Give me the space so I can follow the rule

2012-07-25 Singapore, by Chu Wa, Francis

Article by Francis Chu, First published in ZaoBao 2012-07-25

Yesterday when I went home, I saw a father riding a bicycle and carrying two kids, one in the front and the other at the back. He yield slowly at a junction, checked there was no car around and he ride across the junction quickly. He continue on the pavement carefully. I snapped a photo and upload it to the Facebook, many friends share their memory of being carried by their father/ mother’s bike when they were small. “It’s really an enjoayble mement, wind blows in my face, talking and chating to my father. Watching the street scene flow by while sitting between his large arm, I felt excited, warm and secured.” A friend told me. Others shared that’s how they bring thier kids to school, as a parent, they all enjoy this “moment of two” with thier kids on thier journey. However, this affordable, eco friendly and healthy way of commute is being marginalized. If you want to avoid the danger of cars, you need to ride on the pavement, and which is illegel (except Tampines town). It is also illegel to carry people on your bicycle. To some, that father using his own effort, carfully carrying his kids between home and school has already breached the law.

Recently there is an article publiched in ST <> the author, Ignatius Low, list many wrongdoing of cyclists in Singapore. He share his experience in UK and feel that cyclists over there are much more deciplined than the local cyclists. The article striked a sensitive chore in the public and many readers write in to support him. Most agreed that there are many “ruleless cyclists” who don’t respect the laws.

As an “Bicycle-Master”, I have more than 7 years of driving and cycling experience in Singapore. I feel Mr. Low does not have a real taste of riding in Singapore. He doesn’t understand why sometimes it is necessary to make an illegel move. e.g riding on pavement (to avoid car), or riding across pedestrian crossing (to reduce exposure to the danger of cars).

Mr. Low listed 7 sins of the local cyclist:
1) riding on pavement,
2) ringing their bell and threathening the pedestrian
3) carrying people on bicycle
4) riding across crossing
5) riding against traffic
6) no front and back light at night
7) not wearing helmet.

Only (2) is really a bad behavior and should not be allowed, and I agree there are a few cyclists belongs to this group. The rest, technically illegel, but Mr. Low is pushing too far when he said these behavior are “endngering” car drivers. About the helmet, in Singapore there is no law to force cyclist to wear a helmet, it is a personal freedom that each person should decide for himself. In fact helmet law does not exist in all advanced countries with high population of bicycle, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. They genearlly agree helmet doesn’t add to the safety of the rider, but increase the burden for cycling.

If cyclist really is the “King of the Road” as claimed, than we shouldn’t see cyclists being forced onto the pavement. I feel local cyclist is more like the “Orphan of the Road”, they don’t have a space they belong (no bicycle lane), they don’t have proper protection (law does not protect them well). When confronted with danger (car) , they just have to jump here and there to avoid being hit.

I don’t agree with the view of Mr. Low. However, at the end of his article, he asked a very valid question: “Is it unwillingness on the part of Goverment to lay down the law clearly for cyclists and provides the necessary cycling lanes and other infrastructure that will engender oerderly behaviour?”