By Perry Tan
An accident involving a bicycle and a child is being widely shared and discussed on social media. I won't comment on the case, since we don't have both sides of the story, but as a regular user of the Park Connector Network (PCN) as a cyclist (I commute and take leisure / fitness rides), pedestrian (jogger) and parent (my kids use the PCN on their skate scooters, scoot bikes and bicycles), I'd like to share some basic safety tips, for pedestrians and cyclists.
The PCN is not Equal
First, the PCN is not the same in different segments. Segments that cut through major parks (like East Coast) have split lanes - one for pedestrians and joggers, and the other for cyclists and roller bladers. Both lanes run parallel to each other and tend to be quite broad.
For the most part, however, the PCN is a broad path with a clear demarcation that separates pedestrians from cyclists. In a few segments, the PCN is too narrow to accommodate a clear demarcation. There is a number of pedestrians and cyclists who do not use the correct lane, due to ignorance or negligence. The links between segments of the PCN are often short stretches of pavements.
Second, traffic conditions vary significantly on different stretches of the PCN at different locations and times. For example, the East Coast stretch on a Sunday morning would be extremely crowded, and the 5 km straight that runs parallel to Changi Airport is almost always free of pedestrians at all times of the day, any day of the week.
Tips for Cyclists
- Use the bike lane, if there is one
- Keep to the left, and overtake from the right.
- Within the bike lane, ride in a straight line and do not swerve without checking behind.
- Install a bell. Use the bell to warn pedestrians and other PCN users when you approach, especially when you approach from their behind and / or they are unaware of you. Give a gentle tinkle when you are some distance away to give advanced warning. Ring louder when there is urgency. If you don't have a bell, open your mouth - just shout "Bike!", "Coming through on your right!", "Watch out!" or anything that sounds right. Say thanks or excuse me as you pass.
- Refrain from cycling two abreast. Three abreast or more is just unacceptable.
- Do not play with your smartphone when you cycle (!!)
- After 7 pm, use front and back lights. Some cyclists use lights 24/7, which is a kiasu but good practice.
- Wear light coloured clothes. Bicycles without lights after 7 pm are very dangerous, IMO.
- Look ahead and anticipate other PCN users' movements.
- Keep a lookout for potential surprises: kids, prams, newbies on bikes, roller bladers (their motion takes up a lot of path space), elderly, big groups, couples (they love to cycle abreast to engage in romantic banter), etc.
- Calibrate your speed with common sense.
Tips for Pedestrians
- Use the pedestrian lane, if there is one.
- Keep to the left.
- Treat the PCN as a quasi-road. Always check left and right for traffic before you cross.
- Do not change direction suddenly without checking behind. If you change direction abruptly when a cyclist is directly behind you, a crash is likely no matter the cyclist is travelling at 10 kph or 25 kph.
- Be sensitive to bells and warning shouts. Don't flash dirty looks at cyclists who ring their bells or shout - they are doing it for mutual safety.
- If you get alerted to an approaching bicycle at the very last moment and you don't know what to do like a deer caught in the headlights, stay still and let the cyclist avoid you. The worst can you can do is to do a last minute tango and increase the chances of a collision.
- Refrain from hogging the PCN when you are in a group.
- Do not be glued to your smartphone on the PCN. If you must do so, keep to the far left.
- If you jog on the PCN after 7pm, wear light coloured clothing. Consider wearing a light on your back.
Tips for Parents
- Hold a toddler's hand on the PCN.
- Toddlers and young kids who cycle or scoot has to be supervised closely. You have to be their eyes and ears and stick close to them. Your presence would also give better visibility to approaching cyclists.
- Drill your kids on the safety tips at a young age, especially: (i) keep to the left; (ii) cycle / scoot in a straight line; and (iii) don't change direction abruptly without checking.
- When your kids just learnt to cycle and/or their safety awareness is not high enough, you may want to cycle close to their sides to supervise and protect them. Pick segments and times with low traffic.
Let's make the use of the PCN a safe and enjoyable experience to all!