Refining the Mandatory Helmet Law (MHL) in Singapore

It is not as simple as “Helmet saves lives”.

Mandating helmet wearing does not prevent accidents on the road, yet it comes with side-effects that can have a negative impact on cycling in general.

How can we reduce the negative impact of the new Mandatory Helmet Law while saving the high-risk cyclists during an accident?

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Ideas that help to refine the MHL:

  • Limit MHL for Sporty road bikes on roads with speed limit above 50km/h.
  • Exempt Share bike, Folding bikes, MTB, Upright sitting bikes, or any Non-Sport Road bikes from the MHL. They may choose to wear or not to wear helmet freely.
  • in addition, enhance education targeted at young cyclists.

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Helmet wearing and Helmet laws are hot topics in any cycling forum. There is a heated debate with strong opinions on both sides. In any case, introducing the MHL (Mandatory helmet law) is not as simple as “Helmet saves lives”. There are implications and “side effects” which can severely limit the initial intent of protecting the cyclists.

There is a significant difference between “Advice”, and “Mandating by law”, to wear a helmet while cycling on roads.
The former, “Advisory”, allows a person to exercise his or her own freedom to decide when and where it is necessary to wear or not to wear a helmet. The latter, “Mandatory”, limits the freedom when the individual feels it is really unnecessary to do so.

Up to 2018, cyclists are advised to wear a helmet when cycling on roads but it is not mandatory. As a result, both types of cyclists exist on the roads.

Every weekend, it is easy to spot groups of sports cyclists wearing helmets on their long-distance training rides along Mandai Road, Upper Thomson Road, or Tanah Merah Coast road.

On the other hand, much less obvious yet every day, there are numerous bicycle users in all parts of Singapore riding a bicycle or share bikes without a helmet. These include all walks of lives from young to old. They are usually slow riders and mostly ride on the sidewalks. However, from time to time, they also need to ride on the roads when it is safe and more convenient to do so.

From Traffic Police statistics, the yearly fatal road accidents involving bicycles and eBikes were below 20. It is a concern yet this figure is not particularly worse than in any other city. Cyclists not wearing a helmet and received fatal head injuries are not reported, it is estimated that the number is well below 10.

In a way, admitting that there is no better way to improve the road safety for cycling, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) recommended the “Mandatory Helmet Law” on August 24th. On September 3rd, the recommendation was subsequently accepted by the Minister of Transport.

Accepting this fact, I wonder if there are ways to optimise the upcoming MHL in order to address the key safety issues of on-road cycling and to reduce potential negative “side effects” of cycling promotion in Singapore.

 

The issue: 

On roads, cyclists travel alongside larger and faster vehicles and are the most vulnerable users.  – 2018-8-24, AMAP

The intention: 

In the event of an accident, wearing a protective helmet would reduce the impact and injuries suffered by the rider.  -2018-08-24, AMAP

The key limitations of MHL: 

