Author Archives: Francis

Does AMAP need to review its process?

AMAP was formed in 2015 and specifically tasked to come up with regulations/guidelines to facilitate safe sharing of public pathways. 

As announced in March 2015, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) intends to develop a clear set of rules and norms to facilitate the use of footpaths and cycling paths safely and harmoniously. For this purpose, it has set up an advisory panel comprising 14 representatives from key stakeholder groups, such as seniors, youth, grassroots, cyclists, motorists, and users of personal mobility devices to propose a set of rules and norms for active mobility. 

No doubt legalising cycling on pavements greatly extended the usefulness of bicycles and allow many elderly riders to avoid risky roads without breaking the law. This is a ‘Great leap’ of cycling in Singapore.

However the proposed regulation was not sufficient or accurate to address the safety issues. 
Within two years, by 2017, reported accidents shot up 7 folds from 19 to 128 (some fatal cases) only on off-road paths
.
The root cause of these accidents is irresponsible riding, such as speeding while overtaking. 

In a Facebook post, AMAP member Steven Lim defended the new speed limit of 10 kph, suggesting the only options are a total ban or reduce the speed limit. But this is not true. 

Fixing a 10km/h speed limit is not the best solution.  Riding on share path with pedestrians require dynamic skill, you can go faster when there is clearly no one around, but you need to slow down to walking speed or even stop, in order to ensure the safety of others. Riding responsibly requires a “pedestrian first” attitude. Respecting pedestrian’s safety and right of way, always.

In 2016, legalising bicycle and PMD riding on sidewalk should have come with legal protection for pedestrians. Riders must respect the safety of pedestrians and give way in order to have the privilege of riding on pavement.
After so many accidents and innocent deaths, the review of AMAP rules in 2018 was the best opportunity to address this omission. But unfortunately, with the new laws (10kph speed limit), pedestrians still don’t have priority, nor legal protection on the pavement. 

Even today, an irresponsible rider hitting an elderly or young kid can claim they were riding at 10kph and blame the victim for ‘suddenly get into my way’. 
On the other hand, responsible riders who always give way to pedestrians have to worry if they are breaking the new law by riding above the unsustainable slow speed on many empty path.

I hope AMAP will reflect on the process that led to the current, undesirable state. The ability to self-reflect is important for making any meaningful progress.

More reflection on AMAP law 2018

How to ride safely and what law can do to encourage it?

For sharing of the footpath/pavement in Singapore, there are 2 difference school of thoughts:

1) All people should be given the same right regardless of which device they use, bicycle, PMD or just walk. It is fair and the pathway should be shared equally.

2) People who are more vulnerable/slower should be given priority.

In case (1) Both walker and rider (bicycle and PMD) are given the same right. The rider feels slower walkers are constantly blocking their way. Rider is frustrated because they feel entitled to go at the speed limit (10kph on the footpath, 25kph on the PCN) but most case can’t due to the slower walkers.
Slower walker doesn’t feel safe because they are supposed to look out for riders coming from their back. It is not possible to keep an eye at your back all the time, just in case another rider approach again.

The result: both groups feel frustrated, the slower group feel endangered, and that is the current situation since 2016 AMAP allowing bicycle and PMD on pavements. 

In case (2) Rider must slow down when approaching walker. A rider can only overtake when it is safe and not disturbing walkers. 
The rider feels it is a privilege to use the walking path which was originally only for walkers. No harm to give way to walkers.
The walker doesn’t need to worry about riders, just walk as there are no riders intruding their path. 
If Rider feels unfair, he can step-down and “upgrade” himself to become a walker. Then he has the equal right just as a fellow walker.

The result: harmonious sharing of pathways between the faster group and the slower group because the slower group is given priority and protection of the law.

Thanks to PMD rider Tend Wong, here is an excellent video demonstrating how case (2) would look like, it captured a lot of examples on how to ride in a responsible manner and give the pedestrians priority.

– How to approach pedestrians?
– How to slow down when approaching bus-stop (a lot of blind spots)?
– How to engage pedestrians if the path is narrow?
– How to slow down when there are walkers blocking the way?
– When can you speed up safely?

