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NParks eyes first-aid facility on Pulau Ubin

SINGAPORE — The National Parks Board (NParks) is exploring the possibility of setting up a first-aid facility on Pulau Ubin, as interest in cycling on the island grows.

NParks eyes first-aid facility on Pulau Ubin

A cyclist in Pulau Ubin ignoring a sign advising cyclists to dismount and push their bicycles. Photo: Kenneth Cheng

SINGAPORE — The National Parks Board (NParks) is exploring the possibility of setting up a first-aid facility on Pulau Ubin, as interest in cycling on the island grows.

While statistics on the total number of cycling accidents on the island are unavailable — given that not all injuries are reported — islanders and bicycle kiosk operators say they come across an average of about 20 such cases a month. These occur despite measures that have been put in place by the authorities, including the installation of about 30 warning signs at dangerous spots.

Tourists, who may be at greater risk of getting into cycling accidents on the island because they are not familiar with the terrain, are also forming a bigger proportion of the 2,000 or so visitors to the island every weekend.

When contacted by TODAY, NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah said: “We are exploring a suggestion from residents and visitors to set up a first-aid facility on the island.”

While he did not provide details, TODAY understands that factors such as the suitability and accessibility of the site would be among the considerations when deciding whether to build a facility of this kind.

Currently, police officers and NParks staff stationed on the island are certified to administer first-aid. In response to TODAY’s queries, the police said their officers stationed there are equipped with a first-aid kit comprising basic items such as adhesive bandages and disinfectant solutions.

“Owing to the lack of a well-equipped medical facility on Pulau Ubin, the Pulau Ubin Police Post officers are also equipped with a stretcher to aid in the evacuation of a casualty,” the spokesperson said.

Depending on the extent of the injuries, a casualty may be transported to the mainland on a Police Coast Guard patrol vessel or met by ambulance crew on the island, the spokesperson added.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it responded to two cycling-related incidents on Pulau Ubin last year, and to five in 2013. All the casualties were alert and conscious when taken to hospital.

But bicycle shop operators and cyclists said a first-aid facility would ensure injured cyclists get help more promptly. Currently, they either ask passers-by to call the SCDF or police emergency hotlines, or go to NParks’ Ubin-HSBC Volunteer Hub and Chek Jawa Visitor Centre to seek help.

Mr Ewyn Lek, 29, a staff member at Comfort Bicycle Rentals, said: “It doesn’t have to operate daily, but maybe during peak periods such as public holidays or on weekends.”

The facility could be modelled after a mobile first-aid station, similar to those at mass cycling events, said avid cyclist and business owner Alvin Low, 42.

Dr Steven Lim, chief of Changi General Hospital’s (CGH) accident and emergency department, said cycling injuries on Pulau Ubin can “range from moderate to severe with either head, facial, wrist, ankle or neck fractures from trauma”.

Apart from the first-aid facility, visitors such as Mr Michael, 50, the managing director of a multinational company, said helmets, which are rented out mostly for S$2 from the bicycle kiosks, should be made compulsory for Ubin cyclists. Only about one in 10 customers request one, said an employee of Yen Fa Bicycle Rental on the island.

When TODAY visited Ubin on Jan 11, several cyclists were seen descending a slope near Belatok Hut at high speed, ignoring safety signs telling them to dismount and push their bicycles.

Full-time national serviceman Loke Jun Wei, 19, said that some tourists may have difficulty understanding the signs because of a language barrier.

NParks’ Mr Wong said other measures implemented on the island include notice boards at the jetty informing visitors of safe cycling practices and the colour-coding of trails of varying difficulty levels at the Ketam Mountain Bike Park.

He urged cyclists to exercise responsibility by wearing helmets and protective gear, observing the signs, and adopting safe cycling practices. “Novice and younger cyclists should be accompanied by experienced, adult cyclists,” Mr Wong added.

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