saves.
  • Maintenance: such cars need some major servicing at this point in time, mostly due to neglect.
  • OPC: will he use the coupons often? Each usage will eat into his supposed savings.

$2,200/year means 9.17 coupons/month. If he uses more than half of that, it's not worth converting to OPC for the savings anymore.

One argument he used was totally flawed. He said he wanted to use the PARF as downpayment for his next car. If he hadn't gotten a car, he would be able to put down $24,800 instead of $19,428. It's not like the PARF is some magic cash that appeared out of nowhere.

My general advice is, don't buy a car in Singapore. It's a want, not a need. I think the public transport is fantastic, although I have not used it in years. I zip around on my motorcycle for convenience and to save time.

City to Airport

Start at Suntec City 0 km
To ECP 2.3 km
To T3 16.8 km
To Toa Payoh 21.4 km via PIE

With my bike's FC at 38 km/l and petrol at $2.024/l (RON92), the trip costed me $2.16.

On the OPC rebate

If you buy a new OPC car, you get a $17,000 rebate that is applied to your ARF, then COE, then road tax. It is not specified what happens if there is any left.

Now, if you buy a normal car and immediately convert it to OPC, LTA will add $2,200 to the car's PARF every year. At the end of ten years, you will have an additional PARF of $22,000.

It does seem like an anomaly.

$101 COE

Cars registered in May 2001 have the $101 COE. They are listed for $20k to $25k online.

I randomly picked a Sunny 1.6A asking for $24,800 with OMV of $16,265. Its PARF at the end of ten years is $13,012 (80% of OMV for cars before May 2002). The depreciation is thus $4,042/year ($11,788 over 35 months).

If the owner bought this car new and kept it for ten years, his depreciation would only be $3,512/year. (I have included the car dealer's profit into the cost of the car too.)

Cars in Singapore

After Malaysia reduced its fuel subsidies, some drivers in Singapore asked the Singapore Government to eliminate the 3/4 tank rule to let them lower their running costs. Some drivers even claimed that the 3/4 tank rule is no longer needed, as the new fuel prices are no longer attractive for them to go into JB to pump.

Just who are they bluffing? It may not be that attractive for 3/4 tank, but it still is for an empty tank. Plus, I should point out that 3/4 tank is really 1/2 tank on most cars.

Cars will never be cheap in Singapore.

The car population will definitely be capped due to Singapore's small land size. The question is, how to go about it? LTA uses economic methods: excise duty, ARF, COE, ERP and petrol tax.

Excise duty and ARF are luxury taxes. The more expensive a car you get, the more you get taxed. (Excise duty is 20% of a car's OMV. ARF is 100%.)

COE and ERP are dynamic. COE is adjusted automatically based on the buyers' willingness (and ability) to pay. ERP is adjusted based on traffic conditions. Due to these, cars will always have a certain cost that only a percentage of the population can afford them. This is a fact in Singapore. Thus, any talk at this point on lowering a car's running cost to make it more affordable misses the point.

Right now, my estimate is that the top 50 percent of the households can afford a car. This is based on the number of cars and households. Perhaps when only the top 25 percent can afford a car, LTA will consider lowering the taxes to make it go back up to, say, 40 percent.

Although I said only the top 50 percent of the households can afford a car, some of these households choose not to get one, so the cost of owning a car is reduced. Hence, households at the 60th or 70th percentile can afford one — at this point in time.

The causeway bottleneck

Wary of being stuck in jams at the causeway, I left my JB home at 5 am sharp. I reached my office 50 minutes later. There was much higher traffic at the checkpoints than I expected.

When I entered the town, I thought the jams had started. It turned out that the buses were blocking the way instead.

The JB checkpoint exit was already a bottleneck at this early hour. After all the vehicles cleared the checkpoint, they had to go through this one-lane path to exit the checkpoint. Traffic was moving very slowly there.

I had not even crossed 1/4 of the causeway when I encountered more jams, again caused by buses. The cars that queued up in the car lanes were trapped by the buses. Luckily, cars could take the motorcycle lane and bypass the buses. I went straight to the Singapore checkpoint, where there was a queue of around 10 cars (per lane); 3 lanes were opened.

After I cleared the Singapore checkpoint, I did not stop until I exited AYE at the NUH exit. It was 5:45 am. I reached my office in another 5 minutes.

This was so contrasting to my previous trip. I left home at 5:30 am and reached office exactly three hours later! Does 30 minutes make so much difference?

95% of the buses I saw were the blue factory buses. The factory workers must be spending at least 16 hours away from home! (Their shift is 7-7, plus 2 hours on the road each way.)

I also observed that half the cars had Johor plates. Looks like EP holders are more hardworking — they are willing to wake up earlier. In the later morning (7 am), it is about 80% Singapore cars.

Loud pipes save lives

Loud pipes are irritating.

Obnoxious riders like it. The louder the better. They attempt to justify it by saying loud pipes save lives. Unfortunately, they do not. The sound emits to the back. The drivers in front do not hear them coming.

Fuel prices in Malaysia

Petrol prices in Malaysia from 2000.

Date RON97 RON92 Diesel
1/10/2000 1.20 1.20 0.70
20/10/2001 1.30 1.30 0.80
1/5/2002 1.32 1.28 0.72
1/11/2002 1.33 1.29 0.74
1/3/2003 1.35 1.31 0.76
1/5/2004 1.37 1.33 0.78
1/10/2004 1.42 1.38 0.83
5/5/2005 1.52 1.48 1.081
31/7/2005 1.62 1.58 1.281
28/2/2006 1.92 1.88 1.581
4/6/2008 2.70 2.66 2.58

Malaysia produces 798,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) and consumes 515,000 bbl/d in 2006. Malaysia has around 3 billion barrels in reserves. It is forecasted that Malaysia will become a net importer as early as 2011.

Note: one oil barrel is 158.987 litres.

Car age, 1986 to 1997

Car population by age, 1986 to 1997

I got the statistics from the Yearbook of Statistics.

It is interesting to see three things:

  • The drop in number of cars in 1985 to 1987 was due to the recession. 1986 was the worst.
  • The cars were kept for 8 to 10 years before they were scrapped.
  • About 50% of the cars made it past their tenth year. After COE was implemented, only 20% of the cars were renewed.

To follow traffic rules or not?

It is now very scary to travel in bus lanes because buses now have video recorders to capture bus lane offenders.

Just recently, I was on the third lane of a 3-lane road, waiting for the traffic to turn green. The bus lane starts after the traffic light. The traffic was heavy and I was unable to change lane, so I continued in the bus lane for a while before I managed to do so. A bus was behind me all the while.

In theory, you are supposed to merge with the traffic before the bus lane starts — LTA gives you some allowance with the dotted bus lanes at junctions. However, this means blocking the bus. Isn't it ironic that you will delay the bus by following the law?

Another place that gives problem is yellow box. Suppose there is a yellow box just before a traffic light. If the traffic light is often red (due to pedestrian crossing) and there is a lot of traffic coming out from the side road, the cars behind the yellow box will be stuck there for a long time.

The solution is to treat the yellow box as a merging lane. One or two cars move out from the side lane, then the first car on the main road moves up. This allows traffic from both roads to clear. You'll never find this in the theory book. I saw this in the real world and thought it was a simple and fair solution.

Mundane topics

As most NAs have COE expiring on 8/2011, I posted on a local miata mailing list asking what people are planning for it. Do they plan to renew their cars or not? How do they plan to save up for the COE? ($20k in 3-1/2 years means saving $500/month.)

I got no response.

Recently, I asked about insurance. I was a little surprised that only 3 out of 9 insurers I enquired were willing to insure the car. Any insurers to recommend? Again, no response.

It seems these mundane topics are not very popular.

I see little benefit in asking these questions on a more general car forum, although I may have no choice but to do so.

As only around 5% of the cars are older than 10 years old in 2007, 95% of the drivers will think it is silly to consider renewing COE, especially for a 20 year old car — only 0.6% of the cars (2,974) are 20 years and older. However, the miata is not just any car. I expect 50% of the owners to renew the COE. In contrast, I expect only 5% to 10% of normal saloon cars will be renewed. (These are wild-ass guesses.)

Less fuel efficient in neutral: fact or fiction?

I couldn't believe that a car is more fuel efficient when cruising in gear than in free gear. It seems to me the car has less friction to overcome in free gear.

I am completely off. Here is how it really works.

In free gear, the engine has to run at idle speed to avoid stalling, hence it consumes a little bit of fuel.

In gear, the engine can be cut off because the wheels are driving the engine, hence no fuel is consumed. Most FI (fuel injection) cars do this.

So is it more fuel efficient to leave the car in gear when "free wheeling"?

Not really. The car slows down much faster when in gear. It works well if you are stopping at a traffic light — it saves on the brake pads too — but for gentle slowing down, free gear is still more efficient.

2 spare tyres

I noticed that some pickups and trucks carry two spare tyres instead of one. At first, I thought it was due to probability of tyres going flat — vehicles with six or eight tyres are more likely to encounter two flats instead of one.

There is a simpler explanation: the front and rear tyres are different, so two different kind of tyres are needed.

Still want to save on parking

I am still reluctant to put two parking coupons for my CB400F when I ride it, one for day (before 10:30 pm) and the other for night (after 10:30 pm).

A common practice is not to tear the day/night tab. The way it works is that the parking warden will tear it for you. But don't expect it as your right — some people actually complained online that the parking warden fined them for this!

Once, I was having breakfast with my father in JB and he told me how the parking system worked. It used to be a coin-operated system, but it was replaced by the parking coupon system — like Singapore. But unlike Singapore, different municipalities issue their own coupons.

I couldn't believe how it worked, until it happened right in front of me.

The parking warden will horn and wait for the people to come out to put the coupon — just for that hour. He will then inspect the coupons and move on. Very good service, don't you think?

The main beneficiaries are the shop owners. They park their cars the whole day, but they want to save on season parking.

Incidently, in Malaysia, you get a dedicated lot when you apply for season parking. The lot is repainted together with your car number.


I came across three misinformation recently:

  • that petrol tax is 50%
  • that COE is non-renewable (or limited times)
  • that COE causes cars to be scrapped at their tenth year

The Singapore Government has replaced the floating petrol tax with a flat 40 cents per litre tax since 2003. Obviously, people rather believe that the Government wants petrol price to be high because they will collect more tax.

Many people seem to think COE is non-renewable. The most extreme ones think cars only have a 10-year lifespan due to that. Other people think that COE can be renewed at most once or twice. Sorry, you can renew the COE as many times as you like.