Clearly, the new law fixing a 10km/h speed limit is not the best solution.
Riding on share path with pedestrians is a dynamic skill, you can go faster when there is clearly no one around, but you need to slow down to walking speed or even stop, in order to ensure safety of others.

Riding responsibly requires a “pedestrian first” attitude. Respecting pedestrian’s safety and right of way, always.

The AMAP law should define “pedestrian priority on the pavement”, and the dangerous riders violated this rule will have to be fined or even jailed.

Such a “pedestrian first” law will protect vulnerable pedestrians. It doesn’t affect the majority of safe riders, yet it will increase the opportunity cost for those “black sheep” riders.

Read more: Does AMAP need to review it process?

Issues facing cyclists on Singapore road

Excellent article about cycling in Singapore, insightful and balance. Lots of valid points.
Source:
http://www.eazyvideosuite.com/forum/views/opinion/story20190120-925527

Thanks to Google translate, here is the English version:
————- Start ————-
Date: 2019-01-20
By sufang@sph.com.sg

“Since I started riding bicycles four years ago, many of my friends have heard that I have been riding on the road often. I was always asked with a strange look: “You are riding on the road, it is not dangerous? There are many cars on the road at high speed. You rely on a pair of feet, don’t you worry about hitting by the car?”

Of cause it is a concern. I have been riding more than 10,000 km so far. Although I have been harassed, insulted and even in danger of car accidents by unreasonable drivers several times, I am glad that there have been no traffic accidents. Although most motorists will treat each other with courtesy, occasionally there will be news of someone being hit by a reckless driver.

Indeed, the cyclists are relatively disadvantaged, because most of them will not install a camera, and cannot record the bullying behaviour that happens from time to time. When the driver slammed on the accelerator, the cyclist couldn’t catch up, let alone record the licensee’s license plate and report it to the authorities.

On the contrary, almost all cars now install the camera in front of and behind the car, thus greatly increasing the probability of their inclusion and uploading of video. Although there are “black sheep” amongst cyclists, based on the disparity between the motorists and cyclists, it is easy to cause the illusion that “the bicycle rider often violates the rules”, making many law-abiding cyclists innocently affected, being regarded as “lawbreaker” by some extreme drivers.

This inequality is invisible to non-cyclists because as a weak and a few bicycle riders, the voice will often be overwhelmed by the majority of non-cyclists. Regrettably, this majority group also includes decision makers who make regulations.

We’ve heard many disputes between bicycle riders and car drivers. Those who have not caused accidents and casualties may also go to court. In the Internet age, because of the aforementioned reasons, the prejudice against the cyclists, as a minority group, can easily become the target of public attack.

For example, regarding the requirement that the cyclists must ride on the left edge of the road, it is easy to become too generalise, and all the cyclists who are not riding on the left edge are regarded as illegal. 
Since the rules are dead, traffic conditions are dynamic. Under what circumstances is it considered to be “obstructing traffic”? If it is during non-peak hours, traffic is smooth and there are no heavy traffic on the road, there are two or more lanes for drivers to overtake. Does the bicycle rider still have to keep the rules of “only on the far left side of the road”?

For safety reasons, if you force the cyclists to ride only on the far left side of the road, it not only reducing the visibility of the cyclists on the road, it will also cause the cyclists to enter the blind spots of those motorists turning into the left.

Many people don’t know that when a heavy vehicle passes a bicycle rider at a high speed (within the same lane), the impulse may cause the rider to lose balance and steer to the roadside curb, or fall into the drain. Therefore, such a rigid regulation sometimes indirectly increases the probability of a traffic accident.

Regrettably, some netizens who hate the cyclists seem to believe that the road should give the priority to four-wheelers (because they pay the most road tax), insist that they have the absolute right of way, and that if “violators” (referring to the cyclists) get into accident with cars, it is their own fault.

As a shared infrastructure, every road user (including pedestrians), regardless of whether or not there is a road tax, should have equal rights to use the road. Since the four-wheeled vehicle has the largest volume, the fastest speed, and the strongest lethality, it is better to give other road users a courtesy than to treat other people as second-class citizens.

