Residents call it 'cemetery road'

Two cyclists have died on this Pulau Ubin slope
Desmond Ng, The New Paper 11 Sep 08;

IT'S called Jalan Wat Siam, but its nickname has a more sinister ring - 'cemetery road'.

And true to its nickname, this road at Pulau Ubin has already claimed two lives.

On Sunday, Madam Lee Yan Inn, 41, died after she was flung off a tandem bicycle together with her daughter.

The housewife had lost control of the bike while they were going down a steep slope.

She hit her head, lost consciousness and died 11 hours later in hospital.

Another fatality occurred two years ago when student Zawiyah Mohd Muliana, 18, fell and hit her head while cycling on the same slope.

She slipped into a coma and died later in hospital.

The slope looks deceptively easy to navigate but it's a 200m- long, curvy slope with a sharp incline of about 30 to 40 degrees.

To novice cyclists, it can be quite a challenge, said seasoned cyclist November Tan, who helps organise guided cycling tours of the island.

And there's an average of one accident along the stretch every month, though most are minor, islanders told The New Paper.

There are four street signs along the stretch of the slope warning cyclists and motorists to go slow.

But old-timers on the island have dubbed it 'cemetery road' because there's an old Chinese cemetery on top of the slope.

Longtime resident Ong Kim Cheng, 50, said he avoids cycling along that stretch because of stories about an old female ghost lurking there.

He said in Mandarin: 'I don't like to ride around this area because of the stories about this place being haunted. People say that they've seen a female ghost here while picking durians, so I am not surprised about the accidents.

'But the slope is really quite steep and can be quite dangerous if you're not careful.

'I've seen cyclists with scratches and bruises walking back to return their damaged bikes after falling along this slope.'

Superstition aside, the islanders agree that this is one of Ubin's most dangerous roads to cycle on.

It's called Jalan Wat Siam because there was previously a Thai temple there. It was relocated to Jalan Kayu last year.

When The New Paper visited Jalan Wat Siam yesterday, four cyclists, all foreigners, were riding on the slope.

All had no problems cycling there.

Japanese expatriate Momo Matsutani, 28, was shocked to hear about the death.

She said: 'It's not difficult to cycle here. We just came down slowly and we didn't speed.'

At the bottom of the slope, there's also an NParks signboard with a map of the area and a warning: 'Always wear a helmet when riding in this area'.

Warning ignored

But it seems very few visitors pay heed to the warning.

All four bike rental shops we visited at the main village offer helmets for rent at $2 to $3 each, but they have found few takers.

Yen Fa Bike Rental's Mr K H Sit, 55, said in Mandarin: 'Some people think it's too expensive to rent the helmets. To many people, it's just not a habit here to wear helmets and cycle.'

Mr Sit had rented the bikes to Madam Lee and her family on Sunday.

He said that if she had worn a helmet, the accident may not have been fatal.

Owners of bike rental shops there said that only one out of every 10 people rent helmets.

It costs about $3 to $15 to rent a bicycle for the whole day.

When The New Paper was on the island yesterday, no cyclist was seen wearing a helmet.

Cyclist Nick Ward, 25, said: 'I don't think there's a need to (wear helmets). It's not that dangerous.'

Some islanders felt that the road should be closed.

Said Mr Sit: 'There's nothing to see there, so there's really no point for anyone to cycle up there.

'If people tell me that they plan to cycle there, I'll just tell them to go elsewhere. The authorities should either close the road or make it safer for cyclists.'