  1. The helmet issue is a Red-Herring: The cyclist’s vulnerability on road is NOT due to lack of helmet wearing, instead, it is due to the lack of safe infrastructure (e.g. dual exit lanes to the Expressway) and dangerous behaviour of both drivers and cyclists (e.g. Using handphone while driving or cycling, driver overtaking within the same lane as the cyclist, cyclists riding too fast and too near the curb with an uneven surface). The helmet issue distracts the public from the real solutions we need to implement to prevent accidents from happening.
  2. Lack of data support: Cycling on road is not new. If cyclists on road are at greater risk, we should have local accident data to support the MHL. So far, there is no data showing on-road, non-helmeted cyclists receiving head injuries. Excluding the helmeted eBikes and Sports cyclists, the total number of cyclists involved in road accidents is not very high.
  3. International benchmark: out of 195 countries, Australia and NewZealand are the only ones to have countrywide Mandatory Helmet Law. Ironically, both countries tend to suffer from high cyclist fatality rate on roads and also lower bicycle usage.
  4. On the contrary, countries with high bicycle usage and good safety records don’t need MHL. A few examples are The NetherlandsDenmarkJapan, Taiwan, China, UK, Germany.
  5. Share bike: Share bike has quickly become an important mode of transport over the last couple of years. In many areas, such as Joo Chiat and Sembawang, the cycling/walkway network is limited, most share bike users need to ride on the road. Having the MHL means that they will have to carry a helmet all the time just in case they may need to use the Share bike.
  6. Slow cyclistThe vast majority of local bicycle users are slow cyclists like those “uncles” riding to a nearby market for a “kopi” or a mother bringing her kids to school. For safety, they usually cycle on walkways, which may appear that the MHL won’t affect them. However, in practice, most of them need to ride on the road for 10-30% of their usual trips. This is due to disconnections between walkways and shared paths. The MHL would force them to carry a helmet for the daily trip, which they have been doing for decades safely without a helmet.
  7. Reckless youngsters: There are a number of young riders nowadays who cycles on the roads quite recklessly. Given the way they are riding on or off roads, in an accident, the injury would bound to be serious or fatal. The MHL may reduce their risk of suffering from head injuries, but it will not shield them from other serious and fatal injuries. Education target at this group to increase their awareness will be more effective to improve their safety.
  8. Sports cyclist: This is another high-risk group due to their speed and proximity to fast traffics. Every weekend, it is easy to spot groups of sports cyclists along Mandai Road, Upper Thomson Road, or Tanah Merah Coast road. MHL will have no impact on Sports Cyclists because nearly all of them are already wearing a helmet without the law.

Refining the MHL: 

Going through the list above, the upcoming MHL is likely to have a negative impact for Share bike (4) and Slow cyclist (5), but it will have no negative impact for Sports cyclists (7). Perhaps it would make sense to target the MHL at the Sports cyclist but not the Share bike users and slow cyclists?

A couple of ideas that helps to refine the MHL:

  • Limit MHL for Sporty road bikes on roads with speed limit above 50km/h
  • Limit MHL for Sporty road bikes on roads with speed limit above 50km/h.
  • Exempt Share bike, Folding bikes, MTB, Upright sitting bikes, or any Non-Sport Road bikes from the MHL. They may choose to wear or not to wear helmet freely.
  • in addition, enhance education targeted at young cyclists.

Fundamentally, I believe road safety and cyclist’s safety should be improved by coherent policies, which support health, the environment, and without the legal requirement to wear a helmet.

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Reflection on the 2016 AMAP recommendation

The Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) has been instrumental in introducing cycling and PMD as a viable mode of transport for the public. For example, allowing the bicycle to be used on walkways helps many slow cyclists to avoid the risk from cars, which is possible after AMAP’s first recommendation in 2016. For that, I’m truly grateful and proud of being part of it.

However, in the midst of pushing for Active Mobility, I, as part of the AMAP members, had underestimated the stress and risks imposed on the pedestrians walking on the pavement.

This has led to a significant increase in the number of reported accidents involving PMDs, bicycles and power-assisted bicycles (PABs) on public paths, from 19 in 2015 to 42 in 2016 and to 128 in 2017. A number of them have resulted in serious injuries.  –  REVIEW OF ACTIVE MOBILITY REGULATIONS FOR SAFER PATH SHARING (2018-08-24)

Move towards a car-lite nation After eight months (EIGHT MONTHS!!) of work, this is the best a 14-member advisory panel could come up with -- otherwise known as:

The Stupidest Proposal. Ever. Chew On It! 2016-03

For pedestrian’s safety, it is stated in the Code of Conduct (COC) that bicycle and PMD riders should slow down when they approach the pedestrian. However, some riders ignore the COC because it is just an advisory (optional) and they tend to focus only on the (mandatory) law (15 km/h) and Regulation (20kg/25km/700mm).

The law is often a clear reference when a layman judge what is (morally) right or wrong.

Some riders take it as their entitled “right” to go at “legal speed limit” and demand the pedestrians to give way as they ring the bell. In case of an accident, these riders blame the pedestrian for unexpected movement, leaving them “no time to react”. However, they never admit the risk was created by themselves because they did not slow down when approaching the pedestrians.

I feel we need to protect the pedestrian by law.