Some people postulate that COE is the reason why cars are scrapped in their tenth year. Again, a little research shows that it is not true. Most cars were scrapped in their tenth year in the 80s — without COE. The owners wanted to recover the car's PARF.

End of cheap petrol

News: M'sia to raise petrol prices by 40% from Thursday

Date: 4 June 2008. Source: ST.

M'sian drivers of smaller vehicles will receive a cash payment to offset the rising costs.

MALAYSIA'S petrol price will rise 40 per cent to 2.70 ringgit (S$1.14) a litre from Thursday as controls are removed under a revamped subsidy system, the prime minister said.

'Effective from tomorrow, 5 June 2008, the price of petrol will be raised by 78 sen and the price of diesel will be raised by 1.00 ringgit,' Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a press conference.

Sign of the times.

India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan were recently forced to reduce their subsidies as well.

There will be short-term pain, but everyone has to adapt. I have no sympathy for these countries as they are the ones who caused the oil prices to go higher than necessary.

New insurance rules

News: Motor insurance rule: More reports filed

Date: 4 June 2008. Source: ST.

THE number of motor accident reports filed by drivers jumped by 50 per cent on Monday. It was the first working day of insurers' requirement that they be notified of all crashes within 24 hours.

The General Insurance Association (GIA), which represents about 30 motor insurers here, said 820 accident reports were made on Monday.

The reports involved everything from minor fender-benders to more serious mishaps.

Just 46 of the accidents reported involved injuries.

820 crash reports daily, that means around 410 accidents. Wow.

Suppose we assume that 80% of the accidents happen in the peak periods (6 am to 2 pm, 5 pm to 12 am), that means 22 accidents/hour.

Declined to quote

I called up the following insurance companies:

  • China Insurance
  • HSBC Insurance
  • India International
  • Mitsui Sumitomo
  • Tenet Insurance
  • Tokio Marine

They declined to give a quotation for a 2-door "high performance" car. AIG, AXA and NTUC Income do. I didn't realize it is so difficult to insure a 2-door car.

I am curious if the insurers would insure the 2-door 660cc turbo-charged Copen or not. The Copen is categorized as a sports car.

Rent at your own risk

News: Rental firms 'leasing' cars from cash-strapped owners

Date: 3 June 2008. Source: ST.

COMPANIES which offer financially strapped car owners a way out - by taking over their vehicles to be used as rentals - are sprouting.

It makes good business sense for the dozen or so firms, which advertise their services online - they avoid the huge capital outlay of acquiring their own car fleet.

On the surface, it looks like a good deal for the car owners too. Many of them cannot sell their cars due to their huge loans and the fall in car prices in recent years.

The 'rental' firms pay them a monthly fee for their cars, often enough to cover their loan instalments.

But there is a catch - a costly one. It is illegal to rent your car out this way.

I wonder why private renting is so restrictive. I can understand why rental insurance is required, although I think it's unfair.

Petrol thieves

News: Motorcycles fall prey to petrol thieves

Date: 2nd June 2008. Source: ST.

MR MAIDIN Hussien was on his way to work last Monday morning when his motorcycle sputtered to a stop, its fuel gauge on empty.

It didn't take the 43-year-old long to realise what the problem was: for the third time in the last seven months, his Honda Phantom had fallen victim to petrol thieves.

'It's frustrating when someone meddles with your vehicle,' he said.

Mr Maidin, who reported the theft to the police, was not the only victim to file a complaint that day.

I may not pump full tank for my YBR125 any more — it has a visible fuel meter.

We will see more petrol thefts as petrol prices increase. When petrol is stolen from cars (40L to 60L one-shot), we know the situation is really serious. (We are not there yet.)

Fare cheats

News: Fare cheats to be fined $20 from July

Date: 3 May 2008. Source: ST.

Harsher penalties for misusing concession cards too.

FARE cheats could be in for one expensive ride from July 1, when new penalties imposed by the Public Transport Council (PTC) kick in.

Aimed at making fare evaders and those who misuse concession cards feel the pinch, the new penalties could help stem the $9 million in fares bus operators lose each year, according to 2005 statistics.

Perhaps you would call me naive, but when the bus companies introduced the Ez-Link card for the buses, I thought it was cheat-proof.

It turned out to be really simple — once you observed it in action: just tap at the exit reader as you walk past it. That's it.

Later, the bus driver would only turn on the exit readers when the bus approaches a bus stop (and is stopping), but that does nothing to deter the cheats: they simply sit or stand near the exit.

A jaywalker accident

Yesterday, I was stuck in a queue when turning out of Toa Payoh Hub. At first I thought it was due to inconsiderate drivers parking near the carpark's entrance, obstructing traffic. But as I creeped nearer to the entrance, I could see pedestrians on the road. Such bad traffic and they were still trying to cross the road?

Then I saw a person sitting in the second lane of the 3-lane road. Was he in some sort of protest? Then it occurred to me that it was more probable that he was involved in some traffic accident.

I turned out of the small lane so consumed in thought that I couldn't remember if I checked the traffic. A taxi was behind me. I was surprised he didn't horn me.

As I approached the accident site, I could see the seriousness of it. Lane one and two were blocked. A man was lying down motionless, faced up like he was sleeping, in the second lane. One person was squatting and checking his status. Two persons were standing in the first lane, looking on. There were three stationary cars in the two lanes.

Everyone was trying to switch to the third lane. It was chaotic.

Could I have done something?

Three things came to mind. One, call for ambulance. Two, provide first aid. Three, direct traffic. Unfortunately, I didn't know first aid, I didn't have the authority to direct traffic and I didn't call for an ambulance because I assumed it must have been called already — this is actually a well-known phenomenon.

The accident took place just 10 metres away from the overhead bridge. This place is a hotspot for jaywalkers.

Abusing compassion

It is very common to violate parking laws in Singapore. The reason is because you are not allowed to park almost anywhere except in carparks.

The only reason why you don't get summoned more often is because enforcement is very lax.

There are some people who choose to violate parking laws for their own convenience, then plead for compassion from the authorities. They do not have my sympathies.

Ambulance statistics

You learn the most interesting statistics from newspapers.

From today's Sunday Times: the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defense Force) has only 40 ambulances responding to 101,491 emergency calls last year. There are 25 private ambulance operators with a total of 119 ambulances, but only 10 operators respond to the non-emergency 1-777 call.

The psychology of 'E'

Are you nervous when your fuel meter points to 'E'? You shouldn't. The car still has several litres of petrol left, enough for you to travel 50 to 70 km. (Check your car manual.) In Singapore, that allows you to run your last errand with comfortable margin.

Yet, there is something about 'E' that makes me nervous. I am afraid of the car stalling while on the road.

I have friends telling me they refuel when the meter shows 1/4 tank left. That's way too conservative.

Following traffic rules in private carparks

You don't have to follow traffic rules on private roads. They are not under the jurisdiction of the traffic police (TP). You don't need to pay road tax nor insurance if you drive solely on private roads. In fact, your car don't even need to be registered. (No ARF nor COE is needed.) However, it doesn't mean the TP cannot come in to catch you for traffic offenses committed on public roads.

HDB carparks are, however, not private roads. You still need to observe traffic rules in them. Other places commonly mistaken as private are the universities.

A common sight in HDB carparks is motorcycles going against traffic, especially on the ramps. Going against traffic carries a penalty of 6 demerit points and a fine of $150. I don't do it because I find it very dangerous.

I have seen cars doing this too — entering at the exit to save a little driving — and it is even more dangerous, IMO.

Safety cannot be overrated. In riding school, they teach you if there is a car on a slope, motorcycles should wait at the bottom of the slope and not behind the car. I believe this is an immediate failure otherwise.

I disregarded this in HDB carparks. Sometimes, a car would stop at the top of the ramp for various reasons: waiting for another car to come down, waiting for another car to exit its lot and so on. I would wait behind the car, until one day when a car slipped back on me — I needed to reverse half the slope to avoid being hit! From that day onwards, I always waited at the bottom of the slope.

Impression of ITE Yishun and the car course

I recently attended a 5-day car course at ITE Yishun. The course was very basic and non-systematic. The instructor didn't manage to find out about our backgrounds and motivations for attending the course, so he erred on the simple side.

It was obvious that some people had more experience than the others. Some were at ease with changing tyres, spark plugs and engine oil.

I didn't really get much out of the course itself, except that I managed to borrow the timing gun and found that my ignition timing was spot on. I should have asked the instructor if he had a compression tester.

I learnt a few trivial things, though:

  • The Yishun branch is going to be closed down a few years time when the ITEs are restructured/combined.
  • The car course was unexpectedly popular after they changed the name from "Basic car maintenance" to "Understanding your car".

The campus was pretty big. There was a pond and the interesting thing was that when I stood beside it, the fishes actually came and expected food! It took a while because they swam away disappointedly.

Unfortunately, I didn't meet any students due to the late starting time (6:30 pm). ITE was like a typical school in this aspect. You can see students loitering around in universities even as late as 9 pm (because the facilities are still open).

The 30km rides/drives to the school were enjoyable. It was like a joyride with a purpose.

Because the course started at 6:30 pm, I had to eat my dinner early — I don't like to do things on an empty stomach.

The first day, I bought a "honey-baked ham" sandwich from Food Barn at my office. That brought back memories — I used to eat it before I went for my riding lessons. Unfortunately, I was somewhat sick of it. I now have 32 stickers, one per sandwich.

I bought sandwiches from the cafeteria for the next two lessons. I had to get more food after the lesson ended.

For the next lesson, I decided to take one hour leave and go for a proper meal. I ended up at the McDonalds near the school and had my dinner there. Since this worked well, I repeated it for the last lesson.

The Yishun dam and Seletar airport were nearby. I always thought about detouring there before going home, but I never did.

Drastic times call for drastic actions

News: No fuel for foreign motorists within 50km of Malaysian borders

Date: 27 May 2008. Source: ST.

KL moves to limit sales of subsidised fuel to non-citizens

FOREIGN-REGISTERED vehicles from Singapore and Thailand will not be allowed to buy petrol or diesel at stations within 50km of Malaysian borders, from as early as this Friday.

The new ruling is intended to prevent foreign vehicles from entering Malaysia to buy the heavily-subsidised fuel.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Shahrir Samad told The Straits Times that there would be no restriction on purchase of fuel from stations outside the designated zone.

'This will come into force on Friday, or at the latest (next) Monday,' he said.

He said the problem is mainly caused by Thai-registered vehicles that come into Malaysia just to top up fuel, but the government has decided to extend it to Singapore-registered ones as well.

He does not have data on the number of vehicles or amount of fuel sold to these vehicles, but the leakage was a 'serious problem'.

