When is a footpath a footpath?

There is this car park in Pasir Ris that is heavily utilized by the people fishing at the fishing pond; the residents of the surrounding HDB flats and visitors to the White Sands Shopping Mall. It is especially busy during peak hours in the evening and even more so on Friday and Sunday evenings where parents pick up/dropped off their sons to/from Tekong.

The carpark serves as shortcut to pedestrians from the MRT station to Pasir Ris Drive 1 and beyond. And inevitably everyone walk on the carpark itself notwithstanding that there is a footpath between the row of parked cars and the pond. 
Oh wait, did I just said footpath?Apparently it seems that not all footpath are “footpath”. When I sent the feedback via OneService App, it was to ask that something be done to prevent the rear of the parked vehicles intruding into the footpath and thus forcing pedestrians to walk on the car park among the moving cars. Like what this photo shows.

Simple query and to me a simple conclusion. Just install railings along the footpath or car stopper on the lot. Problem solved. But not so it seems.

A friendly guy from HDB called me and informed that that is not a footpath but a drain cover. And because it is not a footpath, they cannot do anything. Stunned by the answer – I asked him what is the definition of a footpath. Apparently, a footpath is a footpath only if it leads to a HDB block or some building and since this one leads to the park and the road it does not count as a footpath.

So now we know. A path that is clearly a path is not necessarily a footpath. Maybe just like a train breakdown is not a breakdown but a signaling fault and a flooding is not a flood but a ponding!

Sungei Tampines

Sungei Tampines used to be a bare concrete canal or storm rain as the authorities called it. This was how it looked like in 2012.

Then the Public Utilities Board’s ABC program came and Sungei Tampines was transformed into a beautiful little “river”.

But then recently I noticed something strange. The creepers on the fair bank (photo left) has been removed leaving the bare concrete bank again. I was shocked!

I promptly send off a query via the One Singapore app and a few days later, someone from the PUB contacted me to explain the reason. And my suspicion was correct. The cause was this.

Stink Bug! There seems to be a major infestation of them. I first spotted them sometime late last year and recently in February noticed that they were all over the railings. In fact, I actually reported this via the One Singapore App as well. 

The eggs are everywhere. On the plants and on the railings.

So I supposed its inevitably that the authorities took the easy way out and remove the source of the infestation which they claimed is the creepers. And they have informed that they are planting new slower growing creepers as a replacement although I yet to see them.  Oh well, I suppose I just have to wait……….

Virtual Racing

Time has really changed with the onset of what economists called disruptive economy. Taxi companies, hotels, travel agencies, bicycle rental are all being affected by this new way of doing business. But I never thought that running in a race, which is a very personal and physical thing can be affected as well.

Typically, when one sign up for a race, he pays a registration fee which entitles him to run in the race, a goodie bag with some freebies, an event tee and after the race, a medal, a certificate and perhaps a finisher tee. During the race, there will be some sort of support, drinks station, road marshal and medical aid. There may also be a carnival area for the runners to enjoy after the race. Above all, one gets to run together with friends and compete with peers on a public course that is partially closed to traffic. And that is what a typical road race is like. 

But now it seems the disruptive economy has reached into the ambit of road racing. Now a person can register, pay a small sum of money and run a virtual race ie he runs alone according to the race or challenge as determined by the app. There is no fixed route, no support and no finisher tee. Some will have a medal and nothing else. And you run alone.

This is the part I don’t understand. Why pay good money to other people and then run alone without getting any support or for that matter any real challenge with other runners. It just doesn’t make economic sense to me. Couldn’t it be cheaper to just do one’s own run. Why need to pay other people for that right? Some may argue that in some cases, the participant can get a medal but we all know what we do with the countless medals that we already have from real races. Mostly they just get chucked into a cupboard to be forgotten. Some may argue that these app create special race challenges like a virtual parallel race with the KL Marathon for instance, or a distance challenge. But companies like Nike and Garmin and many other apps already has peer challenge programs which requires no payment. So why pay to run your own race?

Can somebody tell me what is the attraction of doing virtual race?


Nature Lover or just greedy photographer?

Many times when I go on my nature jaunts and take bird photos, I have been irked many times by the irresponsible behaviour of some of the photographers. One time in Sungei Buloh, there was this guy who was playing a taped bird call that was so loud that I can hear it from 50 metres away! Another thing that irked me is when photographers go beyond the trail and venture into the forest. Not only are they causing unnecessary stress to the birds but they are also unfairly denying other photographers of a clear shot. So I was particularly happy to read this report that a photographer was fined $3800 for baiting and trespassing. Co-incidentally I think it is the same guy in my earlier blog post.