On reflection, it was not logical to legally allow a new group of fast device riders on the pavement, without demanding the riders to control their device in order not to harm the public.

I was disappointed regarding the recent AMAP recommendations for walkways, which only suggested to lower the speed limit, but didn’t take the opportunity to address the issue of the legal requirement for responsible riding on the walkway.

Having said that, I must admit what AMAP in Singapore has done is very pioneering and groundbreaking. As far as I know, no another developed country has made it legal for adults to ride on the walkway, riders really need to treat this as a special privileged and to give priority to pedestrians who are more vulnerable. It is understandable that such a radical measure which has never been tried before may take some time to get right.

More thoughts on 2018 AMAP recommendations:

  1. Lower the speed limit on the pavement from 15km/h to 10km/h
  2. Mandatory for AM device users to stop and look out at road crossings before riding across at a slow speed

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Slow cycling training – a critical skill for safe cycling on foot paths

2017 LCSG bike handling and servicing workshop at East Coast Park

2017 LCSG bike handling and servicing workshop at East Coast Park

“How to cycle safely on foot path?”

This one of the most frequent asked question from new riders joining our Sunday rides. To be frank, no one want to hurt others but due to the inability to control their bike, new riders fear they may hurt others unintentionally. Observation over the years, I come to the conclusion that bike handling at slow speed is the key skill that every cyclist should acquire before they venture into footpath and sharing the space with pedestrians. I believe most accidents involve cyclists on foot path is due to the inability of controlling the bike at slow speed, or lack of awareness of blindspots. Such cyclists need to ride at speed in order to keep their balance, even when they approach pedestrians or blindspots.

Slow cycling skill is not rocket science and can be learn fairly easily. It can be a fun personal challenge to see “how slow you can ride”.

Last week, with the support of NPark and OCBC, Lovecycling SG organised a “Slow bike handling skill workshop” at the Road safety park at the East Coast Park. Encik George Lim, the master trainer, guide the participants through a number of small challenges; started from stopping your bike, riding along a straight line, S-course and Zigzag course to riding the 888 challenge.

At the end of the training, to test if everyone is ready to share paths with pedestrian, we throw in an “acid test” –  simulation of a kid running randomly in the group of slow riding cyclists and see if everyone can avoid any accident. Sounds dangerous? Not really.

See for yourself here:

If you are interested in the step by step approach, here is a three minutes video summary:

More details of the entire workshop which include a bike servicing part can be found on Taiwoon’s blog.

 

 

AMK cycling town phase 1 + Round island Route

July 9, 2016 Singapore

Singapore is one more step closer to become a bicycle friendly city. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced two important cycling infrastructure that will make cycling in Singapore easier, safer and more enjoyable:

Artist impression of Round Island Route  Photo: NPark

Artist impression of Round Island Route Photo: NPark

Short video showing the RIR (Source: NPark)

1. Round Island Route (ST news)

In the early Saturday morning, PM Lee planted a tree at the Sengkang Riverside Park, commemorating the start of phase one of the Round Island Route (RIR), an idea conceptualised in 2011. Construction work on the first 60km of a 150km continuous green trail that will go around Singapore will start at the end of the year. This is an ambitious project to enhance connectivity and create new recreational spaces for cyclists and park goers all around Singapore.

2. AMK model cycling town (ST news)


Some of the innovative features to increase the safety of all users. Video: URA

A slip road was removed at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1 and 3 to make way for a cycling path. PHOTO: LTA

A slip road was removed at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1 and 3 to make way for a cycling path. PHOTO: LTA

Later in the morning, after riding through a new 4km “red-carpet” cycling path, PM Lee announced the completion of the first phase of AMK Cycling town network. This officially initiated the transformation of Ang Mo Kio into a model cycling and walking town. Estimated by 2019, a total of 20km of cycling paths will be completed to connect to most parts of AMK town. Innovative ideas including the distinctive red-colour paths, safer crossing and elevated share path under the MRT viaduct are to be piloted in AMK. If all are good, future cycling town will adopt the innovative ideas.

Perhaps more important is to see the number of senior level politicians and government agents (URA, LTA, NPark, HDB, Finance) who are actively involved on stage or behind the scene. This is a clear sign showing that there is strong alignment within the government to realise the car-lite vision.

