Should cyclists follow all the traffic rules?

Should cyclists follow all the traffic rules?

The answer seems to be obvious, however, the German Chancellor Merkel gave an unexpected, yet inspiring answer:

“Cyclists do have their own interpretation of traffic rules. But we are not pushing hard for obeying the rules, but for better and more bike paths and as far as helmets go for cyclist, we focus on the voluntary usage and not bringing in laws for that.”

Bicycle as a mode of transport is not new, it exist way before the creation of “traffic rules”. Traffic rules were created after the introduction of motor cars, which imposed unprecedented risks to other road users. You may consider “traffic rules” are essentially “motorist’s rules” and must be obeyed by all motorists for the safety of other road users. However, it is not realistic, nor fair to require a human power mode of transport to follow 100% of the “motorist’s rules” even if it means it will sometimes put the cyclist in risk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel checking a road bike

I’m not advocating cyclists to break the traffic rules. The fundamental principle should be safety. Do what is safe. Follow the traffic rules as much as possible. But, do not follow the rules blindly and put yourself in a dangerous position. Some of these “rules” are in fact perceived and not official. Here a few typical, but exceptional examples that bicycle users may “break the rules” for safety concern:

1) Riding on footpath – if the road is full of fast moving cars, it is potentially deadly for slow riders such as the uncles and aunties going to markets. In this case, I would be using the footpath instead. Anyone insist that cyclists must always be on the road I will challenge them to ride slowly along Lornie Road.

2) Not staying at the extreme left of the left most lane, but shifting to the centre of the lane – Before riding across a road junction, or approaching a slip road, it is often safer for the cyclist to shift his/her position from left of the lane towards the centre of the lane. This is for two purpose: a) signal to the driver behind that you want to go straight, not turning left. 2) prevent driver from last moment overtaking and cutting in front to turn left.

3) Move from left most lane to second or third lanes – before some junction with one or more left turning lanes, you need to position yourself out of the left turning lanes if you need to go straight.

4) Riding on the bus lane – it is actually legal to riding on Bus lane, but many drivers and cyclists are not aware of this and become confused. It should be possible to put a bicycle sign on Bus lane, and it will be more clear for every body that bicycle are supposed to be on the Bus Lanes.

5) Riding across zebra crossing or pedestrian crossing – again, there is no explicit law states that it is not allowed to cycle across a pedestrian crossing. But you need to do so in a safe manner, for your own safety and other pedestrian’s safety. Never rush across a crossing regardless you are cycling or running.

6) Not wearing helmet –  there is no law in Singapore states that one must wear a helmet in order to ride a bicycle. It is a personal choice.

It is particularly interesting that, such “un-ruling” comment is coming from a German Chancellor, since Germany is well know to be a rule based society. Angela Merkel clearly understand that it is not useful to force the traffic rules, which are primarily created to control motorists for the safety of others, onto the group of cyclists, which does not imposed the same level of risk to other users. Instead she put focus to improve the infrastructure such as bike paths so that everyone will be more safe regardless of the rules.

What is your view? Please put your comment below.


8 thoughts on “Should cyclists follow all the traffic rules?

  1. The

    /// Anyone insist that cyclists must always be on the road I will challenge them to ride slowly along Lornie Road. ///

    Why would anyone want to cycle on Lornie Road? What kind of extreme is that? Why not challenge them to ride on ECP or PIE?

    Cyclists should not be cycling on footpath (note – FOOT path), period. And the worse thing is that they have to gall to speed and ring their bells, as if the footpath belongs to them.

    What I cannot stand is cyclists going against red traffic light and almost knocking down pedestrians who are crossing. And cycling on the zebra crossing.