It is very unhealthy to use “road tax” to determine road rights. It also shows that the local road culture needs to be improved. 
Frequent revision of more stringent regulations targeted at the cyclists clearly is not a cure.

Instead of being entangled in who is right and who is wrong, whoever has the right to pass, decision makers and road users may have to explore how to cultivate a road culture that allows everyone to respect each other and give priority to safety.
————– End —————–

Dangerous overtake by lorry

Post by Raymond Khoo 09-01-2019

Has recent bias media coverage encourage drivers to deliberately try to kill people?”

This can be a “Visible education on how the driver should behave around other vulnerable road users such as cyclist and motorcyclist should be seen more often or promoted through safety campaign. The vague signage such as “beware of cyclist” and poorly design safety advert can be easily misinterpreted by road users.

Typical drivers give sufficient space. I really appreciate they do that with graciousness and patience. However, this sufficient space can be 1.5m, 1m or can be 50 or 30cm depending on the driver. Personally, I feel at least 1m distance away from the edge of my handlebar is safe. And occasionally very dangerously they decide to show you who is boss, pushing you off the road. 

When you meet them down the road, nicely tell them it is dangerous for them to do that, you always get stupid excuse.. you got no mirror, you never pay road tax, you think you motorcycle, I never hit you what. So it is kinda pointless to point out their wrong doing or unsafe behavior.

This is unacceptable, and the law should be set in place to protect normal road users.

I believe majority of cyclist here just want to cycle safely and are not targeting any Strava record and want to get home safe to family and friends.

Another aspect of this, from my observation and experience over the years riding, drivers tend bully single / lone rider more often than larger cyclist group either due to cyclists road presence or it is psychologically harder to bully a bigger group.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/lovecyclingsg/permalink/2088402064550464/

Long vehicle is a death trap

Sometimes cyclists blame the lorry driver for a dangerous act but instead, it can be totally unintentional. One example is to do with the long vehicles. Long vehicles such as buses, heavy goods vehicles or container trucks are very dangerous for cyclists. As cyclists, we should try to stay away from these long vehicles as much as possible.

The driver of a long vehicle has a lot of blind spots to take care of, it is not easy for him/her to detect all of their surroundings. When long vehicles make a turn, the front truck has to make a wide turn and the rear trailer will get very close or even hitting the curb. A cyclist riding next to such long vehicle can be easily trapped in a “death zone” when the truck is making a turn. The driver would not even notice until it is too late. Here is a short animation showing how this can happen within a couple of seconds:

Cyclist hit by left turning trailer

Next time if you see a long vehicle approaching a junction, better stay back and wait for it to clear before proceeding as in the video below. It can save your life.

Cyclist wait for the trailer to clear the turn before proceeding

How do motorists and cyclists misunderstand each other (2)?

Continuing from the first article, this second part is to illustrate another misunderstanding – cyclists riding two abreast.

Many motorists consider cyclists riding two abreast as “selfishly blocking the whole lane”. Some of us cyclists are drivers too and we do understand it can be frustrating to follow a group of cyclist. However, there must be a reason why the RTA (Road Traffic Act) allows cyclists to ride two abreast. In fact, there is a very good reason, and it is not only safer for the cyclist but is also more convenient for the motorist.

Consider the following scenario, a car sharing a traffic lane with 4 cyclists travelling as a group. If the 4 cyclists are riding in single file, it is tempting for a driver to overtake within the same lane even though this is not the right way to do. Trying to “squeeze” to overtake within the same lane is dangerous because the driver may need to inch out of the lane and risk impact with cars coming from behind on the second lane. Furthermore, it will take a longer time and distance for them to clear the whole group of cyclists. Finally, if the driver wants to make a left turn, he would have to stop and wait until all 4 cyclists cleared the junction completely. During the waiting period, he may block the traffic behind and may miss the last one or two cyclists and “left hook” them.

Here is a short animation showing four cyclists riding in a single file can cause longer delay before a car can make a left turn.

