Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes at www.rangosteen.com. The views expressed are his own.
Meet Sandy Snakenberg, the 53-year-old sports trainer who uses the bicycle as a form of transport. Two weeks ago, Sandy got a visit by the traffic police because someone had lodged a police report alleging him to be the reckless cyclist featured on citizen journalism site Stomp.
“Yes, yes, I know we all look the same,” moans Sandy. “But look at him, he’s got a different smile, he’s lighter in skin and he’s got a different bike”. It was clearly a different person. Sandy adds he always rides with a helmet camera.
Yet he remained on police records a “suspect” until only a couple of days ago. He won’t get an apology from the person who ratted on him, because whistle-blower details are confidential.
“So what do you think of the cyclist in the video?” I asked.
“He’s a dick” was the sharp reply.
“But let’s be fair, the video had no sound. We really don’t know what took place,” he said.
It looked like there certainly was an exchange between cyclist and driver in the video, but no one knew what it was. The driver could have been horning heavily. If that really was the case, then perhaps anyone would have behaved the way the man did in a fit of anger.
On the other hand, if the cyclist was really being an idiot — then may he be punished as the law deems fit.
Cycling mishaps and arguments make for sensational news. There is a I-paid-and-you-didn’t tension between cyclists and motorised transport users. The high prices of transport further exacerbates the “more expensive than thou” attitude.
“Price has everything to do with the unfortunate cycling landscape here. When you pay such high prices, it is hard not to have a sense of entitlement on the roads,” says Sandy.
We’re not just talking about COE or taxes, as the cost of repairs and the penalty of claiming insurance is also very high.
Repair costs in Singapore are double the prices from across the causeway. To mend a small bump, a simple panel beating can incur a bill of as much as S$200, whereas in Malaysia it could be done for half the price.
“What people don’t understand, is that your taxes and COE isn’t enough to fund all the traffic infrastructure in Singapore. I’m also a tax payer — I pay corporate tax, income tax and pay GST when I buy things. I don’t enjoy government rebates. All these too get paid into a common pool that could end up funding roads,” he explains.
I brought up the story of another internet sensation: the Caucasian cyclist involved in a road dispute near VivoCity.
“He’s another dick,” Sandy declared.
“But again, this was also another silent video. You couldn’t tell what the exchange was. I’m not condoning his behaviour of course,” he noted.
Such videos may be sensational news, but the fact that they involved foreigners amplifies the sensational angle greatly.
Of late, there have been another two more cases of expat behaviour gone wrong. I’m referring to Anton Casey and Aaron Jeremiejczyk (the man who allegedly punched local performer Dawn Ho).
“I’ve been in Singapore for 14 years and of late, I do feel a lot more animosity,” Sandy says.
“Even when I’m outside of my office blowing bubbles! Some aunties look at me with a look that says, ‘Oh he shouldn’t be doing that.'"
I laughed and said in jest, “But you’re ang moh! You’re unfortunate enough to enjoy the stereotype of the rich white man who’s here to steal our women, make our money and enjoy yourself while the rest of slog for a living!”
“Well that’s the typical assumption! But I hope that all people would talk more! It is not like that,” he said. “We’re here, we also work hard at our businesses or our jobs. Some expats come here because there’s opportunity. Who isn’t living for opportunity?”
“So what do you have to tell fellow expats here in Singapore?" I asked.
“A country is how you make of it. It could be bad, it could be good, it’s all up to you," he says. “You have to respect the local culture, laws and rules — you have to play by it no matter what your opinion is."
Sandy runs a gym in Singapore and had done so for over 10 years. He has a soft spot for special needs children and shares a little tip for road users: go easy on the horn. Heavy horning confuses both cyclists and motorists. Using the horn more than is needed confuses and frustrates everyone. If a road user doesn’t yield, no amount of horning is going to make him/her change. Instead of solving a problem, horns may just result in more road rage.