50 km is very far leh.

No figures but claim that it's serious?

I see a roaring business in vehicle-to-vehicle petrol transfer.

I don't see why it isn't easier to set up a compulsary fuel fill-up station at the Checkpoint, at unsubsidized rates, of course.

Note: at first I thought the Celica owner was playing punk. But a check shows that the Celica has a 55L fuel tank. 26 litres is about half of that, and it's very plausible that the fuel meter shows 3/4 full.

Woodlands Checkpoint traffic

According to the ST (20 May 2008), about 40,000 vehicles pass through the Woodlands Checkpoint daily. About half to 3/4 are motorcycles.

The human traffic was about 90 million in 2007, which meant 246,575 per day. Changi Airport managed only 36.7 million in the same year.

It was not stated whether the figures were for entry only or both directions. I presume it's the latter since the article said "pass through". A quick check with the Monthly Digest Of Statistics Singapore, April 2008 showed that Changi Airport's figure was for arriving, departing and in-transit passengers. It doesn't have statistics for Woodlands Checkpoint.

Be careful what you wish for

News: Bus seat belts: Parents worry about fee hikes

Date: 25 May 2008. Source: ST.

Many are unhappy about paying more; some are looking at other options

Parents are bracing themselves for expected fee increases once the compulsory seat-belt rule is implemented for school minibuses.

Last week, Transport Minister Raymond Lim, acceding to public clamour, said the new rule will kick in soon.

School bus operators The Sunday Times spoke to estimate that fees might rise by 50 per cent or even more.

Because it may come true!

When we wish for something, we often focus on it, forgetting that it comes with other things, whether desirable or not.

When I was in primary school, you could see an older student, usually primary six, standing at the opened door of a Malaysian school bus while it was moving. I believe bus conductors used to do that. If that's not dangerous, I don't know what is.

Turn signals and rear light died

My turn signals and rear light died on me. Coincidence? I don't think so.

What happened was that I removed the battery on my YBR a few days ago to recharge. Yes, it was low again. I did not put the battery back at the end of the day and rode the bike without a battery — the bike has kick-start.

A friend warned me about this in the past, but since everything worked normally, I threw caution to the wind.

This time, something went wrong.

The turn signals started to act strangely after a few rides. Towards the end, it only signaled when I rev'ed the bike. After I put the battery back, it didn't signal at all.

That was when I noticed the rear light wasn't turned on. The brake light was still working, so it meant only one of the two filaments in the bulb was broken.

The flasher unit was spoilt. The turn signals worked after I replaced it.

My friend told me that the battery acts as a huge 12V voltage regulator. Without it, the voltage is 13.x, fluctuates wildly and is much harder on electrical parts. It looks like it is true that one should not ride a bike without a battery, even if it is possible.

Another road trip

Start at Toa Payoh 0 km
To PIE 3.1 km
To NTU 19.4 km
Left NTU 1.7 km
To Jurong East 15.5 km Detour to KJE by mistake
To NTU 9.4 km
To Toa Payoh 24.1 km

With my car's FC at 9.5 km/l and petrol at $2.059/l (RON98), the trip costed me $15.87.

NTU is really far away.

Petrol prices

Petrol prices went up by 5 cents and diesel by 7 cents yesterday evening. RON92 is now S$2.045 after discount. As a thumb-of-rule, every 10 km will cost you $2. You may panic now.

I was caught by surprise by the two fuel increases this month. There were two polls on an online forum whether there would be any increase this month and I voted against both times.

The outlook online is very bleak. People are already predicting petrol prices to reach $2.50 or $3 — V-Power is already $2.379 before discount. However, I think it's still a long way to $3.

I am very sure there will be a hike in the public transport prices this year. The Public Transport Council (PTC) should ask the public transport companies to show the fuel surcharge separately, like what airlines do. At least the public transport users won't feel as ripped off then.

Should diesel for public transport be subsidized then? No. The Government should subsidize the poorest 5% directly instead, by topping up their ez-link card, for example.

They should be allowed to trade the unused transport credits away if they don't use it. The poorest of the poor actually take very little public transport, preferring to walk or ride a bicycle.

Lane splitting

A friend couldn't believe that I don't split lane during traffic jams. I don't, so I asked him why he thought I should do it. His reply was that the weather was so hot.

Well, better hot than dangerous.

There are a few kinds of lane splitting, from most dangerous to least dangerous:

  1. In-between fast moving vehicles
  2. In-between slow moving vehicles
  3. In-between stationary vehicles
  4. In-between stationary vehicles in queues (traffic lights, carparks)

It is safer to overtake stationary vehicles in a queue than vehicles on the road as they usually do not change lane.

High beam or what?

I was travelling home just slightly past 7pm and saw the car behind me didn't turn on his headlights, so he wasn't very visible. By law, the headlights must be turned on from 7pm to 7am for cars, and whole day for bikes.

The next instant, he turned it on and I was instantly blinded. His was ultra white beam and it looked as if it was high beam. Both my rear view mirrors became reflectors and I couldn't check my rear view.

I'm sure Singapore isn't that dark at night.

Almost an accident

Today, I went to Tampines with my brother for breakfast. Being out of ideas, we decided to go to Tampines Mall without any particular food outlet in mind. We eventually went to Ya Kun, although Burger King was a close second.

We almost didn't make it there. Just a few km out of Toa Payoh, I was in the third lane in the 4-lane PIE because my car hadn't reached operating temperature. I was going about 65 to 70 km/h. I could see a car tailgating a van in the fourth lane in front. They must be going around 55 to 60 km/h. It was obvious what the car would do. Yet he did not overtake. I slowly closed in onto them.

Just as I was about to overtake the car, it suddenly swerved into my lane. No signal, nothing. My bonnet was side-along his boot! I quickly braked to avoid impact.

I couldn't believe what happened. "Did you see that?", I asked my brother. This was the closest ever I came to an accident in my car in Singapore. (Note the qualifiers.) I horned him. Again and again. No effect. After a while, I just lane changed to the second lane, then the first, to overtake a bunch of slow moving vehicles before going back to the second lane. (To the white Lexus, I'm sorry I hogged lane one at 100 km/h for a while.)

My brother said most likely I was in his blind spot.

I told my brother a video camera was essential. What I didn't tell him was that if an accident really happened and our cars were shifted before I could take down photographic/video evidence, it was likely to be 50-50 or even 80-20. Since I hit his back, he could claim that I knocked into him when I changed lane.

Anyway, the whole trip was around 32 km. With my car's FC at 9.5 km/l and petrol at $2.059/l (RON98), it costed $6.94. Tampines was further than I expected.

Hit and run


Date: 19 May 2008. Source: The Electric New Paper.

IT was a minor collision between a BMW and a Mercedes-Benz. But it led to a car chase, screaming rage from one driver and the death of the other after a stroke.

The Mercedes driver, who is believed to be around 20 years old, allegedly shouted vulgarities, and he insisted on being compensated even as the BMW driver, Madam Lee Bee Hua, 56, was being carried on a stretcher into an ambulance.

She died from a brain haemorrhage two weeks later.

The damage to the cars? One broken wing mirror each.

Madam Lee's family has lodged a police report.

Police said they are looking into the matter.

Personally, I don't think the Mercedes driver made Madam Lee's condition worse. His behaviour up to the point when they stopped was understandable. He thought that Madam Lee was drunk based on her driving and got mad. Very mad. What's more, she looked like she's running away. After that, he must have been overcome by his anger and lost all rationality.

The second half of the news is interesting.


THE Mercedes driver demanded $3,000 as compensation for a broken side mirror, and allegedly also submitted a fake invoice to claim $400 for car rental.

Mr Edwin Han said the man had called him about compensation for the mirror the day after the accident.

But Mr Han did not pay, and asked that the Mercedes be fixed at Cycle & Carriage instead. The bill came to around $1,300, he said, less than half of what was asked for.

Mr Han said he had also paid $400 for 'car rental' without negotiating, as he was worried about his mother-in-law.

But when he looked at the invoice later, he became suspicious as it only had a car workshop's letterhead and no details such as a signature or the name of the person who rented the car.

'I called up the company that issued the invoice, and a woman who answered said they were a workshop, and didn't provide car rental services,' Mr Han claimed.

Mr Han immediately lodged a police report, on 29 Apr.

Don't sink your own boat.

Think before you appeal

News: Grace period given, but one hour is too long

Date: 19 May 2008. Source: ST.

I REFER to last Wednesday's letter, 'Insert graciousness into URA's grace period' by Mr Tan Tatt Si.

Mr Tan said he parked his car at Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Carpark B when he went to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on April 23 to donate blood platelets. He said he was delayed in the donation process and was fined $10 for overparking. He felt URA should be gracious and waive his fine.

I find it interesting that URA investigated when Mr Tan registered at the centre. It is obvious from URA's wording that Mr Tan is a frequent offender.

Write to the press to ask for graciousness: understandable.

To write in when one has gamed the system: not the best course of action.

To be exposed for what he is: priceless.

More drunk driving

News: 36 motorists arrested for drink driving in islandwide operation

Date: 17 May 2008. Source: CNA.

Thirty-six motorists were arrested for drink driving in a five-hour islandwide operation which ended early Saturday morning.

The latest arrests bring the total number of motorists caught for drink driving this year to 1,449.

The Traffic Police said 129 motorists were given the breathalyser test after road blocks were set up in several areas.

These areas included Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, Bukit Timah Road, New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road.

36 motorists, including four women, failed the test and were arrested.

The motorists are between 21 and 61 years old.

Another 18 motorists were cited for driving whilst under disqualification and other traffic offences.

There is an endless supply of drunk drivers.

Their vehicles should be impounded for investigation while the drivers are waiting to be charged, which can take up to two years. This will hurt them in the pocket (paying for the car even though it cannot be used) and make them think twice.

New road signs

News: LTA Introduces New Initiatives To Enhance Road Safety

Date: 16 May 2008. Source: LTA.

1. Motorists and pedestrians alike will benefit from a series of new initiatives to enhance road safety, as outlined in the recently unveiled Land Transport Masterplan.

2. The four initiatives, namely the 'enhanced pedestrian crossing lines', 'pedestrian crossing ahead markings', 'traffic calming markings' and 'your speed sign', have been implemented at selected locations to test their effectiveness. This is part of LTA's continual efforts to make our roads safer for all users. If found to be effective, the pilot initiatives will be implemented at more sites. (Please refer to Annex A for details.)

New road signs to learn.

I do not think the Pedestrian Crossing Ahead Markings is the right way to solve this problem. These pedestrian crossings should be changed to give priority to cars. Pedestrians should look out for traffic on these crossings. It is safer for everyone.

