SINGAPORE: Search for "Tuas Lamp Post 1" on the Internet and you will find images of cyclists posing in front of a lamp post adorned with stickers.
Located about 13km from the Tuas Checkpoint, this street light has in recent years become a popular spot for cyclists, who leave stickers as an indication that they have visited among the westernmost points of Singapore.
However, photos circulating on social media on Christmas last year showed workers removing dozens of stickers that had been plastered on the lamp post.
But in a Facebook post on Thursday (Jan 7), Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that changes will be made. Calling it a “special lamp post", Mr Ong noted that many people were sad to see the stickers go.
"Urban folklore has it that cyclists on round-island trips will make a pit stop there, where they will take photos with the lamp post, and leave their favourite stickers behind," said Mr Ong.
“I have discussed with Land Transport Authority, who in turned discussed with JTC. We decided to make an exception for this lamp post, given that it's a far out location and a special spot to help cyclists find their way,” he said.
"These are little exceptions to the rule, which do not cause disamenities or pose safety hazards to the public, to brighten up life in Singapore,” he added, noting he hoped to visit the lamp post himself one day.
Cycling advocate Francis Chu, 60, welcomed the minister’s announcement as an endorsement of one of the ways the cycling community here expressed itself.
“It is a nice gesture from the authorities that they are willing to listen and be flexible when the situation allows. The stickers collected on that remote lamp post can be seen as a piece of 'community art', co-created by the cyclists and evolving as time goes,” said the co-founder of enthusiast group LoveCyclingSG.
It was his friend, the other founder of LoveCyclingSG, who quite possibly put the first sticker on Tuas Lamp Post 1.
In June 2014, Mr Woon Taiwoon and about 60 other people cycled from West Coast Park to the end of Tuas. The route began as an attempt to explore less-frequented regions of the island on the bike, he said, describing the decision as their own “light-hearted” effort to recreate “Journey to the West”, in reference to the 16th century Chinese novel.
As a memento of the 50km ride, Mr Woon, now 47, pasted a single sticker on the lamp post that day.
“After that, people started to visit that area more often,” he said, noting it attracted not just cyclists but also motorcyclists and triathletes, among others.
One of those who has made the trek to Tuas Lamp Post 1 is sales manager Eugene Beh, who in November last year cycled more than 156km from Punggol to Tuas with three other members of the Punggol Coast Community Sports Club.
The 46-year-old said the group plans to cycle the route again next month, after Chinese New Year.
The lamp post earned its reputation because cycling there is a feat in itself, he said, noting there is little shelter from the sun along the long road leading to it.
“Trust me, it is tough but it’s not impossible. You have to cycle in a small group (or with a) buddy for safety reasons and motivation,” he said.
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The pasting of stickers at Tuas Lamp Post 1 is an example of the local culture developing organically, Mr Woon said, comparing the lamp post to bridges such as the Ponte Milvio in Rome, where for years people would attach locks as a symbol of love.
The stickers and photo-taking at the landmark represent an “Instagrammable moment” for cyclists who want to celebrate their achievement, said Mr Woon.
In other countries such as South Korea, agencies issue "cycling passports", which cyclists travelling along certain routes can get stamps for as a souvenir of their trek, he said.
Though he has encountered some netizens claiming that allowing the pasting of stickers on the lamp post is an endorsement of vandalism, most appeared to welcome the move, said Mr Woon.
“I'm very grateful that the minister is sensitive to this, because I think it's also showing the maturity of our culture,” he said.