Woman dies after falling from bike

She was not wearing helmet when she was flung going down a winding slope
Sujin Thomas, Straits Times 10 Sep 08;

THE death of a woman who was flung off her bicycle on Pulau Ubin has highlighted Singaporeans' tendency to skip wearing safety helmets while cycling.

The owner of Yen Fa Bicycle Rental on the island, who gave his name as Mr Sit, said when Mr Tiew Sin Keng, 44, turned up with his family of six on Sunday to rent four bicycles, including two tandem bikes, 'they didn't ask to rent helmets and I didn't offer them either'.

Each helmet costs $2 to rent for an entire day. Despite this low cost, only two in every 100 of his customers ask to rent them along with the bicycles.

Mr Sit, who has 50 bicycles and 10 helmets for rent, said: 'They don't like to wear helmets because they say that they are uncomfortable.'

Mr Tiew confirmed that the shop did not ask whether his family wanted to rent helmets.

His wife, Madam Lee Yan Inn, 41, was on one of the tandem bicycles with their daughter aged 15. They were then going down a winding slope along Jalan Wat Siam, which has an unmarked hump at its foot.

The family's lead rider, Madam Lee's mother, made it down the slope and over the hump safely at low speed.

But Madam Lee and her daughter, who were next, shot down the incline.

Mr Tiew said the hump might have stopped the bike suddenly and flung them off, or that his wife might have braked too hard, throwing her and their daughter off.

Madam Lee died at Changi General Hospital 11 hours later. Their daughter escaped with bruises.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck, himself an avid cyclist and triathlete, said cyclists should wear helmets for safety - even when riding short distances.

He said a helmet saved him from serious injury two years ago when he was riding in a tight convoy with five others along Upper Thomson Road. His front wheel clipped the rear wheel of another bicycle and he fell, but 'I was fine because I was wearing a helmet'.

He said a friend who fell the same way was also unscathed but his helmet took the impact and cracked.

Depending on the brand, helmets cost upwards of $100 each.

That stretch of road where Madam Lee died is a known accident spot. Other bicycle rental businesses on the island said four accidents happen there every month.

A Land Transport Authority spokesman said that, aside from the usual warning signs like 'Slow' or 'Bend Ahead', additional signs saying 'Caution Steep Slope' have been put up along Jalan Wat Siam.

The president of the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association Victor Yew said that when going down slopes, cyclists should brake gently on their rear wheels.

'If you slam on the front-wheel brakes only, the momentum will cause the bike to flip over,' he said.

For Mr Tiew, tips like these are moot.

He said he would insist that his three children wear protective gear when cycling, but with the memory of how his wife has died, he added: 'I don't think I will cycle ever again.'

Tragedy on Ubin
Grieving dad, daughter say they'll never cycle again
Chong Shin Yen, The New Paper 10 Sep 08;

A FAMILY outing to Pulau Ubin on Sunday will be Mr Tiew Sin Keng's last.

The 44-year-old technician has also sworn never to ride a bicycle again. He said it will bring back memories that are too painful.

Mr Tiew's wife, Madam Lee Yan Inn, 41, died after she was flung off her bicycle at Pulau Ubin.

The housewife was on a tandem bicycle with her teenage daughter when she lost control of the bike while going down a steep slope.

Mr Tiew could only watch, helpless and horrified, as the tragedy unfolded before him on Sunday afternoon.

Madam Lee hit her head and lost consciousness. She was rushed to hospital, but died 11 hours later.

Mr Tiew, 44, who was riding behind them at the time, said the accident had happened in a flash.

He said: 'I heard my wife screaming. Before I could do anything, I saw my wife and daughter flying off the bicycle and landing in the middle of the road.'

Mr Tiew quickly got off his bicycle and went to help his 15-year-old daughter, who was crying in pain.

By the time he went over to his wife, she was unconscious.

'Her eyes were closed but her hands were trembling. I kept calling out to her but she didn't respond,' said Mr Tiew.

'When I tried to carry her, I saw that she was bleeding profusely from the back of her head.

'She was also bleeding from her nose and her breathing was weak.'

He called the police for help.

Madam Lee was ferried back to the mainland and taken to Changi General Hospital in an ambulance that was waiting at Changi Jetty.

He added: 'None of us knew how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on her. By the time she was in the ambulance, she had stopped breathing,' said Mr Tiew.

Paramedics managed to revive Madam Lee, but she died in hospital just after midnight yesterday.

The cause of death were a fractured skull and brain contusion.

Their daughter suffered bruises on her right arm and received outpatient treatment.

Mr Tiew said the family - including his three children and mother-in-law - had taken a bumboat to Pulau Ubin at about 11am on Sunday for a cycling trip.

It was the second time the family had gone cycling in Pulau Ubin.

Mr Tiew said his mother-in-law, who is in her 60s, was cycling at the front of the group.

His wife and daughter were next.

Mr Tiew was behind them on another tandem bicycle with his 9-year-old son.

His 12-year-old son was riding behind them.

They had cycled for more than an hour and were on their way back to the bicycle rental kiosk when the accident happened.

Steep slope

Mr Tiew said they were navigating a steep slope along Jalan Wat Siam when Madam Lee lost control.

Speaking to The New Paper at his wife's wake at Jurong West yesterday, Mr Tiew said: 'She was going downhill very fast and, from her scream, she sounded very scared.

'Maybe there was a hump at the bottom of the slope or maybe she applied the brakes too suddenly, causing both of them to be flung off.'

Mr Tiew blames himself for the accident.

It had been his idea for the family to go cycling, because his mother-in-law was visiting from Malacca.

'My wife had wanted to go to Plaza Singapura to shop and buy some DVDs for her mother,' he said.

'But I thought it would be fun if the family went cycling instead. I told my wife we could go to Plaza Singapura after that.'

In tears, he added: 'If only I had listened to her. I really regret suggesting that we go cycling.'

The couple had been married for 16years. Madam Lee, a Singapore permanent resident, was originally from Malacca.

Mr Tiew said their daughter was distraught over Madam Lee's death.

At the wake, the Secondary 3 student sobbed quietly as she knelt next to her mother's coffin, burning paper offerings.

Mr Tiew said the teenager, who had been very close to her mother, has been crying a lot and keeping to herself since the accident.

'She told me that she's still afraid (at seeing how Madam Lee died) and will never ride a bicycle again,' said Mr Tiew.

'She is still traumatised by the accident and it will be hard for her to forget.

'And like my daughter, I don't think I will ever visit the island again. I won't ride a bicycle again either.'

Mr Tiew recalled having read newspaper reports about accidents at the same steep slope. (See report above.)

He said: 'The slope was right after a sharp bend and there wasn't enough time for cyclists who are unfamiliar with the road to react.

'I hope the authorities will put up more warning signs to alert cyclists to prevent further accidents.

'It would also help if there were better medical facilities on the island for such emergencies.'

Related links

Fatal cycling accidents on Ubin spots to be cautious of, on the pulau ubin stories blog.

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