Convenience over safety for senior jaywalkers
Despite initiatives to make crossing roads easier for the elderly, many seniors still risk life and limb. We take to the streets to find out why
Cars whizzed by on North Bridge Road when this reporter spotted a shock of silver hair.
The elderly woman was frantically shuffling across the busy road, clutching her handbag with both arms.
Cars would slow down but many would pass her with just metres to spare.
She was not alone. In just 30 minutes, The New Paper saw at least 10 elderly citizens jaywalking along a stretch on North Bridge Road, resulting in many close shaves.
One stood in the middle for what seemed to be ages before running to the other side.
But this is a four-laner with buses zipping past constantly. The New Paper on Sunday team watched nervously as the elderly seemed to dice with death.
An overhead bridge and a pedestrian crossing lies about 20m from either sides of the spot they are crossing from, but are largely ignored.
TNPS spoke to one of the jaywalkers, who wanted to be known only as Mr Xie, and he acknowledged the risks.
He says sheepishly: "I know it is dangerous to be standing in the middle of the road.
"But I have a sense of safety and I always keep an eye out for any incoming vehicles."
Mr Xie, who is in his 70s, says he found climbing the overhead bridge to be tiring.
He says: "It is so hot these days that I will sweat a lot just climbing up and down the overhead bridge.
"It is more convenient just to jaywalk."
The situation was similar at Eu Tong Sen Street. This is where a tragic accident took the life of an eight-year-old boy. (See report on facing page.)
Mr Francis Sng, 48, owner of Chef Icon Nature Bakery, which faces the road, says he sees children jaywalking as well.
He says: "They would climb over the green dividers in the middle of the road. It is dangerous especially for kids, as they are short and drivers may not see them crossing."
Accidents involving elderly pedestrians rose by 8.8 per cent last year, according to the Traffic Police.
They highlighted jaywalking as an area of concern for senior citizens and plan to create more awareness on road safety and the dangers of jaywalking among senior citizens.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) introduced the Green Man Plus scheme in October 2009.
The scheme gives senior citizens and disabled pedestrians more time to cross the road when they tap their cards on the card reader on the traffic light pole.(See report on right.)
But these measures appear to be gaining little traction in the areas we visited.
A woman in her 80s, who wanted to be known only as Madam Leong, says: "I get very scared standing in the middle of the road because so many big vehicles pass by me.
"But I run really fast, so I think I am okay."
We spot a woman trying to dissuade her friend who is pushing a toddler in a pram from crossing the road illegally, to no avail.
The woman, known only as Madam Chen, sighed and turned to TNPS, saying: "I always tell my friends not to jaywalk and just use the pedestrian crossing, especially when they are with kids. But they scold me for being 'kaypoh' (Hokkien for busybody)."
She adds: "Safety is the most important thing. There is an overhead bridge and a pedestrian crossing here for a reason, why don't people just use them?"
JAYWALKING IS ILLEGAL
Jaywalkers can be fined $20 on the spot. They can also be charged and fined up to $1,000, or jailed for up to three months.
Repeat offenders may be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to six month