    1. Francis Post author

      Lornie road is the only connection for bicycle users living in the west of MacRitchie Reservoir (e.g. Camden park) and need to work at the east (e.g. MediaCorp or Mt. Alvernia Hospital).
      When cyclists sharing ANY paths (including PCN, footpaths and even cycling path) with pedestrians, cyclists should not threaten the pedestrians and should give ample safety margin when overtaking. If the path is too narrow, cyclist should slowly follow behind at walking speed, prefer not to ring the bell. Only when pedestrian proactively notice and give way, cyclist may overtake. Please say “thank you” or “good morning” to the nice people who give way to you.

    2. Hee Kyet

      Cyclists have every right to go on Lornie Road, but it is considerate if they avoid it during the rush hours. Otherwise, they will significantly reduce the capacity of that road. Of course, there no law to require cars to go at speed on Lornie Road. It is just that many drivers are impatient and have a sense of entitlement, and hence cannot be bothered to overtake cyclists in safe manner.

    3. easyman

      cycling on ecp and pie, u think no one dare…they will say there a road shoulder on it, n they will dictate themselves a new rule that expressway shoulder can cycle…

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  3. Elizabeth

    Thank you for posting this, I live in Boston, but hadn’t seen it. I auclatly drive much more than I bike because I work 40 minutes away from home, but I’ve noticed Boston’s efforts to become more bike friendly in the last couple years with new bike lanes all over the place. I think that’s great, but as a driver more often than a biker I can tell you I am always a little afraid of bikers when I see them around me. Just as Jessie mentioned, the problem is I just don’t know what any given biker is going to do. I have frequently seen bikers run both stop signs and red lights, not signal, move unexpextedly around the road, go the wrong way down the middle of our one-way streets, etc. I also see many bikers do everything right, but bikers who don’t follow the rules give everyone a bad name and make it hard for drivers to learn how to properly share the road. I’m hoping now that the city is making the effort over time everyone will become more accustomed to this, but in the meantime I just try and give all bikers lots of room!Also, I just want to say that I so enjoy this blog. I don’t bike much, I’m not yet a parent, but after following you on academichic for a long time it was so great to know that one of you was still writing! Whatever the topic I enjoy your voice and feel like it’s great to read about, not only things I do frequently, but also things I know very little about.So thanks!Jenny

  4. Niklas

    Hi all,

    Interesting reading! I recently moved to Singapore and of course I brought my road bike and I try to ride it at least every week. Normally I try to ride between 60-80 kilometres at a time but it is not very easy to find any good locations starting in Holland Village where we live.

    Riding a road bike means that my average speed is around 30-35 km/h which is too fast to go on any shared bike lanes / foot lanes so you are pretty muched forced to go on the ordinary roads. I try to go in early weekend mornings when there is less traffic but in the end of the ride there is normally quite heavy traffic anyway. As a comparison from other places where I have lived (Sweden/Denmark/Germany/Netherlands) I find the people driving cars, trucks, buses etc to be less considerate in the traffic here and the respect and understanding for bicycling is on a very Low level.

    Maybe it will get better with more and more people biking but as it is now you more or less gamble every time you get out there. I don’t know how many times I have been overtaken by cars just to see them cut me off and turning left just in front of me…

    / Niklas

  5. Timothy

    In my estate, there are both bike lanes and pedestrian paths in parallel. Often, walking pedestrian goes on both lanes. If we are hard about it, the authorities should fine pedestrians who walk on bike paths but all the rage is about cyclists riding on pedestrian paths. Fair? Even then, given such situation, I still am a responsible cyclist and like Francis described, trail behind them, not ringing bells as if I have the right of way, until they notice and give way voluntarily, then say ‘thank you’ as I pass them by. Japan cyclists and pedestrian co-exist on common paths and politely give way to each other peacefully. So why must our authorities and some quarters in the SG community come so hard on cyclists just because of a few bad eggs? Riding on a road as a cyclist increases my chance of dying because big trucks, buses and drivers don’t see cyclists as fellow road users and respect them. I got nearly brushed a few times trying to obey the traffic rules but my family needs me so I have no choice but to go on the pedestrian paths. Will the state look after my family if I follow the rules and then die as a result of accident caused by the larger vehicle drivers?

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