Though it is unclear exactly how many accidents and fatalities result from jaywalking each year, what we do know is that the elderly make up the bulk of this statistic with about one in two fatal accidents involving elderly pedestrians in 2018 due to jaywalking. Additionally, the fine for jaywalking has now been increased from $20 to $50, but 50 bucks and a small risk of dying is worth saving that 5 minutes for sleep, right?
It’s interesting that we hold in higher regard our interactions with others in society, but our relationship with time, specifically, is one that we give little thought to. Perhaps, ironically, we have no time to think about time, seeing how Singaporeans are the third most sleep-deprived citizens in the world, right after Japan and South Korea. But time is linear, and time is objective. No matter how much we try, turning 24 hours into 25 is impossible. And so, in our world that’s busy and bustling, we’re constantly finding ways to make things easier, faster, more efficient and more convenient.
Jaywalking is just one of the many ways we try to bargain with time—a dangerous proposition nonetheless. Questioning my own relationship with time, I probe into three routes I frequent, and the shortcuts I take with each one.
I used to think that I live pretty near an MRT station—that is, until even more residences started popping up right next to the station. The Kiasu Singaporean in me couldn’t help but compare the distances between each condominium, and soon enough, mine paled in comparison.
Nestled slightly off Tanah Merah MRT, the place I call home is a mere 5 minutes walk to the station. So close, you might say, but not when there are residents whose back door opens directly to the station exit. Soon, walking to the station became a chore, and I found myself craving shortcuts where I could find them.
Take this, for example. Right outside the main entrance to my condominium, is a pedestrian crossing. Upon exit, I have to make a right turn, walk 300m, wait for the traffic light, cross the road, and then continue on my journey to the MRT station.
All in, I’ve wasted 6 whole unnecessary minutes by taking the right, legal route, and spending precious few minutes waiting on a traffic light is not how I envision starting my morning everyday.
So, I take the shorter way, the more efficient way, the impatient way.
Instead of forming a huge ‘U’ shape with my steps, I jaywalk diagonally across the street outside my estate, skipping about 4 entire steps from before. None of that waiting, none of that perspiring under the hot sun.
Lo and behold, comparing the two methods of crossing, I only saved a paltry 2 minutes—but why do I feel so much more ahead of time with the latter?
Time saved: 2 minutes
Located just across SAFRA Toa Payoh, our office can be tricky to get to—a little far to walk from the MRT station, yet a challenge to cross from the bus stop opposite.
There are fences along the intersection between the two roads for the very purpose of deterring recalcitrant jaywalkers like me, but you know what they say—where there’s a will, there’s always a way (to break the law in the name of convenience, that is).
Granted, it gets irritating having to weave across the barriers just to find an opening to cut through (and believe me I’ve considered jumping the fence many times), but it surely beats having to make that giant ‘U’ shaped detour just to cross at the pedestrian junction. At this point, it almost seems like the authorities make doing the safe thing difficult for us on purpose, doesn’t it?
Time saved: 4 minutes
Every two months, I make the journey to Outram Polyclinic for my regular blood tests and check ups, and I can tell you that the trip up the hill is but a playground for us career jaywalkers.
Upon exiting the MRT Station, the first hurdle is to get across in the shortest amount of time. Obviously, the overhead bridge is for losers, so the rest of us regular folk always find a way to weave around the construction works happening along the road—oftentimes, there’ll already be a path cleared by the first warrior who went before us all. (Once, the road was closed altogether due to heavy construction works in the area and I was forced to take the bridge. Preposterous.).
The pedestrian pathways that flank the road leading up the hill are a gamble on their own. Each time I visit, different portions of the road are closed. This time, the mouth of the entrance was barriered up, meaning I had to walk around in a sharp sideways ‘U’ shaped manner before I could even begin my climb.
As if the incline wasn’t bad enough, I had to trudge even further up the hill just to hit the zebra crossing, cross over, then make my way back down again to enter the polyclinic.
Clearly, that’s not what I chose, especially when I was already running late for my morning appointment. So, I made the swift decision to, again, cross diagonally, ever so careful to look right, then left, and then right again before I made my heroic dash.
Sounds complicated, I know, but since doing this shaved off at least a good 3 minutes from my walk, and not to mention huffs and puffs from all that climbing, I’d take it any day.
Time saved: 3 minutes
So, after analysing the above three scenarios, the golden question is then—what is it about jaywalking that makes it so much more favourable than abiding the law? One of my observations is that Singaporeans just want one thing and that’s convenience. And while on the one hand, convenience can sometimes get a tad ridiculous, most times it’s what we crave because of how spoilt we are in Singapore, where most things come with the snap of our fingers.
Another thing that’s so alluring about jaywalking, is that it makes us feel like we’re constantly on the go, and that in turn makes us feel like we’re making productive use of our time. Most of us know for a fact that oftentimes jaywalking just shaves off a mere couple of minutes, if not seconds. Yet, we’re still drawn to indulge in it because we have a high need for engagement, and our biological rhythms struggle to slow down, let alone stop.
A third reason is that we actually have poor judgement of time, and we tend to overestimate the time we actually save. When it was up to me to approximate, it felt like I was shaving off a good 5-6 minutes by jaywalking outside my house, when in reality, I’d only saved 2 minutes upon timing my route. We’re brought up to weigh situations based on their opportunity costs—“the five minutes I wasted this morning could have been spent snoozing in bed”, or “if I hadn’t missed that train, then I could’ve made my morning coffee before starting work”.
But we can’t put a price tag on time. And there are countless anecdotes going around the internet to show us why we’re exactly where we need to be at the right time—recounts of individuals who escaped the 911 bombings because they were late for work, or people who are still alive today because they had missed their flights. Instead of questioning why we’re being robbed of time, I think we should begin to give thanks for the borrowed time we’re all living on.
At the end of the day, how much more can we actually achieve in the minutes saved by jaywalking, really? 6 gulps of green tea? 7 Tinder swipes? Either way, nothing beats staying safe whenever and wherever we can, for it is much easier to make up for lost time than to undo what precious we have had to sacrifice in the time that we’ve saved.