Heartlanders: Sometimes we'd rather risk the roads than climb pedestrian bridges
The one time Madam Zhou Shumei decided to brave the steps of an overhead bridge, she ended up in a hospital.
The grandmother of five, 74, was trying to get to the bus stop opposite her HDB flat in Mountbatten.
She recounts in Mandarin: "After what seemed like an eternity going up the steps, I could barely breathe when I finally reached the top.
"My eight-year-old grandson who was with me, told me that I was complaining that I felt dizzy. I was too unwell to remember that part (of the incident)."
If her grandson had not stopped her from jaywalking, Madam Zhou admits she would have crossed at the street level.
She says: "I felt that I should set an example and so, after much nagging from him, I gave it a go.
"I was hospitalised for three days but that was enough to make my grandson feel really bad even though it wasn't anyone's fault."
Last Saturday, a woman who was six months pregnant died, four days after she was hit by a double-decker bus while crossing Bendemeer Road to get home.
There is a pedestrian bridge about 100m away and a traffic light crossing about 200m away, but Mrs Payal Shah, 29, did not use them.
By law, Mrs Shah was not jaywalking, even though some people felt that the tragedy could have been averted if she had used the bridge or crossing.
But all 50 heartlanders we approached have a different view.
Madam Zhou, who depends on a walking aid, says: "What seems like a three-minute walk may take us twice the time and thrice the effort."
Retiree Pow Chin Seng, 68, who lives in Bendemeer, admits that he is guilty of crossing at the junction of Bendemeer Road and Whampoa East the way Mrs Shah did.
"You are caught in the middle of options that are either 100m or 200m away," he says, adding that crossing at that point is "faster and easier".
"And almost everyone is doing (it)," he says.
A New Paper reporter who visited the scene of the accident on Mondaycounted 20 pedestrians - a mix of old and young - doing the same.
This, despite a large sign that had been placed at the side of the road by the police that read "Serious Accident 21 October".
In other parts of Singapore, especially areas where there are more elderly pedestrians, people seem to cross the roads in a similar manner
On Wednesday evening, this columnist watched an elderly man push his wife in a wheelchair across the road.
They were struggling to cross North Bridge Road, which had heavy traffic. Thankfully, vehicles seemed to slow down to make way for them.
The husband, who only wants to be known as Mr Tan, says in Cantonese: "See that pedestrian crossing (which is about 30m away)? I know it seems near to you, but for us, it is too far, really."
For many like him, fatigue trumps the risk of getting hurt in an accident.
It's not just the elderly who feel this way.
Over two days of observation, I saw pregnant women, mothers pushing strollers, students and office workers choose to cross at street level instead of use pedestrian bridges.
In areas where there are pedestrian crossings, the numbers were fewer.
Ask these people why they don't use the bridge, and the responses are almost identical: Going up and down the steps is too daunting.
But here's some good news: Last month, elderly residents in Bukit Merah View became the first of five estates to benefit from the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) Silver Zone programme.
The programme aims to make roads in areas with a large population of senior citizens safer.
These zones will be fitted with features that encourage motorists to slow down, while reminding elderly pedestrians to be careful when crossing the road.
Enlarged centre dividers will ensure that seniors can cross in two stages at their own pace instead of rushing across the road.
The speed limit in these zones has been reduced to 40kmh where possible.
Also in the works are lifts at existing pedestrian overhead bridges next to MRT stations including Aljunied, Bishan, Khatib, Kranji, Sengkang and Yew Tee.
I will be glad when these lifts get installed at overhead bridges that I frequent.
Although my husband and I make it a point never to jaywalk , I hate using overhead bridges.
I am overweight, have weak knees and chronic back pain, so it takes a lot of effort to heave myself up the stairs.
When I arrive at the top, I am breathless and have to pause for a couple of minutes to catch my breath. Then the arduous trek down the stairs begins.
It's hard work, but you know what they say - better safe than sorry.