By Tan Lay Hoon
In October 2013, the government presented its Land Transport Masterplan 2013. All public estates will have a network of dedicated cycle paths leading to MRT stations and neighbourhood centres to facilitate first mile, last mile and intra-estate cycling. i read the news with mixed feelings – happy for the off-road cyclists but concerned with the implications for the safety of pedestrians on pedestrian facilities.
Off-road cycling in public estates became popular after 2010 with cyclists on pedal and motorised bicycles riding on pedestrian facilities. Many off-road cyclists are comfortable riding on routes that they had walked as pedestrians previously. It is a concern that toddlers, seniors and companions pushing wheelchair users are forced to make way for these cyclists on pedestrian facilities.
Many off-road cyclists in public estates feel unsafe riding on the roads. Likewise, pedestrians do not feel safe walking beside cyclists pedalling on pedestrian facilities. Pedestrians’ fears are raised when cyclists ride in an unsafe manner beside them as a pedestrian-cyclist collision will involve a bicycle. If a cyclist collides with a pedestrian, the pedestrian is likely to be hit by the bicycle and suffer more serious injuries than the cyclist.
The authorities could invite all secondary schools to set up cycling clubs with voluntary membership. Student members must have completed or be willing to attend cycle training programmes with accredited organisations. It would be good if the authorities could consider a ‘Safety on Roads and Pedestrian Facilities’ programme for all preschool and primary school students.
The authorities could also consider distributing safe cycling guides to every household, advertising during the airing of popular TV shows and mobilising members of the cycling community and grassroots volunteers to distribute pamphlets to cyclists.
REGULATORY FRAMEWORK / LICENCING
A bicycle with a number plate facilitates identification of an errant cyclist. Bicycle licensing will enable better enforcement on safe cycling and help to reduce the number of errant cyclists.
Civil action, mediation and private settlement are of little use if the cyclist at fault does not have the financial means to pay. It is not right that a pedestrian walking on a pedestrian facility and seriously injured by a cyclist riding unsafely be unable to receive fair compensation for the injuries sustained because the cyclist at fault is unable to pay. We have a compelling case for compulsory bicycle insurance.
The URA's draft Master Plan 2013 included a plan to develop a code of cycling conduct. It will be good if the proposed code also covers off-road cycling behaviour.
Penalties must commensurate with the severity of the offences and contain a strong deterrent effect. The authorities may wish to consider a penalty points system for cycling offences on pedestrian facilities that endanger pedestrians.
A law that is ignored and flouted with impunity defeats the purpose of its enactment. Strict but fair law enforcement is necessary to ensure that the community respects and abides by the law.
The authorities could mobilise the auxiliary police forces (already deployed in certain areas) and grassroots organisations for more effective enforcement coverage as It is not possible to patrol around the clock.
A few years ago, road cyclists had urged the authorities to implement cycle lanes to ensure their safety on roads. The authorities cited road constraints and turned down the cycling community’s suggestion. Instead, the authorities rolled out off-road cycle paths in various estates.
While the government had aimed to facilitate cyclists to ride safely off road, the initiative appeared to have spawned a new category of cyclists who always ride off road except when they are crossing the roads. As for the road cyclists, a good number of them prefer to cycle on roads than to use the off-road cycle paths.
Today, roads remain unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians now have to watch out for bicycles on pedestrian facilities and are increasingly forced to give way to off-road cyclists. How did a call by the road cycling community for the government to protect their safety on the roads that led to the government providing safe cycling paths off-road end up with pedestrians feeling unsafe on pedestrian facilities?
The authorities should install separate bicycle crossings at all street crossings (including zebra crossings) for cyclists to ride across the crossings. It is also better for the authorities to create cycle paths to reach the various amenities and install covered bicycle parking bays at the end of the cycle paths that are nearest to the amenities.
SAFEGUARDING PEDESTRIANS’ RIGHT TO WALK SAFELY
Walking is healthy, green and the most basic mode of transportation. Pedestrians rank as the most vulnerable of all road users and have the basic right to walk safely in public spaces at all times.
This is a condensed version of the original letter by the author, please visit the facebook page "The Daily Walkers" for the original letter.