Roads in private estate, can park or not?

It’s about public space for this week’s A Kind Take.

Last week, someone wrote to citizen journalism portal Stomp to complain about how he noticed several residents in Villa Verde estate in Choa Chu Kang using blue and green bins to ‘chope’ parking spaces in the neighbourhood.

The week before that, local host Jade Seah posted on her Instagram about how she got a handwritten note on her windscreen telling her not to park on the road in a private estate.

What’s with this entitled behaviour, they asked. And I can see where they are coming from. Roads in private estates are public still. Even though residents there would like to think that they should get first dibs to any parking near their homes, the last I checked, public still means it’s open to everyone.

Nevertheless, this issue sparked a furore both online and in traditional media, with readers sparring over the letter of the law (public roads are public!) and the spirit of the law (private estates seldom have designated public car parks so please be considerate).

Both sides have good points. How do we decide on a fair and equitable division of a public good? Does it go to the person closest to it (proximity), or the person who is using it at that point in time (need)?

Residents at Jalan Bintang Tiga communicate on a neighbourhood WhatsApp chat to avoid parking dispute between neighbours. Image source: Melissa Quek

It’s not an easy discussion to have, but there are some neighbourhoods who have found solutions: Like Jalan Bintang Tiga in Bedok where residents communicate in a neighbourhood WhatsApp group about parking spaces along the narrow road to avoid misunderstandings.

But even then, it doesn’t solve all problems. As a friend who lives in a private estate near an MRT station tells me: “Do you know how many people park and ride in front of my house? OMG”

Danger on shared paths

Going from public roads to shared paths. Just this week, u/Amlostsendhelppls posted on online forum Reddit about how she was pushing her toddler in a pram on a pedestrian path at noon on a Saturday when an e-bike zoomed past, narrowly missing her.

She wrote: “There was a scaffolding that blocked the T-path that I was approaching, and my spidey-senses told me to check before pushing the stroller out. Sure enough, the rider on his e-bike zoomed past (at an unregulated speed), and I would certainly have been hit if I had not stepped back.

“The rider yelled out ‘sorry sorry’ as he passed with no indication of slowing down. My husband, who was behind me, chased after him on foot to demand for his phone number. He told me he seemed apologetic, and he let him go, where the rider then dismounted and pushed his e-bike until out of our sight.”

No harm, no foul right? Not really, as the angry mum went on: “I am not against riders – I deeply respect that they are out there to make their livelihoods, but is your delivery more important than the safety of my child, or your own safety? Should we have collided, your ‘sorry’ will not un-scar my 9-month-old, or me. Your biggest issue would not be a missed delivery, and both your day and mine would have turned out very differently.”

Image source: The Pride

She is exactly right. Yes, delivery riders have a tough life. And scarcely a month goes by without us reading in the news about how a delivery rider got hurt on the roads. Yet for all that LTA is doing in terms of education on shared paths, anecdotes like these still exist.

And one accident is one too many.

Yet how do we fix this?

u/Amlostsendhelppls wrote about how helpless she felt about the situation: “This is where the struggle comes in: because there was no hit / damage, I can’t do anything about it. I can’t report him as I don’t know what platform he works for. I can’t get the police involved as there is no licence tied to his vehicle, despite a legal ban that was laid out to prevent exactly such incidents.”

Yes, we can demand more legislation (motorised PMDs and e-bikes have been banned on footpaths since 2020), or more enforcement (LTA regularly conducts enforcement exercises and in February, it said that it issued notices to more than 5,000 e-bikes last year for riding on footpaths).

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How can we solve this issue? Should delivery companies work with public ministries to come up with a comprehensive plan that rewards safer rather than speedier deliveries? Should consumers like ourselves be less fussy over how long our dinner takes to arrive or not expect same-day deliveries for our groceries? There are possible solutions, but no easy answers.

In the meantime, I can only add my voice to this: Pedestrians deserve to feel safe on footpaths. But let’s find a solution that doesn’t leave cyclists or PMD riders out in the cold either.

You lift me up

In slightly less serious news, a tourist went viral this week after he posted a video on TikTok about his experience pushing his two toddlers in a pram at Caldecott MRT station.

@paaladin #Singapore #MRT #TikTokSG #Twins #Baby #Lift #GiveWayGlenda ♬ original sound – Pavel Semenov

In the clip, the man, Pavel Semenov (@paaladin), comments in Russian about how he got cut off by the other commuters waiting for the lift.

While there were some rude comments on his video, there were others who took a more optimistic approach towards the situation.

One suggested: “You stand a little (too) far. Must stand near to the lift and they will give way to you.”

Another gave some advice: “In SG, you need to open your mouth to ask for help to get what you want. People will most likely oblige.”

This, I agree with. Sometimes, people might not be aware of the full situation, and we might end up jumping to conclusions. Often, it might be better to communicate what you need. You might be surprised by the response!

Like a Mustard Tree

Communication is always key. Like how Mustard Tree, an arts & crafts store in Ng Teng Fong Hospital that employs adults with special needs wrote on its Facebook last week.

In the post, they explained about how some customers, unaware that the shop staff have special needs, often complain that they are being rude. Education is key to empathy.

One phrase that stood out for me was this: “Can society be more understanding, be slow to anger or be slow to judge? Instead, are we able to be quicker in exercising more patience and understanding?”

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We met Mustard Tree founder Soek Ying and her son Ryan last year, when we featured them as part of our video series Portraits of the Pandemic, where we spoke with various groups of people to find out how they weathered the Covid storm.

She told us that it was her dream to give differently abled individuals in society a chance to prove their worth to others and to themselves. Mustard Tree is a safe place where they can learn and grow, she told us.

People like Seok Ying and businesses run by kind-hearted people like her should be supported and encouraged at every opportunity.

Taking a walk to EmPawer others!

And in doggy news, on Monday (Apr 3) K9Assistance had its K9 Empawer Walk 2023, a 5km evening walk along The Promontory @ Marina Bay. More than 100 people of all ages attended the walk, with 10 furry friends and two birds!

Said founder Cassandra Chiu: “K9Assistance started with a small dream, a small desire to widen the knowledge and use of assistance dogs for people with different types of disabilities, the k9 EmPawer walk brought so many like-minded people together. It was amazing to see the community come together to support greater inclusion for persons with disabilities and their assistance dogs!”

And for this week’s video link, check out K9Assistance’s latest video on why assistance dogs can help all kinds of people with special needs like Shalom Lim, and not just those with visual impairment!

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Top Image: Melissa Quek, The Pride, TikTok, K9Assistance