I do not think that the Traffic Calming Markings will work.

The Your Speed Sign looks useful. I can calibrate my speedometers!

Giving your car a facelift

A friend admired the newly lanuched BMW 125i Coupe when we were at the BMW dealership. I told him how he could make his car to be more like it:

  1. Paint it red
  2. Superglue the two rear doors
  3. Cut off the window frames

As easy as ABC.

If I had $X more

Whenever you hear someone buy a car, say X, one of the first question you would hear is, "Why didn't he buy car Y?" (Y is more expensive than X, obviously.)

My brother got a lot of this. People would ask him (or me if I were relating it) why he didn't get the Civic instead of the City.

The answer is obvious.

Have you met someone who didn't buy the most expensive car that he can — barely — afford? Neither have I.

So, it is pointless to ask why someone didn't buy a car that was more expensive, even if it were a "mere" $10k to $15k more. If he could afford it, he would have bought it.

A house of cards

Someone posted on an online forum that around 20 bikes were fined for parking on the pavement at the Grand Cathay building. Grand Cathay does not allow bikes to park in its carpark.

Is there safety in numbers? Many bikes means it must have gone on for some time. But then it is also more likely to attract attention.

When TP comes, everyone dies together.

Zipping around on a bike

It's cheap to zip around on a bike. I travelled around 50 km today on my YBR125. With an FC of 38 km/l and petrol cost of $1.959/l (RON92), it works out to be S$2.58.

To save on parking, I chose to park in URA carparks which require some walking to my destination. I parked at the URA carpark beside Wheelock place when I went to Kinokuniya. I parked at the URA bike lots a block away from National Library when I went there. I parked at the URA carpark behind National Museum when I went to Park Mall. This allowed me to use just one 65-cents parking coupon for the whole day.

I parked illegally on pavement when I went to the BMW dealership, risking a potential fine of $70. Most car dealerships don't provide bike lots. The Honda car dealership, which I also went today, is an exception.

Two places I went to had free parking for bikes: Raffles City and Toa Payoh Hub.

Riding is cheap. Dirt cheap. That's why it's my main mode of transport.

The tradeoff of riding a bike is the hot weather and risk of accident. A bus insisted on filtering into my lane. I had to move slightly into the right lane to avoid colliding with it.

The Neil Humphreys Tour

Singapore has a reputation as a boring place. Let's list the predictable places to go:

  • Sentosa
  • Orchard Road
  • Chinatown
  • Zoo
  • Night Safari
  • Singapore Flyer
  • Shopping malls

After that?

Singapore actually has many interesting places, just that they usually fly under the radar. This is taken from Neil Humphreys's third book, Final Notes from a Great Island, in the order mentioned in the book.

  • Toa Payoh Viewing Tower
  • Sentosa
  • Mount Faber
  • West Coast Park
  • Bukit Chandu
  • Kent Ridge Park
  • Clementi Road
  • Pasir Panjang Road
  • Haw Par Villa
  • Queenstown Stadium
  • Kusu Island
  • St John Island
  • Holland Village
  • Chinese Garden
  • Pandan Reservoir
  • Jalan Buroh
  • Jurong Hill Park
  • Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetry
  • Old Lim Chu Kang Road
  • Neo Tiew Road
  • Bollywood Veggies
  • Sungei Buloh
  • Kranji Nature Trail
  • Kranji Dam
  • KTM Railway Station
  • Woodlands Town Park
  • East Woodlands Town Garden
  • Sembawang Park
  • Sembawang Road End Bus Terminal
  • Sembawang Hot Spring (off Gambas Avenue)
  • Seletar Camp
  • Lorong Buangkok
  • Sengkang
  • Punggol Road - Jetty
  • Pasir Ris Fairy Point Hill (off Cranwell Road)
  • Changi Chapel/Museum (off Upper Changi Road)
  • Changi Village
  • Pulau Ubin
  • East Coast Park
  • Katong Park
  • Joo Chiat
  • Geylang Road
  • Orchard Towers
  • Fort Canning
  • Armenian Church
  • Kampong Glam
  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

How many of them have you visited?

Many of these places are not tourist attractions per-se, but they are interesting to visit, nonetheless. Most of them are out of the way if you don't have your own transport. Neil Humphreys managed to cover all of them on foot and public transport, which requires some dedication.

More bus lanes

News: Full-day bus lanes extended to 11 CBD locations from June 2

Date: 15 May 2008. Source: CNA.

Driving in the Central Business District will be a different experience from June 2. That's when full-day bus lanes will be extended to 11 new locations.

These are Collyer Quay, Fullerton Road, Grange Road, Shenton Way, Robinson Road, parts of South Bridge Road, Victoria Street, North Bridge Road, Bencoolen Street, Hill Street and parts of New Bridge Road.

The extension is in addition to such lanes already in operation along six stretches of roads - Orchard Road, Eu Tong Sen Street, Somerset Road, Victoria Street, Hill Street and Bras Basah Road.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said since the scheme was started in 2005, average bus speeds along these roads have improved by between 10 and 23 percent during non-peak periods.

It added that the improved bus travelling speeds help make the bus commute a more attractive and pleasant option, and encourages more commuters to take public transport.

The extension is to ensure more roads remain clear to enable buses to give their commuters a faster and smoother journey during the operational hours of 7.30am to 8pm from Mondays to Saturdays, except on public holidays.

To ensure the scheme's effectiveness, LTA will be introducing enforcement cameras onboard buses - to be used to record bus lane infringements. The video cameras will work in tandem with the current warden scheme.

The article also said more bus lanes will be introduced by year end.

Nearly got fined

Being a cheapskate, I put just one parking coupon on my CB400F, for 10:30 pm to 7 am. It was 9 pm, so there was a 1-1/2 hour window.

At about 9:20 pm, I went down to top up my car's engine oil. I just topped it up in Feburary and it was low again! No wonder the hydraulic lifts to the valves kept tapping on starting the car.

While filling the oil, I saw the parking attendents making their rounds. I immediately realized I was going to get fined for my bike. I had not brought the key down — the parking coupons were inside the bike. Should I go up to my flat to get the key, or should I resign to my fate?

One of my resolutions for this year was not to get fined.

I was done with filling up, so I closed the bonnet, locked the door and went up to my flat. It was a race against time.

When I came down, I went straight to my bike to tear a new coupon. Saved! The parking attendents were still nowhere in sight, so I went to look for them. They were still on the same level as my car. They encountered a car that exceeded its timing, so one of them was teaching the other the procedure to fine the car!

It seemed like such a waste to put a 65-cents coupon for just 1 to 1-1/2 hours, that was why I didn't want to put it. However, the truth was that I had risked parking without coupon from 6 pm to 9 pm when I parked at other HDB/URA carparks.

A new thumb-of-rule: I park at HDB/URA carparks when riding the CB400F and always tear a parking coupon. It feels more worth it when the coupon covers 3 to 4 hours rather than just 1 hour.

This will definitely drive up the parking costs of my CB400F.

Driving is serious business

Drivers tend to do other things while driving, because it seems so simple: press the accelerator and keep in a straight line. You tend to be complacent after a while.

Let me give three examples.

I wanted to turn right at a cross road junction, but my view was blocked by the right turning traffic on the other side of the road. After hesitating for two seconds, I decided to turn. Midway while turning, I saw a car speeding towards me. I quickly speed up my turning. There was even a car behind me. Making a blind turn is extremely poor judgement.

I wanted to make a right turn, but was not sure of the exact junction to turn. I went to the rightmost lane, which was a right-turn only lane. The traffic light turned red and the right-turn only light came on. I was prepared to turn. At the last moment, I realized it was the wrong junction, so I weaved back to the left lane and went straight. A pickup was on the opposite side, waiting to turn right. Beating the red light aside, it was extremely dangerous with the pickup present.

On my way to work, I saw a man flipping the papers while he was driving. No doubt it was to pass time, but doing it while the car was moving?

Classic cars in Singapore

According to the Straits Times today, there are 212 classic and 117 vintage cars in Singapore. This is much lower than I expected. It looks like the classic and vintage schemes are not that popular. While I don't know the total car population above 35 years old, I suspect most of them are still normal plates.

Fuel subsidies

Not just Malaysia, but even Indonesia is feeling the pinch from subsidizing the ever-rising fuel prices.

I am against subsidies, as I believe they distort the market economics. If fuel is kept at a low price, why should anyone conserve it?

Yet, subsidy is a touchy issue due to the need to get re-elected every 5 years. Unpopular moves won't get you re-elected. (People are dumb.)

We can have tiered fuel prices. In a small country like Singapore, 30L per vehicle should be sufficient. This applies to all vehicles. This is sufficient for a 40 km/l bike to travel 1,200 km, or 40 km daily.

It is legal to trade the unused portion, of course. This allows people to gain the full subsidy.

In a bigger country, we may need to subsidize 50L to 75L.

Insurance for young riders

Some bikers complained on the net that their insurance were excessively high at $1.5k to $2k for a class 2B bike. That was due to their young age of 18 to 25. A 23 year old biker was even quoted $4k for his class 2 bike.

This is about right. One way to discourage young people from riding is through higher insurance rates.

However, I think it may also increase the incidence of riding without insurance. (Young people will do whatever they want to do, legal or not.)

If I were to setup an insurance company, I would set high premiums for young riders too, say $2k/year. However, I would return a large part of the premium (50%, say) after 3 years without any claims.

Should I use electric start or not?

I have come to the conclusion that I have had lousy batteries all along for my YBR125. Looking back, I didn't have a problem with my battery failing so quickly, but then I rode almost everyday. Now I ride about 3 to 4 days in a week.

I measured the voltage during the electric start and the reading went really low — 8 to 9 volts. Electric start is really hard on the battery.

Now I adhere to these thumb-of-rules before using electric start:

  1. The last journey must be longer than 10 minutes.
  2. The bike must not have been turned off for more than an hour.

The second rule ensures that the battery has just been charged. When left unused for a long time, the battery has a very low charge. The first rule is to make sure that the charging is effective. Hopefully, the battery will now last longer.

I suspect another reason why my current battery go flat so quickly is that the battery water is overfilled. It was filled to the brim, way past the full line. I suspect the shop wanted to make it as maintenance-free as possible. This diluted the acid level, hence the battery was weaker. There is nothing I can do except to wait for the water level to drop to full and then recharge the battery.

Requesting statistics from LTA

A few weeks ago, I requested for old car population by age statistics from LTA. LTA has reports going back to 1998 online. I wanted older ones. I actually got a reply from them!

