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Review of rules on road cycling splits opinions

Review of rules on road cycling splits opinions

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 14 Apr 2021
Author: Toh Ting Wei

If rules are too harsh or complicated, it would discourage people from cycling.

A proposal to register bicycles and license cyclists to ride on the roads has garnered resistance from the cycling community, who said regulating bikes like cars would not help make roads safer.

But drivers are mostly supportive of some form of licensing for cyclists, saying it would make them more accountable and ensure that they have the required knowledge to ride in traffic.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said on Monday that a panel will review regulations for cyclists on the roads, and study whether theory tests and licences should be required.

The review panel was called after a video shared by actor Tay Ping Hui of a group of road cyclists disregarding traffic rules led to some asking for more regulations on cyclists taking to the roads.

Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG, agreed that more can be done to improve safety, but said the onus does not just lie with cyclists.

He said conflicts between cyclists and motorists occur when either party is reckless or ignorant of the rules, suggesting that both cyclists and drivers be required to take a simple online test on how to safely share road space with each other.

The Land Transport Authority can also work with cyclists to identify and improve areas where road configurations might lead to more conflicts with cars.

On calls for bicycle registration, Mr Chu pointed to the failure of a similar scheme to improve safety for personal mobility devices.

"If the registration scheme didn't help improve safety on footpaths... it will be more difficult for drivers to capture the number plate on the road," he said.

"A compromise could be to register the cyclists... someone who wants to cycle on the road could be required to pass an online test, and their results can be checked by the Traffic Police when needed."

Former MP Teo Ser Luck, 52, who is a regular cyclist, said cyclists would benefit from learning how to ride safely.

He added: "Most cyclists really are careful and compliant riders. They know the risk is greater for them if they ride dangerously."

A spokesman for Roads.sg, a website which seeks to promote safe use of the roads, agreed that most cyclists ride safely, but said the team has been receiving complaints from both cyclists and drivers about unsafe habits on a daily basis.

Calling the review of rules on road cycling overdue, the spokesman said: "We are definitely pro-registration of riders if they want to use the roads, but riders who use park connectors and public paths should not be held to the same requirement.

"Using the roads come with inherent dangers and hence there are rules which all other motorists have to learn, be tested for, licensed and registered before they are allowed to use them."

He also called for third-party liability insurance for cyclists who ride on the roads, as drivers now cannot claim against any damage to their cars in a collision.

In a recent poll by Facebook group SG Road Vigilante, which documents unsafe road habits, almost 90 per cent of some 5,300 respondents said they wanted bicycles to be registered, with a proper licence plate and insurance.

Transport economist Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences agreed that thirdparty liability insurance for cyclists would be important going forward.

He said: "Even if you have licensing and penalties, it doesn't do you a lot of good if a cyclist hits somebody and there is no adequate compensation."

Associate Professor Theseira added that more can be done to enhance safety for cycling on the roads, but theory tests alone would not significantly address the current concerns, as most cyclists are aware when they break traffic rules, such as when they ignore traffic lights.

Prof Theseira suggested more enforcement action as well as a penalty framework.

Specific guidelines for riding on roads that have heavier traffic would also be necessary, he added.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that instead of licensing cyclists, the focus could be on having safe cycling in the curriculum for students. The authorities could also work with bicycle workshops and retailers to help educate cyclists, he added.

Mr Saktiandi also said that improvements to cycling paths in the future would help reduce the number of cyclists on the roads, thus easing the issue.

But while several drivers are up in arms about cyclists being on the roads, others note that it is incumbent on motorists to share the roads safely with other users, whether cyclists or pedestrians.

Ms Sulian Tay, 48, who works in the finance sector and is a driver as well as a cyclist, said she is happy to accommodate cyclists while driving.

"My husband cycles, my children cycle. I don't want to get a phone call from the police informing me that one of them has been killed.

"When I am on the road and I see cyclists, I know that they have relatives too. I think it's just courtesy."


Explore middle ground between motorists and cyclists: Forum

Complaints about big cycling groups hogging the left lane, ostensibly ignoring oncoming traffic and beating traffic lights, to the extent of getting violent with motor vehicle drivers, have grown unabated.

The motorist-cyclist discontent was reignited most recently through actor Tay Ping Hui and Temasek chief executive Ho Ching's comments online.

There are indeed a few black sheep who are perhaps new to cycling on the road, misinformed or just pushing the boundaries of road traffic rules. You can't judge the many by the actions of a few.

Depending on one's point of view, legislation can be defensive, draconian or simply too difficult to administer uniformly.

Though the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) is not a regulatory authority, it has continually advised on cycling rules and safety, albeit to little effect.

As a road user in many forms, I urge some patience and understanding on our roads.

In the spirit of exploring the middle ground, it is worthy for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and insurance companies to review and consider a regulatory sandbox.

Encourage voluntary registration of bicycles with LTA, followed by affixing tamper-proof QR stickers (just like for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones).

Encourage prominent large cycling groups to be officially registered with SCF or LTA.

Explore road cycling insurance (to cover death, total permanent disability, theft, for example).

Additionally, public education can be enhanced. Consider action through driving schools, for example, by offering defensive driving simulations of oncoming cyclists during practical theory.

Taken together with existing road cycling rules, from a road safety as well as a public health standpoint, the above recommendations can go some way in keeping our road users safer.

Left untreated, it is a vicious circle, and nothing gets sorted or changed. It then breeds more hatred, which then spirals into more division.

Wong Sheng Min


Treating a bike like another car helps

I really do appreciate that a panel will review existing regulations governing cyclists on the road (Expert panel to study licensing of cyclists on roads, April 13).

I drive and am not a cyclist, but my son is. So we share viewpoints as a driver and a cyclist.

The mother in me is ever concerned for his safety, but he assures me he has undergone some lessons on road courtesy and such from his cycling club.

When I learnt driving (in Canada), I was taught to consider a bicycle on the road as a car. The instructor's call was: "Be alert! Even if they are wrong, you don't want them killed!"

That lesson helped me consider cyclists in that manner when I am driving in Singapore.

Perhaps it will do us good if the authorities also incorporate lessons on road courtesy for drivers towards cyclists (or even motorcyclists).

Having the cyclists know their part is not enough. Drivers too need to learn their part to keep the roads safe.

The root of the matter really lies in the attitudes of drivers towards cyclists and vice versa.

I think not many drivers know the rights of cyclists on the road, and some cyclists have not undergone lessons on how to ride safely.

Yee Fui Foong

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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