4 cyclists in single file, car follow behind before turning left

4 cyclists in single file, car follow behind before turning left?

Sometimes an impatient driver may try to overtake the group of cyclist, but he would be blocked by the row of moving cyclists and worst, he had to come to a total stop and blocking the traffic. The car still need to wait for the whole row of cyclists to clear before making the left turn.

4 cyclists in single file
4 cyclists in single file blocking a car from turning left

Alternatively, the two abreast riding formation makes it a lot easier for the same red car driver to proceed without any stopping moment. The driver will feel more relaxed as he won’t have to worry about cyclists coming from behind in his blind spot. Simply slow down, follow the group of cyclists for a short while, let them all clear the junction and the driver can make a safe left turn.

cycling 2 abreast
it is easier for driver to follow cyclists riding two abreast

Some people may feel riding two abreast is “blocking the traffic” and therefore it is prohibited. This is not true. As long as the cyclists keep to the left lane, faster vehicles can change to the next lane and overtake on their right. This scenario is no different to fast vehicle overtake another slower vehicle.

To make it more clear, below is a demonstration of a group of cyclists occupying all the lanes and blocking the traffic. This is clearly not the way to go and is indeed prohibited by Road Traffic Rules.

Hopefully, this short article helps to dissolve another misunderstanding between cyclists and motorists. Next time when you see cyclists riding two abreast taking up the whole lane, thank them for being considerate instead of getting angry 

How do motorists and cyclists misunderstand each other (1)?

Cyclist riding too close and hit by left-turning car

How do motorists and cyclists misunderstand each other? (1)

When cyclists and motorists share the road, it is important for both parties to be considerate to each other. The cyclist, being the slower mover, should try not to obstruct traffic, provided it is safe and practical to do so. On the other hand, being the operator of a powerful and potentially deadly machine, the driver must allow extra safety space when they approach vulnerable cyclists. Courtesy should be common sense, but when a cyclist’s action is misunderstood by a motorist, it may lead to anger and even reckless behaviour, as in the recent altercation between the lorry and the cyclist. (At the start of the video, it seemed like the lorry tailgated very close and tried to squeeze past the cyclist dangerously. Then the cyclist seemed to be provoked, didn’t want to give way while waiting at the traffic light, and later smashed the side mirror of the lorry. In the end, the lorry swung toward the cyclist and pushed him onto the grass verge.)

Cycling in Singapore roads is challenging. Cycling with fast-moving traffic requires an awareness of the traffic situation, adapting bicycle handling skills, and confidence to ride in a stable and predictable manner.

Most of the time, the safest position for a single cyclist is near the left side of the road, as recommended by the Road Traffic Act (RTA).

Road Traffic Act (Bicycle) Rules 8.  A person who rides a bicycle, power-assisted bicycle, trishaw or tricycle on a road must ride the bicycle, power-assisted bicycle, trishaw or tricycle as near as practicable to the far left edge of the road.

However, sometimes it is neither practical nor safe to remain in the leftmost position. Below are a few examples:

1- Going straight at an intersection:
Before approaching an intersection, it is safer for a cyclist to ride near the centre of the lane if he/she wants to go straight. This helps to prevent left turning car from dangerously overtaking and cutting in front of the cyclist (Left-hook).

Here is a short animation showing a cyclist riding too close to the curb and hit by a left-turning car.

Cyclist riding too close and hit by left-turning car
Cyclist riding too close to the curb and hit by left-turning car

To prevent left-hook accidents, experienced cyclists will “take the lane” by riding near the centre. This positioning temperately prevents the motorist from overtaking within the same lane. A left turning car will be forced to slow down behind the cyclist. Once the cyclist has cleared the junction, the motorist can make the left turn safely. The cyclist will then shift back toward the left after crossing the junction. This is shown in the animation below.

Cyclist riding at centre of lane prevented left-hooked by turning cars.
Cyclist riding at centre of lane prevented left-hooked by turning cars.