LTA only has 20-year records from 1993 to 1997 and 15-year records from 1981 to 1992. They do not have the cars broken down by age over 20 years old.

Each year is considered one report and one report costs $10.70. :-) I had expected $5 to $10 per report, but I had not figured on getting just one year's data per report; I had expected 10 years of data in one report.

I said I'll check the library before I get back to them.

By the way, I was told I am not supposed to publish the statistics. It's for personal use only. Wonderful.

Dry weather at last!

It seems the dry season is back finally! It hasn't rained for a week! The sky may look gloomy at times, but it doesn't rain. It looks like I finally has a chance to ride my CB400F in peace. Happy days are here again!

Travelling to ITE

I enrolled in a short course in Yishun ITE.

Start at office 0 km (Near PSA building)
To CTE 4.5 km
To SLE 15.0 km
To Lentor Ave 3.5 km
To ITE 6.5 km (1.5 km to Yishun Ave 1, 2.8 km to Ave 6)
To Toa Payoh 15.9 km (via Thomson road)

With my car's FC of 9.5 km/litre and this tankful of petrol (RON98) at $2.03/litre, it costs $9.70.

ITE Yishun is really far away. The good news is that traffic is light. I can leave my office at 5:15 pm and reach there at 6 pm. I will pass through one operating ERP gantry. Although the lesson starts at 6:30 pm, I don't think I'll leave any later because the traffic builds up very quickly after 5:30 pm.

I would love to ride to ITE on my CB400F. I love the occasional long distance travels in both my car and the CB400F. I like it more on the bike because it is rare to have such chances due to logistics and the weather.

However, there are some stretches on CTE that the drivers are fast-and-furious. I need to be careful on my bike. Also, I'm afraid that I would forget to remove my cashcard — it's easy to forget about it after a long ride.

An unfair allocation

A colleague remarked to me the unfairness of the parking allocation in our company. He was told that someone conversed with the admin-in-charge quite frequently on this and he asked if I were the one. I denied it, but told him I knew who he was referring to. I declined to reveal his name.

It appeared that many people were aware that the parking allocation was not as fair as it seemed. Due to lack of space, our company held a draw every six months to decide who to give season parking. Only a selected few were exempted from the draw. This was what we were told.

The administrator made a mistake: she under-estimated the engineers. Being engineers, they monitored the drivers' mailing list and found that a (big) group of drivers was exempted.

Some engineers must have questioned the administrator on this. I don't know what the reply was. I know one of my colleagues got a "season parking is a privilege, not an entitlement" reply.

I have no problem accepting the fact that not employees are equal. However, why not make it a public policy? Why make people think it is fair? The draws were even held in public. But as I told a colleague who went to observe a draw, did he check whether all the drivers' names are inside, or only some?

By the way, need I mention that the drivers' mailing list is no longer updated?

Fuel consumption during idling

I wonder how much fuel is used when a car is idling. By right it should be bare minimum, as the RPM is at its lowest (usually around 850 rpm).

I saw a car with two occupants inside with the air-con on. This was not strange, given the hot weather and subsidized fuel (in Malaysia).

Another near miss

I went into JB today. I was on this road where a 1-lane road joined a 2-lane road to form a 3-lane road. I was on the left lane of the 2-lane road. As I approached the merging point at normal speed (say 60 km/h), I observed a car stuck behind a slow moving van on the 1-lane road. They were also approaching the merging point. I was behind them, but as I was faster, we would arrive at the merging point at the same time.

You can guess what happen. As soon as the car cleared the kerb that divided the two lanes, it filtered into my lane — without checking. I was right beside him and although I had anticipated this, I was still surprised he made such an attempt. I had to move right, partially out of my lane, to avoid a side collision. If a motorbike was beside me, it would have been knocked down.

I should have put my hand on the horn as soon as I saw the possibility of it happening.

More horny

I resolve to be more horny. To be precise, I mean I would use my bike/car horn more often.

Today, I was stuck in a queue at the Singapore checkpoint — at 7 am! The jam started at BKE, just before the bridge to the checkpoint. There were two lanes on the bridge, one for bikes and one for cars. Most cars were queueing up obediantly. But from time to time, you'll see cars zooming past in the bike lane. As there was nowhere to go, they must have cut back into the car queue in front, just before a physical divider separates the bike and car lanes.

Not many cars did this. I estimated around ten in the twenty minutes I was there. Around half were Malaysian cars. However, it was enough to irritate me. I wonder what would happen if I horned at them as they overtook me?

An eventful ride

I was riding my bike home from office, going at 60 km/h in the middle lane of a 3-lane road. The road was empty, except that at some distance in front, there was a stationary bus in the leftmost lane with its right signal one. In the middle lane, a car looked like it was stationary, or was it? If it was, why wasn't the bus moving?

It took me a while to register that the car was indeed stationary. Its brake light was off. I braked hard — but not too hard — and came to a stop just before the car, with less than one metre clearance. I could hear my brake pads screeching, but not the tyres. The tyres would screeched on hard braking and the bike is very likely to skid.

Who would expect a car to stop in the middle of an empty road to let a bus filter? The bus driver must be wondering too, that's why he didn't dare to move off. So the two vehicles remained stationary.

This brought me back to a news a few days ago that a driver stopped just before an ERP gantry to insert his cashcard. The car behind him stopped in time, but the bike behind the second car couldn't stop and crashed into the second car. The law judged that the first car and the bike were each responsible for 50% of the damages to the second car. In my opinion, the bike had no chance at all.

A car can come to a stop very quickly. Not so for a bike. I estimated that my bike took at least 20 metres to come to a stop. That took maybe just 2 to 3 seconds, but they were very long 3 seconds. I watched helplessly as the car approached closer and closer.

Who in the right mind would expect a car to stop suddenly before an ERP gantry? Of course, now that it is a known hazard, everyone must prepare for it. I purposely leave a big gap (that allows adequate reaction and braking time) whenever I pass through gantries, whether they are in operation or not. If you think this is an unlikely scenario, next time try stopping 10 metres before a red traffic light. See if the car behind can stop in time or not. (Who in the right mind will expect you to stop so early?)

When I came to a stop, I glanced at my side mirror and saw that the cars in the middle lane filtered right at quite a distance away to overtake us. I had forgotten about taking evasive actions once I frozed.

The only thing I did right was that I didn't clutch in. This helped the bike to slow down a bit faster, but only a bit. I was in fifth gear, and it felt like free-wheeling during hard braking. If I had the presence of mind, I would have switched to third gear, which had much greater braking effect. (In the riding school, the bikes have three lights. One light shows when you are clutched in, another shows when you are braking. You are supposed to clutch in when you are almost stopping. You are penalized if you clutch in too early.)

I wanted to blast the car, but decided not to as he wasn't entirely wrong. He had no p-plate.

After that, all went well until I was on PIE, nearing Toa Payoh. I was on the third lane of the 4-lane expressway. A car signaled left and just filtered into my lane with almost zero tolerance, causing me to brake to avoid a collision. If it were a stunt, it was a success. But this was public road. I blasted him. Again and again. No reaction from the car. I kept doing it until I saw a police WRX parked by the side of the road with its lights on. I decided to let it go. I wondered if the driver even knew he cut into my lane.

There are two things I need to get for my bike. First, a video recorder. While these road incidents are rare, they must be made known, or these road offenders will never be caught. I intend to use my camera for a start; I need to look for a suitable clamp. Second, I need to get an air horn to wake these drivers up from their sleep.

Wasted trip

Taking advantage of the public holiday, I went down to a toy shop to buy some stuff before the shop's vouchers expire. I was surprised to see the shop closed even at 11:10 am.

I decided to go home after waiting for a while. The total distance was 14 km. With my bike's FC at 38 km/l and petrol at $2.031/litre (RON98), it costed me $0.75.

I later found from the shop's website that it opened at 11:30 am!

All banquets must come to an end

I received an email that the season parking of my colleagues at a neighbouring office building would be removed from June. The landlord wanted to reserve season parking for tenants only. I was surprised that only six people were affected. This is the privileged group, never having to ballot for the limited space at our office.

Well, all banquets must come to an end.

According one driver who was balloted out, he said there is still ample parking space around our office, just that the lots are open-air, the walking distance is pretty far (about 500 metres) and the pathway is unsheltered. Also, you need to walk through the main entrance just like other bus users. People may think you are taking bus to work! :lol:

More people are riding to work too. The motorcycle lots are full after 9:15 am or so. So many people parked illegally that the landlord sent out an advisory saying that they are going to wheel clamp bikes too. I wrote back to our admin that she should suggest to the landlord to increase the number of bike lots.

ERP rate changes

News: ERP rate for BKE gantry to go up by 50 cents

Date: 28 April 2008

IT will cost motorists $1.50 to use the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) between 7.30am and 8am on weekdays from next Monday - up from $1 now.

The electronic road-pricing (ERP) gantry on the BKE between Dairy Farm Road and the Pan-Island Expressway is the only one being tweaked by the Land Transport Authority in its latest review of ERP rates.

The rates at all other gantries remain unchanged - until the next review in late-May, just before the June school holidays.

ERP rates are reviewed once every quarter as welll as just before school holidays. Prices are usually lowered for the latter.

The LTA did not say why it is raising the 7.30am-8am slot for the lone BKE gantry, but ERP rates are usually raised when average traffic speeds fall below the optimal 45kmh to 60kmh range for expressways.

The idea is to spread out demand so as to avoid congestion and achieve better traffic flow overall.

The fact that rates at all other gantries remain unchanged indicate that traffic flow at all ERP-controlled roads has not improved or deteriorated significantly in the last three months.

Miniscule adjustments, however, will be a thing of the past from July, when a new set of criteria for rate movements kick in.

As part of a slew of measures to control congestion and persuade more people to take public transport, ERP increments will be at least $1 each time - double the 50-cent jumps now.

That's not all. A new interpretation of 'optimal speed' will take effect. Instead of taking average speeds as a criterion for ERP rate changes, a more stringent method that ensures than 85 per cent of road users experience the optimal speed range will be applied.

In effect, the two new meaures mean the likelihood of more aggressive rate increases.

They will apply in the CBD and Orchard area from July; and at most other ERP-controlled roads from November.

The remaining handful of outlying gantries will be affected from February next year.

I am not surprised that the rate at BKE goes up. BKE remains as jammed as ever. There are not really many roads to take if you are coming down from the north. My advice: don't live in the north and work in the south.

July will be interesting because the formula for ERP rates is changed. It is likely for the rates to go up by $1 immediately. I also think it is likely for the rates to go up by another $1 in November if LTA is really going to be aggressive about persuading more people to switch to public transport.