Are these people nature/bird lover or just photographer? I like to believe that if they are geniune nature lover, they will naturally know how to behave and act responsibly. In this particular case, I think these people are just photographer interested in getting that trophy photo at all cost. So to do that, they have no qualms and will bait the birds, do stuff like tie the legs of the bird to prevent it from flying and cruel thing like putting styrofoam in fish to bait birds. All for the sake of getting a photo which they can post on some Facebook page. And let face it, after all the effort, the photo is still going to be nothing and pales in comparison to those taken by professional. These photographers are a disgrace to the birding community and brings a bad name to the genuine caring nature lover and photographer. 

I hope that people in the community will speak up whenever they see fellow photographers behaving irresponsibly and unethically. And the admin of the various group like Birds, Insects N Creatures of Asia; Singapore Bird Group; Birds Sighting; Wildlife of Pasir Ris and Vicinity to name  a few, will banned these people and not allow them to post their photos on their page. Collectively, perhaps then such unethical behaviours can be monitored and stamped out.

Scammed and Conned Willingly

Take a look at this photo. There are 3 different items in it. A few pieces of stickers, a pen and a baggage tag.

These 3 different items actually have a lot in common.

  1. They are all pirated ripoff of copyright items
  2. Each particular item cost $10.00 each. Grossly overpriced for imitation items
  3. They are all sold by  people who purported to be “students”
  4. They are sold for a “good cause”
  5. A “sucker” bought them even though he knew they are overpriced and may be a scam.

That sucker is me and yes I bought them with my eyes open even though I knew that they are overpriced, not original products and the proceeds may not really be for a good cause. So what drove me a usually practical hard headed man to buy them?

As stated, they were all sold by people who claimed to be student. The pen and the Batman baggage tag were bought from pedlars who went door to door. The stickers were from a young men standing in the middle of Cecil Street. And I bought them because I admire them. It takes a lot of guts and determination to go door to door to sell some stuff that nobody actually needs. It takes a lot of mental power to have door slammed in your face and yet to continue on knocking at the next door. And it takes a lot of will power to stand in the middle of a busy street and try to persuade people to buy the cheap imitation stickers.

I half buy into their story of raising funds for their studies and I like to believe that it is true and it is not a rip off especially that nice boy selling the stickers. This is not the first time I bought the stickers from him. In fact I make it a habit to buy something from him every time I see him never mind that I don’t need the stickers. I just gave them all away to my colleagues for their children. On the most recent purchase, I managed to find out that he is a first year student at Ngee Ann Poly and selling the stickers to raise funds for his studies. The baggage tag and pen were also from 2 youths who claimed to be selling them to raise funds for their studies.

I know I shouldn’t be encouraging people to sell imitation and rip off over priced items but somehow I hope these young people do raise some money for their studies and nothing goes to those syndicate.  And I also like to think that I earn some good karma for helping these young people a wee little bit.


Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2016

This is going to be a super long post.

Once again it is the time for the biggest running event in Singapore, the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, the only Gold Label running race in South East Asia.

This year’s edition has thrown up some new surprises and controversy way before the flag off.

First up was the shocked announcement of the financial situation surrounding the previous 2 edition’s organiser, Spectrum Worldwide. Following that, a new company, Ironman Asia took over. The change of organiser and race director raised some initial hopes that finally the Singapore’s edition will live up to its Gold Label status. After all, Ironman the company is the organiser of the World’s Ironman series

And indeed things seem to look good when the event was launched this year in June. No huge jump in race fee and big promises to give participants a good experience. “it’s all about making sure that the athlete experience is the best it possibly can be,” said Ironman Asia managing director Geoff Meyer, –.TNP 8 July 2016. But that was the only well received news as after that everything that came out from the organiser were bad news and PR disaster!

During the launch, the organiser came up with a “Digital Race” where people were invited to post their experiences on social media and get as many Likes as possible to win race slots and other prizes. The idea seems great until friends’ Facebook got spammed by friends trying to win that free slot. And after frustrated Facebook users complained about the spamming – guess what was the suggestions from the organiser? – to temporary unfollow their friends who are participating in the digital race! screenhunter_154-nov-26-22-43Wow! What kind of a response was that? This particular gimmick certainly didn’t win them any friends and will certainly count as one of the biggest failure of a digital marketing campaign!