2- Going straight next to dedicated left-turning lane:
If a cyclist needs to go straight but the leftmost lane is reserved for left-turning, he/she will have to take the next lane which is going straight. This would appear to the drivers as “cycling in the middle of the road”.

3- Where the edge of the road is not well paved:
It is safer to stay away from the double yellow lines on the left to avoid sudden potholes or uneven metal grilling. Bicycle wheels are thin and light, and even a small protrusion can send the cyclist flying.

Typically, fast cyclists (>25 km/h) prefer using the centre of the lane in order to secure a bigger safety buffer. Slow cyclists (<15km/h) normally stay nearer to the double yellow lines to avoid obstructing the traffic or from being hit from behind.

I hope this short article helps to clarify some misunderstanding. Next time if you see a cyclists not riding at the left edge of the road, it may be due to one of the above situation. Allow him some slack and just relax.

Likewise, I believe there are cases when cyclist misread the intention of a driver, becomes upset, angry and even reckless as shown in this recent case above, which is totally unnecessary.

If given a second chance, I’m sure both the lorry driver and the cyclist would slow down and to give way to each other, rather than wasting time with the insurance agent, lawyer, the police, repair mechanic and doctor in the hospital.

In the end, what we all want is simply to go home safe, isn’t it.

Part 2, why cyclists riding two abreast blocking the whole lane?

Legalise pedestrian priority on footpath

By Francis Chu, Ex-member of AMAP

Archive / Generic – A man seen dismount and push his e-scooter while using the pedestrian crossing along Bishan Street 11 on March 6, 2018. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

Legalise pedestrian priority on footpath

When government legalised cycling and riding PMD on pavement, they should simultaneously give legal priority to pedestrians on the same pathway.  After all, pavement or footpath were originally designed for walking. Cyclists and PMD riders are essentially a “guest”, borrowing the path from the pedestrians, to avoid the danger on road.

Ambiguity (of the right of way on pavement) caused confusion, and that increases the chances of accidents. 
If all riders simply give ways to pedestrians, chances of accidents will be drastically reduced.                 – Francis Chu  2018-12-17


Over the last few years, due to the lack of clear priority for pedestrians, some selfish (fast) riders feel that they have equal right and demand pedestrians to give way. Such mindset is the root cause of many unnecessary accidents. 
I agree with the readers of TODAY newspaper (2018-12-17), that “registration of e-scooters and penalties are not enough as safeguards for pedestrian safety”


We need to establish clarity in law that pedestrians has the priority on pavement and walkway. In cases of any accident between device rider and pedestrian, the rider has to face the legal consequence, unless he/she can prove the accident is totally not caused by him/her.

https://www.todayonline.com/voices/registration-e-scooters-and-penalties-not-enough-safeguards-pedestrian-safety

Allow PMD riders to use the road

Another useful idea to improve safety of pedestrian is to allow PMD riders to have the flexibility to use the road when it is safe, just as cyclists do.  The current rules disallow PMD to ride on all roads even when there is no traffic. This is effectively forcing the (PMD) danger on pedestrians unnecessary. This is illogical especially when considering some PMD looks and ride exactly like a eBike, and eBike has to use the road!

Who should give way at Pedestrian crossing?

Who should give way at the Pedestrian crossing? The driver or the pedestrian?
I’m not joking, this is a genuine question.

20 years ago when I first came to Singapore, it was very clear-cut. At zebra crossing the pedestrian is king. Motorists would slow down and give way to people who is crossing or prepare to cross. However, over the years, the protection offered by the pedestrian crossing seems deteriorated.  You are now STRONGLY ADVISED to STOP and check, to make sure the cars have stopped before crossing.

On the other hand, some drivers are showing little respect to pedestrian crossing. e.g.

  • It is common to see cars encroach and block the zebra crossing.
  • At traffic intersection, impatient drivers cut in between crossing pedestrians to make a right turn.


Some drivers drive through as people waiting at zebra crossing.    video credit: Boonchun

Such disrespect to the pedestrian crossing may have been “legitimised” by a recent communication from LTA.

