Opinion

How Can Cyclists and Personal Mobility Device Riders Co-exist Safely with Motorists in Singapore?

Joanne Poh 0 Comments

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The government’s drive to promote cycling as a viable form of transport has led to folding bicycles and many types of personal mobility devices being allowed on the MRT, the construction of more bicycle paths and park connectors, and, soon, our first bike sharing scheme to be expected at the end of 2017 in the Jurong Lake District.

But all is not right in Paradise, as there have been some run-ins between cyclists and personal mobility device (PMD) riders, and drivers.

Drivers are complaining that the cyclists and PMD users all have death wishes as some have been spotted riding against the flow of traffic, beating traffic lights and performing other circus stunts.

On the other hand, for cyclists and PMDs, riding on the roads is like swimming in a cesspool of sharks, as road users here are not accustomed to sharing the roads, and the number of cyclists getting crushed under the wheels of an inconsiderate driver is rising.

Now, some road users are even calling for a ban on users of PMDs like scooters and electric bikes on roads. Others argue that they pay COE, but not cyclists or PMD users, so they should be the only ones allowed on the roads.

Here are some measures that people have suggested as antidotes to the issue:

 

Implement COE or road tax on all bicycle and PMD purchases

In Singapore, whoever has the most money wins.

That’s why some drivers have been calling upon the LTA to impose a COE or road tax on all bicycle and PMD purchases.

While this sounds like a ridiculous suggestion (why not start taxing people for walking on roads too, then?), there are some areas where it might actually be useful.

COE registration would mean that all bicycles and PMDs would be registered and thus easily identifiable. It would also be easier to fine cyclists and PMD users for infringing traffic regulations.

That would certainly go a long way towards addressing drivers’ concerns about reckless PMD users on the road.

However, in practice this would never work, as it would be too impractical to implement—imagine having to register and tax the sale of every BMX bike, longboard and hoverboard.

In addition, people would be pissed as hell that Singapore is becoming an even “finer” city, and it would work against the government’s attempts to promote the car-lite city concept.

 

Send cyclists and PMD users for certification and training

In theory, there should be no reason why cyclists and motorists can’t share the road. This is done in developed countries all over the world.

The main difference between cycling on the road in Singapore and, say, Germany is that there is a marked lack of education and civility here when it comes to respecting other road users.

Cyclists and PMD users aren’t blameless either. Every driver has experienced the terror of having to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting some skate scooter rider who’s suddenly darted across the zebra crossing.

Perhaps the solution is to send cyclists and PMD users for certification and training, and require them to have a cert if they want to use the roads. This would definitely fix the problem of cyclists and PMD users not knowing the road rules and acting like they’re in some giant skate park.

The obvious problem is that it’d be a laborious process, difficult to enforce and, frankly, a little silly—no other country forces cyclists to get certified.

There might, however, be value in adding a component in local driving courses about how to graciously share the road with cyclists and PMD users. As it is, drivers are not used to looking out for other road users and most do not seem to know that they should slow down and give some distance when passing cyclists.

 

Build more dedicated bicycle lanes

If cyclists and drivers can’t get along, the solution might be to build more dedicated bicycle lanes so they don’t have to cross paths.

This is already happening to a certain extent, in the form of the extended cycling networks and park connectors that have been popping up in areas like Punggol and Tampines.

What can be done is to increase the network of cycling tracks, not just between parks but also on routes that people commonly commute, such as from the suburbs to the CBD.

The more lanes there are on routes that are actually useful to commuters, the more cyclists will use them, rather than try to brave the roads.

The obvious drawback is that it’s going to take time and money to build these roads, and it’s really up to the government to decide what density of networks and which routes are worth the money. In addition, it is highly unlikely we’ll ever build a truly comprehensive cycling network that enables cyclists to keep off the roads completely.

It’s quite obvious that none of the above suggestions can fully resolve the clash between cyclists and PMD users on the one hand, and motorists on the other. Trying to impose more rules or regulations on cyclists and PMD users may not work simply because it’s so hard to enforce them. The only thing that can truly make the roads a safe place for all is education and a change in attitude. And as we all know, a third-world mentality can take a while to grow out of.

What can be done to help cyclists, PMD riders and drivers coexist safely? Share your suggestions in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

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