More wear-and-tear

My YBR125 rear tyre is due for replacement. I think I can stretch it till end of the year or even next year. The marking on the tyre is 3.00.18 47S 5631. I may just change the rear tyre alone. I seem to recall that the front tyre lasts twice as long as the rear. This will cost around $100.

My CB400F tyres are still good, although the front tyre is quite near the minimum tread mark. It should last another year or two. However, both tyres are very old. The front tyre is 100/90/18 56H 3903, the rear 140/70/17 66H PA00902. I may change both either at the end of the year or next year. I estimate the cost to be around $250.

This time, I will make sure the tyres are the ones specified in the owner's manual. The YBR specifies 2.75-18 (42P) for the front tyre and 90/90-18 (51P) for the rear. The CB400F specifies 110/80-18 58H for the front and 140/70-17 66H for the rear.

There are always wear-and-tear items to replace every year. It is just not possible to have a maintenance-free vehicle.

Is no one afraid of TP anymore?

I saw a TP bike behind me when I was at a traffic light on the way to office. When the light turned green, I went off, quickly hitting 70 km/h on a 60 km/h road limit. I would have done this whether there was a TP or not. I was surprised that some bikes and cars still zoomed past me.

Is no one afraid of TP anymore? Or maybe that's ROV? I didn't check the number plate.

Free parking on Sunday

I always thought that HDB parking at/near town centres are not free on Sunday. Imagine my surprise when I went to Bishan town centre and parked at the HDB carpark. It was free! Come to think of it, the HDB carparks at Toa Payoh town centre are also free on Sunday.

I suppose the HDB carparks are not free only if they are close to residential areas.

The parking attendant strikes again!

This time, I saw three parking fines on a car in my carpark: 24/4, 5:04 pm, 26/4, 6:05 pm and 27/4 10:14 am. The car was parked in a red lot (reserved for season parking), so that's $50 per ticket!

New shoes for my car

After putting it off for a long time, I finally changed my tyres today. My original tyres, from the previous owner, were Michelin PP 205/45/R16. I changed to Michelin PP2 205/45/R16 for $668. I like the idea of Michelin tyres on my car, so I never thought of changing to another brand.

I checked that the tyres were from late 2007 (date 4107), as promised by the boss. All four tyres had colored lines nearer to the inner side of the tyre. I didn't ask, but I supposed they had made sure beforehand. (You want the pair of tyres to be both inside or both outside, or the car will pull to one side.)

I polished two of my rims for $30 at the same time. Three rims were scratched, but one had only very minor scratches, so I didn't want to spend money to polish it. The shop put the only good rim on the left rear — the place most susceptible to be hit by kerbs. I hope I don't hit any more kerbs! (Until I rotated the tyres.)

I am very curious to know how much my rims weigh, but it didn't cross my mind to ask if the shop has a weighing scale.

Should I do a wheel alignment after changing tyres? I used to think it is needed, but then wheel alignment doesn't depend on the tyres.

After I went home, I checked my YBR125. I have had the tyres for over 2 years. The rear tyre was near/at minimum tread mark already, whereas the front was still good. I was surprised because I just used them for around 11k km. The two tyres are the same (usually not the case for bikes), so I wondered if I should have rotated them to increase their lifespan.

Breaking discovery

News: Salt Water Can "Burn," Scientist Confirms

(Dated 14 Sep 2007.)

Salt water can indeed burn when exposed to a certain kind of radio wave, a university chemist has confirmed.

Rustum Roy of Pennsylvania State University verified earlier this month that the radio waves break the water into its components, allowing the resulting freed hydrogen and oxygen to catch fire.

Independent scientists said the phenomenon is credible as explained, though practical applications of the technology remain uncertain and it's unlikely to be a source of cheap energy.

"It seems like, to me, an interesting set of processes that's been uncovered," said George Sverdrup, a technology manager at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

"That doesn't say much for its applicability or any possibility for the marketplace, though, at this point."

Shows how ignorant we still are. I am very excited because this looks like a fundamental scientific breakthrough and a new source of energy.

Using odd/even car numbers to drive

Cut traffic by half — only cars with odd/even numbers are allowed to drive on alternate days. This idea has been around — and used — for years. Recently, some people proposed to use it in Singapore. No doubt they think it's such a low-tech, simple and effective idea.

I got news for them: it doesn't work. Sure, in the short term traffic will reduce by 50%. But then people will start buying two cars, defeating the whole idea.

It's a pity both my brother's and my car end with an even digit. We can't alternate our cars if this scheme goes through.

I'm more in favour of using financial incentive than legislation. Allow people to do everything, but at a cost. It sucks when you're poor, but that should give you an incentive not to remain poor.

While washing my car...

So I was washing my car with a pail of water in an open air carpark. I was washing the right front rims, when I glanced up to see a carpark warden placing a fine on my windscreen. Washing your car in a carpark lot carries a $100 fine.

"Hey, you should have told me. I was right here.", I said.

She shrugged.

I took a close look at her. A Chinese national! Wow, more jobs are taken away! Hmm, she was young and pretty looking.

I went back to my washing, saying aloud that this was my most expensive car wash.

"Aren't you going to stop?", she asked.

It was my turn to shrug.

I wasn't clear what happened next, but we got into a shouting match and then she called her partner for backup — another Chinese national — and proceeded to slash two of my tyres! They then got ready to leave in their van.

I was like, what? Did they really do that? I went around to check. They really slashed the tyres!

I went to the van to confront them. I told the girl inside that I would complain to their company. Suddenly, the tables were turned and she was frightened. She begged me not to do that. Who's going to compensate me for my tyres? I would do it.

She pleaded again. No way. She then took my hand and pulled it. Her partner outside the van did the same with my other hand, stretching me.

Then I woke up.

Will you drive out for lunch?

You'll get fed up with the usual eating places around your office if you stayed long enough. It'll be good if you have a colleague who don't mind driving out for lunch. Do you have such a colleague?

Cons: petrol, parking and loss of parking lot when you come back.

And then people take you for granted — asking you to take them out, rather than the other way round.

If I were to drive out, I don't expect any compensation, but there are some people who do expect one.

2007 car age statistics from LTA

Car population by age, 2007

I am interested in years prior to 1998. However, the data is not available on one-motoring. I have wrote in to LTA to request for it. Let's see if it is available, and at what price.

In the mean time, we can try to extrapolate the data. Observe the 1998 column. The car distribution is pretty even for ages 1 to 10. This implies the same distribution for the earlier years.

People used to drive the cars for ten years before scrapping them. It changed starting from the '93 cars. Very few cars made it past ten years. Even fewer should make it past twenty, but the figures are not broken down for cars older than twenty years old.

One thing I'm curious is, why there were many cars 16 years old or older in 1998? Was it because these cars didn't have to renew COE yet?

Classic scheme for bikes?

Someone proposed a classic bike scheme just like for classic cars. It will not help because bikes are already cheap to own and use.

I have a neighbour who is a taxi driver and he owns four bikes.

It is cheap to own one bike. Two bikes are still affordable. But three bikes onwards, how do you find time to ride all of them?

One way to keep the cost down is to "lay up" the bikes. By doing this, you only need to pay the COE and season parking. You don't need to pay road tax and insurance. A bike can be laid up for two years at a time.

Note that you can do the same for a car, but its PARF value is lost, so people only lay up cars older than ten years.

You need to send the bike for inspection before it can be returned to normal service. That's a $30 towing fee, unless you have your own van or pickup.

The more bikes you have, the more attractive laying up becomes. My estimate is that it is worth the effort when you have six or more bikes, or maybe at least nine. You keep three bikes in normal operation, then swap three every year. I was told there is a bike collector who has over 80 bikes, most of them laid up.

For people with two to five bikes, it is better to share the bikes than laying them up. Find a sub-rider and let him ride the bike. This keeps the bike in working condition too.

Petrol prices up

What else is new? Petrol is going up by 3 cents and diesel 5 cents. Oil is now trading at US$115 to US$117. Iran president says oil prices are still too low.

Some people ask for the petrol tax to be removed to lower the price. What are they smoking? Do you think the Government wants to help you to keep driving?

LTA must be very happy cos they don't have to be the bad guys for now. High oil prices are helping them lower car usage.

As someone who doesn't use my car for daily transport, I prefer high oil prices. Hopefully there will be fewer cars on the road.

Having said that, will people actually give up driving? I don't think so. People will still drive to work. However, there will be fewer non-essential trips.

Fake OPC coupons

News: Man caught for selling fake off-peak car licences

A 33-YEAR-OLD man was arrested on Sunday for selling fake off-peak car supplementary licenses.

The police said the suspect had been selling the forged licences since February and has sold about 1,400 pieces.

He sold them in stacks of 22, at $300 per stack. Original ones cost $20 each, or $440 for 22.

The forged licences can be identified by their paler colours and bolder marked lines. They also have deeper perforation lanes, as well as six serial numbers compared to the standard eight on the originals.

The suspect advertised his licences on social networking websites like Friendster and Facebook.

He also recruited six runners to leave flyers on the windscreens of parked cars.

The flyers carry a contact number one can reach to purchase the discounted licence.

Police have recovered items including 500 pieces of fake licences, a personal computer, a printer and $28,990 cash from the suspect's home.

The forger was selling the coupons at a 30% discount. Is it enough to entice people? I find it strange that he didn't make exact copies. 6 digit serial numbers instead of 8. What was he thinking?

All in a day's work

An idea of the distance between several places in Singapore:

Start at Toa Payoh 0 km
To Tampines 15 km
To Vivo City 28 km (est)
To Bukit Panjang 22 km
To Autobacs 6 km
To Leng Kee 9 km (est)
To Sin Ming 16 km
To SLS 8 km
To Tampines 20 km
To Toa Payoh 17 km

With my car's FC of 9.5 km/litre and this tankful of petrol (RON98) at $2.03/litre, it costs $30.13. Whether it is cheap or expensive depends whether you are used to taking bus/MRT or taxi.

Note that this has not included parking.

Good enough

A friend asked me today what's the difference between mineral, semi-synthetic and synthetic oil. I was unable to tell him off the bat, except that mineral oil was much cheaper. So he asked if synthetic oil was better. I couldn't answer that.

Now that I have more time to think about it, I'll say mineral oil is good enough, just like RON92 is good enough for a car requiring RON91, and air is good enough for tyres (as opposed to pure nitrogen).

Demerit points

Many people do not understand how demerit points work for multiple licenses. There are two common misconceptions: that there is one set of demerit points per license, and that your demerit points drop from 24 to 12 after you get a new license.