Stop before crossing zebra

Given the deteriorated driving culture, the first part of the message is not wrong. Couple with the graphical images it almost sound like a death threat.

Taking simple precautions while riding your devices in public can help save lives. Riders, stay safe on the road by sparing a few seconds to stop and check that it is safe before crossing.

However, the second part of the message is worrying:

Motorist can also play a part in exercising patience, slowing down and looking out for pedestrians, cyclists and PMD riders at crossings before driving.

This make it sounds as if the driver’s part is optional. Is this a reflection of the reality, or does LTA really believe the driver should not play the dominant role in road safety?

Famous local blogger Mr. Brown posted in FaceBook yesterday:

This is why drivers often almost kill pedestrians at zebra crossings. The Land Transport Authority tells pedestrians to “Stop. Look. Cross.” while telling drivers they can just “Slow. Check. Drive.”

When in reality, the onus should be on drivers to “Slow the Heck Down. Stop. Look. Look Again. Then Drive.”

……..

Of course we are responsible for our personal safety, and we must teach our kids things like don’t look at their phones while crossing roads, and so on. But the law must always protect the weaker users first. The hammer must always come down harder on the person wielding the vehicle that can kill.

……

Van almost hit student at zebra crossing.

The recent episodes remind me of a controversial case in 2015.

Pedestrians with right of way ‘must still share responsibility’

Is crossing at green man really safe? Or jaywalk safer?

Even if the lights are in their favour, pedestrians still have to check for oncoming traffic.

This was held in a rare 2-1 Court of Appeal decision in which the Chief Justice dissented.

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice Quentin Loh, who were in the majority, explained their reasoning by highlighting a Highway Code rule that requires pedestrians to be on the alert.

“Pedestrians should take charge of their own safety,” the court said in judgment grounds issued on Thursday, and decided the injured victim in the case before it was 15 per cent to blame despite having the right of way.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who wrote a separate view explaining his objections, said the ruling means

“that pedestrians will no longer be able to take comfort in the fact that they are crossing at a point controlled by a police officer or by traffic lights”.

“They will have to safeguard themselves in precisely the same manner in such circumstances as if they were jaywalking.”

Indeed, if the rule of law is so powerless, what’s the meaning of traffic rules and priority?

I’m not expert in law, but since young, my mother told me “must follow the law” because only bad guy breaks the law. As a layman, I understand the law is a clear reference to judge what is right or wrong.

One of the recent Active Mobility Advisory Panel recommendation is to introduce mandatory stop for cyclists and PMD users before they cross a pedestrian crossing, while drivers were only strongly encouraged to slow down and check.

I have difficulty to understand, why this new law stress that people who need to cross the road MUST STOP and check in order to protect themselves, while the driver, who can get others hurt, were only encouraged to SLOW down, check and drive? 

What if there is no car in sight and I just run/cycle/scoot across the zebra without stopping, will I break the law?

What if a driver “SLOW” down from 50kph to 49kph and dash across the zebra while people waiting to cross, is that OK?

Such statement in law send a conflicting and dangerous message to the average driver and which may legitimise an aggressive driving culture.

A Unique Helmet Law (MHL) for Singapore

Mandating helmet wearing alone does not prevent accidents on the road, yet it comes with side-effects that can have a negative impact on cycling promotion and is likely to hamper the government’s Car-lite initiative.

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

______________________________________________

Ideas that help to refine the Mandatory Helmet Law:

  • Mandate helmet wearing for those riding fast on roads (40 km/h).
  • Exempt the cyclists going below 40 km/h from the MHL. Slow cyclists may choose to wear or not to wear helmet depends on their trips.
  • In addition, enhance education targeted at young cyclists.

______________________________________________

On August 2018, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) recommended the “Mandatory Helmet Law” for cycling on road. On September 3rd, the recommendation was subsequently accepted by the Minister of Transport.

Helmet wearing and Helmet laws are hot topics in any cycling forum. There is a heated debate with strong opinions on both sides. There is no dispute that a helmet may save a life in an accident. However, a helmet is only a personal protective device, it is not an accident prevention device. The best helmet cannot prevent accidents from happening. 

