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Essay

Safety first?

By Tan Ying Zhen

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Walking in Singapore has become more stressful and dangerous.

Leisurely evening strolls in my quiet neighbourhood are often interrupted by cyclists loudly ringing their bells as they whizz past or, worse still, doing the whizzing without the ringing. Some ride electric bicycles that go even faster. This happens frequently, even though cycling on the footpath is an offence in Singapore.

Cyclists also share the roads with cars, and I've witnessed many dangerous situations when they move freely from the pavements to the roads and vice versa, with little regard for traffic rules.

To investigate how common spaces could be shared safely, the government formed a panel last year. Recently, the panel recommended that bicycles and other personal mobility devices be allowed on the pavements. They also recommended doing away with the need for cyclists to dismount and push their bikes at traffic crossings, because few obey the current rules and it was “impractical for them to dismount at every crossing.”

Low compliance is hardly a compelling reason for doing away with a sensible rule. Wouldn't strict enforcement make more sense? I have seen how dangerous it is when cyclists zoom from pavement to traffic crossing with nary a pause, often surprising drivers who don't have time to gauge the distance or even see the approaching cyclist. An occasional cyclist myself, I know it is perfectly reasonable and feasible to dismount before crossing. There is no reason why it should not be done.

The panel has come up with other recommendations, such as a maximum speed of 15 km/h on footpaths, and 25 km/h on cycling and shared paths. Sounds good, but I am skeptical of how enforcement would be carried out. Bicycles are not registered, and few have speedometers. Some are not even equipped with lights, which makes them an even bigger hazard at night.

The panel suggested a code of conduct, such as how people on machines must always give way to pedestrians. Again, the question is enforcement. Public education alone is insufficient and inadequate, especially when innocent lives are involved.

Unfortunately, the government has accepted the panel's recommendations in full and most changes will be implemented by the end of this year. I understand the need to promote cycling as a green alternative to cars and public transport. But should personal safety be compromised?

Still, I'm an eternal optimist, and I hold on to the hope that the rules may be changed, especially as many people have come up with constructive feedback through the media. Meanwhile, I will continue to cycle and take long walks, but I will be even more careful than usual.

安全第一?

シンガポールの町中を走る自転車の運転に関する規則の改訂が決まった。エコな乗り物として自転車を奨励したい政府の意向は分かるが、街歩きが好きな筆者にとってはあまりうれしくないことだ。

The Japan Times ST: May 20, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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