That's the wrong way to think about it. You only have one set of demerit points. Everyone starts at 0 demerit points and counts up.

A new license (under a year) allows 12 demerit points (over 12 to revoke). A normal license (over a year) allows 24 demerit points (suspend at 24).

Example: you have a normal class 2 license and a probatory class 3 license. If you get 14 demerit points, your class 2 license remains but your class 3 license is revoked.

Clearer now?

Things that make you go, huh?

One person posted on an online forum that he took a car loan of $44.8k at 2.8% p.a. for 7 years, but intended to pay it all in 2 years.


Statistics from my carpark

I observed two days ago that there seemed to be many old cars and OPC cars in my carpark. Never one to do a half-hearted job, I decided to collect some statistics.

Number plate #cars Registration date
EA – EZ 1 Aug 1972 – Feb 1984
SBA – SBZ 10 Sep 1984 – Sep 1993
SCA – SCZ 1 Feb 1994 (SCA1G)
SDA – SDZ 4 Nov 2000 (SDA6G)
SFA – SFZ 22 Aug 2003 (SFA2T)
SGA – SGZ 35 Sep 2007 (SGA1J)
SJA 1 Jan 2008 (SJA1Z)
SJB 2 2008
SJC 4 2008
SJD 3 2008
SH – SHZ 1
GA – GZ 13
GBA – GBZ 2 Aug 2007 (GBA1T)
Malaysian 1

My carpark can hold 161 cars, 108 of them sheltered. There were 100 cars when I surveyed the carpark yesterday night at 11:30 pm. 12 of them were OPC cars.

Why park outside the house?

My brother and I went for our dinner at The Roti Prata House last night — at supper time. We went past a "poor man's" landed property housing estate. Why "poor man"? Cos the houses were all terrace houses and had a small pouch. Yet these houses were at least a million dollars each. In Malaysia, a fraction of that can get you a semi-detached house with enough space to park 4 cars. The small road was filled with cars parked on one side while the pouch of the houses were empty. Guess they don't like to park in the compound of the house. No wonder the cars get scratched.

Auction cars

GE Money auctions off its repossessed cars every fortnight. There are good bargains to be had. However, you need to know how to evaluate a car, since you are not allowed to test drive. I heard you're allowed to start the engine — if the key is available. That can be quite useful if you know how the car should sound like.

This time, a Civic Type R 2.0M turned up with a starting bid of S$62,950. Given the car is just 4 months old (registered on 4 December 2007), has OMV of $27,294 and COE of $19,323, this is an extremely good bargain.

Of course, you are not likely to get it for $63k. It's likely to end at the S$80k mark, which is still a pretty good deal.

Note that I'm only talking about the car in abstract. It is definitely necessary to go down to take a look at the car to valuate it properly.

I browse through GE Money's auctions from time to time to get a feel what various cars are worth, and to get an idea of dealers' markup. Despite some people's claim that the cars do not reflect their market value — because they seemed to be priced too low — I disagree. GE Money is trying to recover its money, so it will price the cars fairly to recover as much as possible.

I went to the GE Money car lot at Turf City once. I was surprised at the number of cars they had in a locked-away carpark. Rows and rows of cars. Amazing.

How to determine a car's selling price?

Looking for a second hand car but don't know how to determine if the price is worth it?

The first thing you need to know is "paper value". In Singapore, cars have an inherent paper value due to ARF and COE. ARF is now 100% of OMV. LTA will return a partial amount to you when you scrap your car based on the age of the car. This is called PARF. Similiarly for COE, you get the unused portion back.

If you try to calculate the paper value, you will realize that it is very low compared to what the cars are generally selling in the second hand market. As a guide, a $60k new car only has a paper value of $30k even in the first year. However, you hear dealers buying in cars at "paper + body", which is only a few thousand above paper.

Are car dealers making obscene profits? Probably, but consider this as well.

It's the market value. The paper value just tells you what the car is worth minimally. It's unlikely you can get it at that price for cars newer than 7 years.

One way to think about the price is the depreciation for the buyer and the seller. If you're the seller, will you sell if it's $12k/year? Maybe not. But you may be fine with $10k/year. So that determines your selling price. For the buyer, you may not be interested in a car that gives you $8k/year, but you're fine with $7k/year.

Before one complains about high depreciation for new car owners, he must make sure he has not been taken advantage by the car dealer first — has he calculated the dealer's profit margin? If he doesn't care, then don't complain when he can't fetch a good price for his car 3 years down the road.

Parking for heavy vehicles

News: They park lorries illegally to be near home

Heavy vehicle drivers cite odd working hours and expensive cab fares as reasons.

FOR lorry driver and Punggol resident Lim Kay Huat, 62, finding a parking lot for his vehicle at night puts him in a game of hide and seek with the Traffic Police.

Punggol housing estate's facilities do not include carparks for heavy vehicles and drivers like him are barred from parking in the residential areas.

So they end up parking along deserted roads like the unlit Punggol Port Lane off Punggol Drive, which fills up with at least 50 lorries and trailers come nightfall.

These drivers are risking a $100 fine by parking there.

Mr Lim said he has been fined eight times. Each time he is caught, he moves his vehicle elsewhere for a while.

Current laws require every heavy vehicle here to have its own parking lot in a carpark licensed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), in order for its road tax to be renewed or for a new vehicle to be registered.

I find it interesting that heavy vehicles require their own parking lot.

There is a reason why heavy vehicles are not allowed near residential area — noise. Every morning at 5 am, I am awakened as the buses make their way to the depot. This is what happens if your window faces the main road. It doesn't help that I'm a light sleeper.

What should these drivers do? They should ride a bicycle or motorcycle home.

Never take safety for granted

News: Three serious motorcycle accidents in 24 hours

March 28, 2008

A MAN died when his motorcycle collided with car at a junction between Moulmein Road and a slip road into CTE near Ang Mo Kio on Thursday.

Mr Seah Kin Huat, 54, was travelling along Moulmein Road towards Balestier when the bike hit a car turning right at the junction.

Both Mr Seah and his pillion rider, a woman in her 50s, were rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Mr Seah suffered a fractured right rib and developed a blood clot in his chest. He died in hospital at 11.15am.

The woman sustained abrasions on her right knee and had back pains. She was discharged on the same day.

Less than 12 hours later, another rider died when his motorcycle skidded along the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) at 8.40pm.

Mr Loh Hern Sern, in his 20s, was travelling along the AYE towards Tuas when his bike skidded and veered towards the left, hitting the railing.

He was thrown off the vehicle and landed in a drain.

Mr Loh was initially conscious when he was rushed to National University Hospital but died at 9.45pm.

Another serious bike accident took place at about 5.50pm that day leaving a rider severely injured and in intensive care.

The rider, in his 50s, was travelling along the ECP towards the AYE when his bike crashed into a lorry emerging from a slip road.

The rider sustained serious head injuries and was rushed unconscious to Singapore General Hospital.

Never take safety for granted on a motorcycle. There is no such thing as a minor accident.

Just what's wrong with my bike?

My YBR is a battery killer. My first battery lasted almost a year. I kicked start for about two months before I got fed-up and changed to a new battery. That battery lasted just six months. Kicked start for another month or so before I got fed-up and changed the battery. The next battery lasted just two days. Turned out the rectifier was spoilt — meaning the bike was unable to recharge the battery — so I changed that too. The shop recharged the battery and it lasted for nine months. I kicked start for the next two months before I got fed-up and changed to a wet (non-maintenance free) battery. It was supposed to last longer. Guess what? It lasted only three months. It has been two months since then and I have had enough of kick starting.

What the hell is wrong with my YBR? The multi-meter indicated that the bike does charge the battery when it is running (voltage is 14.6V). However, a mechanically inclined colleague pointed out, (a) the voltage seemed too high — it's supposed to be 13.x volts, (b) the rectifier may be spoilt and not give a flat output which is needed to charge the battery.

Because I told my colleague that I measured the battery at 12.7 volts, he said it could be the starter relay. I didn't suspect the rectifier because it had been changed. The other suspects are the starter motor and the alternator (cleared).

How does the starter relay look like? I took out something called the "Flasher Unit" if you translate it literally from Chinese. Was it the relay? No idea. The bike could still move without it. Then, I realized my turn signals were not working. So that's what the component is for. It does live up to its name!

Next, I discovered that if the headlights were turned on, the battery went all the way down to 8.58 volts! The battery is flat. Interestingly, if I turned off the bike, the voltage slowly creeped back up to 12.7 volts.

As an experiment, I kicked start the bike and let the bike charge the battery for a while. I then turned off the bike and while the battery was still showing 13.x volts, I pressed the electric start button. The bike started. So the starter is working.

The question still remains why the battery is not charged. Two possibilities: I have a lousy fake battery, or the rectifier is not working. I'm considering changing the rectifier myself. I know how it looks like — I have the old one — but I don't know where it is on the bike.

I'm going to visit the Yamaha bike parts shop to look for the battery, the rectifier and the parts/service manual. Hopefully they'll sell the last one.

Out of petrol!

Yesterday, I "ran out" of petrol 500 metres before a petrol station. I was in the middle lane of a three lane road, and the bike went quiet as I cruised to a stop before a traffic light. I was unable to restart the bike quickly, so I had to push it to the side of the road first. Cars went past on my left and right as I waited on the white line for the traffic to clear.

Was I really out of petrol? No. I was able to restart the bike and "limped" to the petrol station. There, under better lighting, I found that I had set the fuel cock wrongly — I had set it to normal mode instead of reserve mode. In normal mode, the bike can only use up to 10.6 litres of petrol. In reserve mode, it can use the entire 12 litres of petrol. I managed to pump 11 litres of petrol, so I was some way into reserve mode already.

Different vehicles have different ways of indicating the fuel level. On the YBR, 'E' is really empty. It had a red region before the 'E'. The bike is in the so-called reserve mode when the indicator enters the red region. The fuel indicator is also highly non-linear. It points to 'F' at the 200 km mark.

The CB400F has a useless 5-bar fuel indicator. The last bar blinks at about 200 km. However, it is safe to ride until 300 km or even 330 km as the bike can hold 15 litres of fuel. The reserve is 3 litres. However, the fuel cock was removed last year — it leaked after eight years of service — and was not replaced due to lack of parts.

The MX-5 can hold 45 litres of fuel and has a reserve of 6.5 litres. The fuel indicator points to 'F' at the 50 km mark. It enters reserve mode when the fuel indicator points to 'E'. I have confirmed this because I only managed to pump 38 to 39 litres when the indicator pointed to (or slightly past) 'E'.