Facebook post by PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Facebook post by LTA
Facebook post about RIR in LoveCyclingSG
Facebook post about AMK cycling town in LoveCyclingSG

AMK new cycling town phase one getting ready for use

AMK cycling path (image: URA)

AMK cycling path (image: URA)

At the end of 2014, during the “Clean and Green Singapore 2015” event, PM Lee announced that he will take up the challenge to turn Ang Mo Kio into the “next generation cycling town with innovative infrastructure” to facilitate more people to use bicycle as a mode of transport. True enough, we visited the first phase of the cycling network and it is indeed a big improvement over the previous standard from Tampines.

Some of the significant improvements:

  • cycling paths are all in a distinctive reddish color, make it clear which is supposed to be the cycling path.
  • The path stop before area with high pedestrian traffic, such as bus stop, or road crossing, signal that cyclist should slow down and check for safety before proceeding.
  • Hump up road crossing at minor road junctions helps to slow down the cars before the crossing, makes it much easier for all road users to look out for each other before entering the crossing.

More details of the AMK cycling town in the the news.

Discussion on FaceBook about the news.

 

DIY Aero Ride

The idea of Aero-Ride is inspired by Aeolian Ride (details in the video). We keep the original elements of fun, love of biking,  a sense of humour, silliness. Now instead of using white fabric, we re-use waste plastic bags to construct the inflatable costume. It turns out that the thin plastic material is easier to inflate and has many possibilities to create many different shapes.

Below is a step by step illustration to show how to construct a simple Aero.

Aero-DIY-1

Get a used plastic bag with a width larger than your shoulder.

Aero-DIY-2

Chop off the handles

Aero-DIY-3

expand and flatten the bag

Aero-DIY-4

mark out two holes (shaded area) with at least 10 cm wider than the shoulder of your T-shirt

Aero-DIY-5

cut out the holes

Aero-DIY-6

use a tape to reinforce the holes, so that it won’t be teared apart easily

Aero-DIY-7

both holes applied reinforcement tapes

Aero-DIY-8

roll up the edge. use tapes to keep the rolled edge.

Aero-DIY-9

reverse the plastic bag, stick the centre to top of a cap.

Aero-DIY-10

test the effect using a fan

Aero-DIY-11

congrats, you’ve made your own Aero. You are ready for Aero Ride!

Here is a short video showing our test ride

 

Launch of Safe Riders Campaign in Car Free Day

There are many activities suitable for everyone from young to old. You will see the Civic area as well as part of CBD transformed into a fun area, totally different from a normal day filled with cars.

You can choose to cycle, run, or walk along the large CBD loop from 7-10am, or the shorter Civic loop from 7-12 noon. Fitness lover can join the fitness party or outdoor yoga at Empress Lawn.

Kids can have lots of funs to play football at Connaught Drive, join a fun race or play frisbee in Esplanade park.

There are also a range of cultural activities and performance offer by the National Gallery as well various groups including a number of walking trails. For details please download this pdf file _CarFreeDay activities 2016-04-24

Road closure plan, Red: Civic loop, Blue: CBD loopRoad closure plan, Red: Civic loop, Blue: CBD loop

Active Mobility Advisory Panel announced Rules and Code of Conduct

New rules and code of conduct for bicycle and PMD uses

New rules and code of conduct for bicycle and PMD uses

Mar 17th, 2016, Singapore: The Active Mobility Advisory Panel submitted its proposed rules and code of conduct for the safe use of footpaths, cycling paths and shared paths to the Transport Ministry. This is seen as a significant step towards the Car-Lite vision of the Singapore government.

Currently there are 300 km of “cycle-able” PCN and cycling paths in Singapore. This is great for recreation but not sufficient for daily trips to work, to school or to the markets. Cyclists, especially the slower riders, are faced with two difficult choices: to risk their life by cycling on roads mixing with fast moving cars, or ride on the foot paths illegally. The proposal from the 14-members panel legalise cycling on pavement, effectively unlocking the potential of 3300 km of foot paths along all the roads. However, for this to work, safety of pedestrian must be addressed. The sets of rules and code of conduct is targeted to ensure safety for all.

