The Story of an Overhead Bridge in Singapore

Hey Nix,

Just had this thought this morning and felt that you will be the best person to discuss and analysis this.

School zones in Perth. Very annoying to the average driver.
Sometimes I wonder why can’t they just built an overhead bridge like Singapore? So that the old folks being the traffic warrant can go home and drink coffee on their couch instead. What do you reckon?



Hi Jayson,

You must be referring to these.

I was slapped with a fine and 2 demerit points exceeding 10km/h in a 40km/h school zone last year. Before that I was unaware how the school zone worked. For the benefit of the noobs who are new to the Australia, I'll explain the school zone to my understanding. School zones are demarcated near the roads typically abutting the perimeters of the school. It can typically range from as short as 100m to as long as 2km. At these school zones, law abiding drivers will reduce their speed significantly through the zone, like how KFC inspect our guard-of-honours during the National Day Parade. That explains why some Singaporeans, if you wondered why, may have the inclination to wind down the window and wave idiotically at pedestrians as we turtled by.

The fine was caused me some grief but I wasn't bitter about it. As a parent, I like the idea that community insist on an inconvenience to ensure the safety of the children. It is a common sight that crossings along school zones are manned with a mature or even elderly man or woman. Singaporeans will probably put it down as a job that no one wants to do, since we are so comfortable in handling these sai kang to our elderly in Singapore.

My feel though, about putting a mature one at a crossing here was a strategic practice, since most (appears to me) respect their elderly here and may be more willing to be instructed by one. If things get ugly, uncle or auntie can probably screw the punk off by going, "When Limpeh/Laoniang was young.... " Come to think of it, I have no idea how much these folks are paid, if any at all. Most of them might be just volunteers - because the retirees can afford to retire. Let me know if you know I am wrong. I love being proven wrong.

Now about overhead bridge. Ah, I know a thing or two about overhead bridges so you found the right person. A little-known trivial nugget for you guys. Singapore has the most over-head bridges than any other countries in the world. Don't bother to check the internet, just use a little common sense. Building over-head bridges in Singapore is no small task these days and a simple proposal would require the approval of at least four statutory boards, namely URA, LTA, PUB and NParks unlike the good ol' days where our ancestors simply slap a good piece of Chengal plank across a ditch and their people used it for a couple of generations without fuss.

Most of us wouldn't spare an overhead bridge standing in the sunny afternoon of Singapore a second look. But behind one, tells a story of the progress of Singapore. In its earlier days, an overhead bridge was a simple structure built with the sole purpose of providing a form of safe, unregulated crossing for pedestrians. I could remember how afraid I was as a child to climb up one of these to cross the road even with my mother's guidance.
one of those

I would peer through the gaps between the slab and railings and shivered with the sight of motor vehicles zipping past in a thunderous harrow. Though simplistic and cheap to build, these structures stood the test of time. One of the last ones I walked on before I left Singapore was one across Upper Bukit Timah Road, near the Ten Mile Junction. It had since been demolished, not because of structural issues but relevance.

The first problem arouse when pedestrians, from young children to the elderly, began to jaywalk and totally avoided using the overhead bridge that was built for them. In order not to appear foolish for building so many white elephants on the roads, the government decided to fence up the central divider to dissuade pedestrians from jaywalking. It worked for the ladies in skirt and the old folks but not agile teenagers and NS men who were well trained to clear a fence easily like clearing "The Window" during SOC. At least it drew some businesses back to the overhead bridges and the officials gave a sigh of relief.

In some point of time, the great leader made a casual remark (so I heard from the lao jiaos in NParks) that overhead bridges looked too stiff. So government officials panicked and began to derive a method to beautify a otherwise rough structure that stood out like a sore thumb to some. Introducing the next generation of overhead bridge, "The Trough." This generation of bridges come with a trough so that gardeners can plant an entire stretch of hardy species on it, such as Bougainvillea. Soon, the gardeners discover that maintaining plants 4.5m in the air wasn't as easy as they thought earlier. The plants, while achieving its beautifying purposes at first, soon wilted under the hotter days at the extreme end of Singapore's afternoons. The brains began to work out a new solution for the new problem and came out with an automatic irrigation system so that plants would always get their water supply at stipulated timings. This solution is costly, because it didn't end with a high installation cost. The water tank for the irrigation system was not A truck carrying a water tank must be hired to fill it up on routine. If you look closely, every overbridge with a trough has a reserved truck space near one of its stairs.
A Berlingo parking illegally at the lay by

It is called a "Water Tanker Lay-By", a feature any developer must provide before the building proposal would be approved by the authorities today. If you look closer, there will be a water inlet not more than a few metres away from the Water Tanker Lay-By, there is where the truck fills the water storage tank.

If these are not enough costs for the taxpayer to bear, citizens soon demanded for a covered overhead bridges, looking towards Yuhua, where the first covered linkways were pioneered, in envy. The government gave way and learnt a hard lesson about doing the right thing, not the popular thing. Soon, that would become the minimum standard for all overhead bridges in Singapore. Before long, trouble arose again. The overleaf of the covered linkways shielded the plants from sunlight, causing them to die of skew awkwardly towards light for survival.  Designs were changed, costing Singaporeans millions while they sleep tight at night.

New generation bridge with aluminum
 cladding and stainless steel railings

The government soon gave way for demands to be more caring towards the handicap, probably rightly so because the older overhead crossing was a bane to someone on a wheelchair, new bridges were built with the handicap in mind. They were either built with long ramps that took away the already precious land we were desperately running out of,  completed with bollards later because somebody complained of a motorcyclist riding his motorbike across the bridge; or installed with lifts, incurring even more maintenance costs and hefty designer costs with stainless steel finishes to complement with the stainless steel railings and fluorocarbon cladding that spans the new generation bridge.

Back in the Great Australian Summer,  the senior holding the stop sign for the occasional car driving past during a lazy Australian afternoon wouldn't possibly know he or she was doing much good than drinking coffee at home. They wouldn't guess why a miserable sod in his dirty old golden Daihatsu Pyzar gave them a nod of acknowledgment each time he turtled past. The stranger might be still lost, searching for his way but he knew where he wanted to go.


  1. Just FYI of any ex-sinkies who may be curious, since Nix did not expressly mention the actual cost of such an overhead bridge, I can tell you this:
    The most simple of concrete overhead bridges in Singapore (and we are not even discussing the ones with the trough and the plants) cost upwards of SG$1,000,000 each, that was in early 2000's.

    That's 1 MILLION BUCKS EACH (inflation must have increased the amount since then), and the ones with the overhead cover and plants, I can't imagine how much. [This figure is confirmed from official sources ]

    So, for a rough comparison, you can say that each overhead bridge is like 1st prize in the Big Sweep. Do even if you don't win the Big Sweep yourself, just walk over any overhead bridge, and you can feel like you are walking on a million bucks.

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  3. School zones are also there even if there is a bridge. It is not kids who cross the roads that are in danger. it is kids who are walking along the road, and maybe playing, and just come into traffic...

    and sometimes kids are just short and can be easily missed

  4. Well done. It reminds me of "animal bridge" specially catered for animals along BKE. Only countries with lots of money to throw could afford such a thing. It costs a cool 18 million to build that bridge. Langgar!