Jumped track again

News: Train services at Choa Chu Kang station disrupted after man fell onto track

TRAIN services at Choa Chu Kang station were disrupted for about an hour on Monday morning after a man fell onto the MRT track and was hit by a train pulling in on the North-bound track towards Jurong East.

SMRT said some 7,300 commuters travelling from Yew Tee to Bukit Gombak stations were affected by the disruption between 8am and 8.50am.

A shopkeeper in the station said he heard commuters saying that the man had jumped onto the track during the morning rush hour.

Getting rather common, isn't it? Should we sympathize with these people "looking" for their 15-minutes of fame? They were very selfish, after all. If they wanted to commit suicide, they could have done so at any HDB flat — they are all over Singapore. Why MRT track? Why peak hour? The answer is obvious: they want to draw attention to themselves and their plight. Will they gain pity this way? Not from the commuters, I think.

I know this is going to sound cruel, but the last thing you should do is to donate to the deceased's family, no matter how poor they are. After a sensational reporting of such a case in the Chinese newspapers two years ago, the family got a total donation of over $400,000. Several copy-cat cases followed. I think the later cases didn't get much money. Or at least not reported in the papers.

News: Platform doors to be installed at MRT stations from next year

THIS latest incident highlights the need for screen doors on platforms of all above-ground MRT stations.

The Government announced in January that it will install the doors first in Jurong East, Pasir Ris and Yishun stations next year, and the rest by 2012.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim had said that such incidents disrupted train services and inconvenienced many commuters, especially during peak hours.

The platform doors will not prevent a person from committing suicide if he is determined. However, LTA should do something. By not doing anything, they are giving the impression that cost is more important than lives.

Parking infringement

I got an email from my company's administrator that originated from the landlord. It said the landlord is now conducting daily enforcement on parking infringement. You see, the sheltered parking lots and lots near to the building are reserved for the tenants and you are supposed to park in them only if you have the authorization decal.

The problem is that the landlord gives out non-decal season parking too. Such cars are not supposed to park in the red lots.

It's obvious that people has incentive to cheat in a two-tier parking system. I used to park in the red lots from time to time, especially in the afternoon. My past observation was that they check once or twice a week and usually in the morning. I better not do that now.

A pimped-up van

A new "car" owner was so proud of his first ride that he posted pictures of it on a car forum. What's wrong? Well, it's a van, not a car. It has sports rims, a no-no on vans. It is also in boring silver. Worst of all, it has a bulge in its rear compartment, making it look like a hump — it looks ugly.

Really, it's difficult not to stereotype such a "car" owner. The first thing that came to my mind was, "um, another wannabe boy-racer who couldn't afford a set of wheels".

It's only in Singapore that people buy sporty vans because cars are too expensive. I have nothing against that, but I find it amusing when these people try to justify their actions. I wonder how many of them will still stick to vans if cars are cheap? The answer is obvious.

Five new ERP gantries

News: It's Monday morning blues with 5 new ERP gantries

It will be a Monday with an extra helping of blues tomorrow when five new Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries get up and running.

Residents and shopkeepers in Geylang Bahru, Kallang Bahru, Upper Boon Keng Road, Upper Bukit Timah Road and Toa Payoh Lorong 6 are griping about having to live with a gantry on their doorstep. The five gantries will be turned on for either half an hour or an hour each morning - from 8am to 8.30am or 9am.

But most plan to pay the price - $1 in the mornings - for now.

Most of the 250 residents and shopkeepers The Sunday Times spoke to in the five residential areas say they will take a wait-and-see approach.

Only one-fifth plan to change their routine, like leaving home at a different time, finding an alternative route or switching to public transport.

But a check by The Sunday Times reveals only one 'escape' route in Bukit Timah which requires a lengthy detour. Property agency ERA Realty, which is located in Toa Payoh Lorong 5, has found a way to cope with the ERP: by letting employees report for work 15 minutes later, at 9.15am.

Sorry, There's really no escape. Leave home earlier or later, or switch to public transport.

That is what the transport authorities want commuters to do with the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system.

Five new ERP gantries on 7 April, five more on 7 July, and six more on 3 November.

The current ones don't impact me at all. The three gantries in Geylang Bahru, Kallang Bahru and Upper Boon Keng Road are to plug a loophole going into CBD and are long overdue. LTA wants you to go through two gantries instead of one if you go into CBD by Geylang road.

The gantry in Upper Bukit Timah Road is to catch the traffic diverting from BKE. In my opinion, the Malaysian bikers are the ones who will suffer the most — most of them don't have the IU on their bikes.

The Toa Payoh gantry is used to catch the traffic bypassing the most expensive gantry on CTE ($5). As it is difficult to go to CTE (towards city) from Toa Payoh, it is not meant to catch these drivers. It is used to catch drivers who diverted too early on their way to PIE (both directions), the Thomson area or the Serangoon area.

Can the MX-5 jumpstart another car?

My brother managed to drag himself out of bed at 8 am, so we went for breakfast. He is always the same — we always agree to go for breakfast the night before, then the next morning he cannot be awaken, not before 10 am anyway.

We chose to go to the Ya Kun at Compass Point to have our breakfast. We were seriously out of ideas of places to go. There was a Ya Kun right at Toa Payoh central, but I wanted a longer drive.

On the way there, my brother asked me how come I can wake up so early. It's simple: just drag yourself up for a week or two, then your body will get used to it.

Anyway, after the breakfast, it was still early, so we went to the Punggol jetty. I turned on the air-con — while top-down — because it was getting warm. That was why I kept pestering my brother to wake up earlier — it was cool enough to drive top down until 9 am.

Once we reached there, one person immediately asked me if I could help to jump start his car. I had an immediate answer: "no, my car's battery has a low voltage." (I meant ampere, actually.) Which was true for the MX-5's original battery: online forums warned you not to jumpstart another car due to the battery's low ampere. However, mine was not the original battery, so I didn't know whether it was safe or not. I could check the battery (the specs are written on it), but I didn't want to take the risk, so, "no".

Otherwise, it was an uneventful trip. There was a jetty (of course), one pay phone, two toilets, a police post, a bus service, surprisingly, several parked cars, a few people fishing while others looked on and a bunch of soldiers looking out for Mas Selamat.

On the way back, there was a heavy jam on Serangoon road. The cause? A lorry stopped on the third lane of a three lane road to off-load goods and that caused the jam to stretch through a few traffic lights. Wonderful.

Tow Away Zone

Every year, around this time, you'll see "tow away zone" signs on the road shoulder of PIE (towards Changi) just before the Toa Payoh. Why is that? The cemetery is just beside the expressway. And people do stop on the road shoulder, climb over the low fence and burn paper money for their ancestors.

I know, because I have seen it when I passed by the area seven or eight years ago. It is still not solved today. In my opinion, putting up the "tow away zone" signs is solving the wrong problem. Why not put up a high fence during this period?

The cemetery is an unnamed Chinese cemetery in the street directory. I thought it was the Bt Brown Chinese cemetery, but that was some distance away. Speaking of Bt Brown cemetery, I had been there looking for a shortcut — 6 am in the morning. Upon reaching there, I realized I didn't dare to enter the cemetery in pitch darkness. I waited until 6:30 am, when there was a glimpse of light in the sky, before I went in. Even then, I could only look straight ahead and tried not to look out of the corners of my eyes too much!

The cemetery was a loop, but there were a few dead ends and my objective was to determine if one of them could lead to a road on the other side. Although my bike was not a scrambler, it could go over kerbs with ease. On reaching there, once again I discovered I dared not leave my bike to scout the terrain ahead, so I left in a haste.

Mission failed.

To tell the truth, I have more chance of meeting an illegal immigrant than a supernatural being. However, it is easy to be rational and brave at home. Tell me that when you meet me at Bt Brown cemetery at 6 am.

Illegal parking


NEXT time park on one side, OK!

Those words were written in both English and Chinese on the bonnet of Miss Sheena Cheong's car.

And to make matters worse, someone had smashed both side mirrors on her car.

Miss Cheong, 21, had parked her car, which she co-owns with her boyfriend, at a nearby lane as her condo carpark was full.

Unfortunately, the undergraduate left her lime-green Honda Fit in such a way that there was very little space for the other cars parked behind her to move out.

Seems to me it's quite easy to catch the culprit. The picture shows two cars in the dead end area of the road. There's space for just a third car. If no cars were able to move out, then it's the owner of one of the two cars. If a car were able to move out, then it's the third car. It should be easy to narrow down the timing of the act and the suspects.

But, should the vandal be caught?

Riding and safety

Recently, I exchanged some emails with a colleague over riding. We started with the Earth Hour and saving on utilities bill and then my colleague mentioned taking public transport to lower expenses. That was when I entered my riding evangelist mode.

Safety is overrated. It's true that riding is riskier than driving or taking public transport, but that's what the riding school is for. It not just teaches you how to ride a bike, but also drills road safety into you. Riding is like cycling. If you can ride a bicycle, you can learn to ride a motorbike within 30 minutes — really. Yet, in Singapore, you need to go for 13 1-1/2 hour lessons. The passing rate of each lesson is, on average, 80%. If you fail, you got to repeat it. The passing rate for the final traffic police test — your final hurdle — is 33%.

Many people will then say it's not you, but the other road users who cause accidents. Well, looking out for them is part of riding safely too.

If it were up to me, I will make riding lessons compuslary. :-) Even now, I urge everyone to take riding lessons. Learning doesn't mean you must ride after you pass. Take it for fun, to challenge yourself, to pass time, to learn an additional skill or whatever floats your boat. On average, it takes a good 6 months to get your license.

As for motorbike specific lanes, they may /not/ be a good idea. These lanes will make it safe for motorbikes, but not all roads will have these lanes. The risk increases for roads without these lanes because the road users now encounter motorbikes much less, thus they may not give the proper margins.

Now, many riders promptly forget their lessons once they passed. That's their problem. You can choose to follow them, or you can choose to keep yourself safe.

Riding can be likened to a mission critical operation. The mentality is the same: being aware of the risks, being prepared, being defensive and being vigilant at all times.

Time to look for a new parking place

I usually park at Bencoolen if I go to SLS. This is because I usually enter the city via Raffles place. Just a few months back, they decided not to let motorbikes in; it used to be free. Now, I park at the HDB carpark nearby and risk a $8 fine. I still park there if I'm driving.

The parking was $2 per-entry after 5 pm. I got a rude shock yesterday when I left the carpark and I was charged $9.20 for 3 hours of parking! I looked around, but I couldn't find the charges. However, I saw a handwritten "24-hour carpark" sign. No wonder. No more per-entry charges.