The key rules are:

  • Speed limits of 15km/h (running or leisurely cycling speed) on footpaths, and 25km/h (normal cycling speed) on shared paths and cycling paths
  • Devices must be equipped with lights visible from the front and back, which must be switched on during hours of darkness
  • Cycling maximum two abreast is allowed on all roads with at least two lanes in that direction, except those with bus lanes during the bus lane operational hours
  • No cycling against the flow of traffic on roads

The key guidelines in the code of conduct are:

  • Always give way to pedestrians on footpaths and shared paths. Remember also that pedestrians have the right of way on pedestrian crossings
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when approaching high pedestrian-traffic areas such as bus-stops
  • Either ‘walk your bicycle’ or dismount and push at high pedestrian-traffic areas
  • Stop and look out for on-coming traffic when approaching pedestrian crossings, and cross only at walking speed
  • Always stop to render assistance and exchange particulars when involved in an accident

There are also key criteria for Personal Mobility Devices as following:

Max. Weight = 20kg, Max width = 700mm, Max. speed=25 km/h

In addition, the guideline also specified which device are allowed in what type of paths:

Foot paths: Bicycle and PMDs

Share path/ PCN: Bicycle, PMDs, eBike

On road: Bicycle, eBike

Active Mobility Advisory Panel

Active Mobility Advisory Panel

More news at LTACNA, StraitsTimes

Full report of recommendation 

 

 

 

First Car Free day in Singapore

Cheers to the first Car Free Day in Singapore- in LovecyclingSG style!

Cheers to the first Car Free Day in Singapore- in LovecyclingSG style!

Video credit: Joeel Lee, one of our “Angels” from LoveCycingSG

In 2014, Car Free Day in Singapore was a dream, and last Sunday the dream finally comes true!
On October 3rd, 2014, URA team bring along key members of LTA, SLA, SDCF and Mr. Peter Ong, the Head of Civil Service, to study how the KL Car Free Day is organized. Last Sunday, March 28th, 2016, we had the first Car-Free Day in Singapore, and it was a great success!

What is “Car Free Day”? here is a short description from URA:

Car-Free Sunday SG turns part of our city into a pedestrian and cyclist friendly precinct and creates a 4.7 km route of closed roads in the heart of the city. It is part of the larger movement towards a car-lite Singapore, envisioning our city with fewer cars.

The trial will kick off with an exciting lineup of activities on 28 February.  It will continue take place on the last Sunday of the month for a six month trial period.

more on URA site

URA flag-off

Second flag off for “Ride-To-Car-Free” folks by CEO of URA  Photo credit: Joeel Lee

LoveCyclingSG supported the Car Free Day by organising four concurrent events. One of the groups joint the flag off at 7am in front of the National Gallery, which includes families with kids and “pets lovers”, all on bicycles. The other three groups starting three “Ride-to-Car-Free” concurrently at 7am from the East (Kembangan MRT), the North (Bishan Park) and West (Clementi MRT). These three groups were led by our veteran, or “LCSG Angels”. It was a great opportunity for inexperience riders to follow the leads and test out the route from heartlands to CBD. The responses were overwhelming. Both East (led by George and Berenda with ) and West (Led by Andy and Stanley) group had close to 100 pax and the largest group was the North (led by Clarence,  Desmond and Kenneth with PNRs) which was 130+ riders.

All together it was estimated we have a total of 400+ participant from LoveCyclingSG. It was the biggest event we have mobilised so far.

Apart from cycling, there were many interesting programs running at the same time, walking, jogging, running, skating, and even mass Yoga. Kevin from National Gallery helps to arrange valet parking for our bicycle at the basement car park, so that the riders can join other events without worry about their bicycles. Typically very quiet on a Sunday morning, the whole CBD area has been transformed from into a caravel and fun playground for thousands of participants.

Programming of the Car Free Day

 

Video credit: Sport Singapore

Related news LoveCyclingSG for Car Free Day:

Channel News Asia
Channel8
URA news