Then the surprise announcement that the Full Marathon(FM) and Half Marathon(HM) will start together from Orchard Road instead of 2 different locations as per the last 2 years – from Orchard Road (FM) and Sentosa (HM) much to the disappointment of many recreational runners who were hoping to start from Sentosa and take some photos with the mascots from Universal Studios and Resort World Sentosa. However, this move is understandable as logically it is easier and financially cheaper to have 1 start venue than 2. Interestingly, the event website still state  “2016 will mark the 15th anniversary the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore and we are set to once again feature three different routes for the Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km”

Except for the longer route at East Coast Park for the FM, the route is almost identical for both the FM & HM and much of the 10km overlaps the route for the FM & HM. Immediately runners were concerned with congestion at the start but the organiser were quick to allay these fears with reassuring statement that the runners will be separated until….

It emerged that both FM & HM will start together from 4.30 am onward, abide with different pens and wave start for runners with different race timing. With an expected 50000 runners and assuming divided equally between the 3 categories, we are looking at 30000 runners converging on Orchard Road and running together. How the organiser is going to separate the runners remains to be seen. Knowing the ugliness of our local runners, I am sure many of them will try to jam up the front areas not meant for them. This year Sundown had a similar pen system and wave start. And the FM & HM starts at separate time. Yet many runners were caught in a human jam trying to enter their respective pen and were delayed by more than 30 minutes. Will the same thing happen at the SCMS? 

And the congestion fear is all too real. The FM & HM will run together for the first 12 km until separation at East Coast Park. Will there be full road closures to allow the runners to run through smoothly throughout? From past experiences, inevitably the full road closure at the start narrows down to 2 and even 1 single lane further down the route especially at road junctions. Based on the Traffic Advisory issued, there will only be full road closures at Nicoll Highway and some of the roads around the Marina Bay areas. There are only partial road closures in the CBD and Fort Road areas. Will this mean a nightmare for runners trying to get a PB or hoping to use this race as a qualifier?

According to the SCMS website, the FM & HM routes will merge again at Fort Road on the return leg. The organiser has promised lane segregation. I don’t know whether they will do it all the way from Fort Road, which I hope they will really do so, otherwise this will result in a frustrating experience for the sub 4 & 5 hours runners in the FM who will have to weave through the strollers and walkers from the HM for the last 9 km.

It seems to me that this year, the combined start will only benefit the elite and fast runners, those FM sub 3 and HM sub 2 who will reach the finish line well ahead of the main group of runners. Pity the FM sub 4. They will be caught in the mass of of the sub 3 and sub 4 HM and the sub 2 10 km participant.

The latest bomb shell was given barely 3 weeks before the flag off. No MRT services! Unlike the past few years, this year due to “track maintenance” reason, there will be no early MRT service to bring the runners down to Orchard Road. Instead, private chartered bus will be available at $5 per person from 30 separate locations. SMRT claimed that it has informed the organiser way back in May yet SCMS only announced it this month. Why the delay in the announcement? Was it due to fear that the sign up rate will be lower if this was made known earlier? Whatever it is, the non availability of the train service means that runners will have no sleep at all with the first pickup starting at 2 am. And with so many bus converging on the same location within the same period, will there be a big jam and chaos at the drop off point?

So far it seems that there isn’t any evidence of a good experience yet and in fact all evidence are pointing to a chaotic start venue and real bad congestion both at the start and at the end.

Am I done? Not yet. Back in the bad old days of 2014, I broke the news of diverted runners. Since then there has been some changes made. Runners who are diverted will be disqualified and will not get a timing and medal although I understand they still get their finisher tee. But that ok and still an improvement over the days when diverted runners who run shorter distances or are assisted to run shorter distance can still get a timing and their medal and finisher tee. So why am I harping on this again?

The thing is, I still fail to understand why despite this being a Gold Label race, the organiser is still not able to set checkpoints cut off timing or state where the designated cut off points along the routes. This is the very vague statement from their website:

Note: There might be staggered cut-off times at selected sections of the race route. Details of diversion points will be released closer to race day. For participants’ safety and to avoid being caught in between live traffic, diverted participants must obey as instructed, or they will be pulled off the race course immediately.”

What is “staggered cut-off times”? And where is “selected sections” of the route? And “might be” meaning there may not be any at all? Having pre-determined checkpoints and announced cut-off times will help the runners to plan their race strategy. All major international races have them and even the KL Marathon have them and that is not even Gold Label. So what is the problem with Singapore?

I hope my misgiving are unfounded and after many many years of grumbling and complaints, with a new organiser on board, this year our runners will finally get a race that they can be proud of and truly have a great experience. And I really hope I don’t have to come back here to write a “I told you so” report.

Meanwhile, to all the runners doing this. Happy Running! Chin up and smile when you see our camera.