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 have a negative effect on cycling promotion and is likely to hamper the government’s Car-lite initiative.

For helmet wearing, there is a significant difference between “Advice”, and “Mandating by law”.

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. Since the cyclist is the best person to determine if his/her proficiency, route character, timing etc require him to wear a helmet or not.

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, less obvious, yet there are numerous bicycle users in all parts of Singapore riding a bicycle or share bikes without a helmet every day. 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, more convenient or the pavement is not available.

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 line with the government’s Car-lite initiative, 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 the negative impact on the majority of the “Slow cyclists” 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 only. Instead, it is more due to some 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) as well as bicycle-unfriendly road design. The helmet issue distracts the public and policy maker from the real solutions we need to implement to prevent accidents from happening.
  2. Lack of data support: Cycling on road is not new. We should have local accident data to support mandatory helmet wearing. So far, there is no strong evidence showing “on-road, non-helmeted cyclists receiving head injuries is a big issue.” Excluding the helmeted eBikes and Sports cyclists, the total number of cyclists involved in road accidents is fairly low.
  3. International benchmark: out of 195 countries, Australia and NewZealand are the only two countries to have countrywide Mandatory Helmet Law. Research supporting MHL, published in 2016, which reviewed 40 studies worldwide covering 64,000 injured cyclists, found that helmets can reduce the chances of serious head injury by almost 70 per cent and fatal head injury by 65 per cent. However, while helmet is useful for personal protection, it cannot prevent accidents, both Australia and NewZealand are suffering from high cyclist fatality rate on roads as well as low bicycle usage. On the other hand, countries with highest bicycle usage and good safety records all don’t have MHL. These countries are famous for their bicycle friendly infrastructure, such as The Netherlands and Denmark, or good driving and cycling etiquette such as Japan and Taiwan.
  4. Share bike: Share bike has quickly become an important mode of transport which enhance the Car-lite initiative. In many areas, such as Joo Chiat and Sembawang, the cycling/walkway network is limited. In such area, most share bike users need to ride on the road. Imposing the MHL means that share bikers will have to carry a helmet all the time just in case they may need to use the Share bike at some point of their journey. MHL may also increase the cost and complexity for the bike share operators if they are forced to provide fitting helmets for their riders. Sizes, hygiene and availability of helmets at the points of needs is a huge logistic challenge and may cause the share bike operation not viable.
  5. Slow cyclistThe vast majority of local bicycle users are slow cyclists, such as the “uncles” riding to a nearby market for a “kopi” or a mother bringing her kids to school. For safety reasons, 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 partially along their usual trips. This is due to disconnections between walkways, PCN and shared paths. The MHL would force them to carry a helmet for their daily trip, which will add a burden to their choice of a bicycle as a mode of transport.
  6. Reckless youngsters: There are a number of young riders who cycle 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.
  7. Sport 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 racing along Mandai Road, Upper Thomson Road, or Tanah Merah Coast road. MHL will be very suitable for this group of fast, on-road cyclists. They are fast, as fast as a motorcyclist or cars and likely to suffer similar injury impact as motorcyclist going at similar speed.

Suggest to refine the Mandatory Helmet Law: 

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 enhance the safety of 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:

  • Mandate helmet wearing for the cyclists riding fast on roads (40 km/h).
  • Exempt the cyclists going below 40 km/h from the MHL. Slow cyclists may choose to wear or not to wear helmet depends on their trips.
  • In addition, enhance education targeted at young cyclists.

In terms of enforcement resources, it is easy to spot a cyclist going very fast on road verse a slow cyclist, therefore enforcement of the MHL would not be overly complicated.

Besides MHL, to promote a Car-lite Singapore, there is a lot that can be done to improve the safety of road cycling effectively, such as:

    • 40km/h CBD and residential area (e.g. Silver zone)
    • “Slow lane” road system (as in Taiwan)
    • 1.5 meters passing rule
    • Mandatory stop before STOP LINE for drivers

Educate the lorry drivers

Refreshment courses for driving instructors

Fundamentally, I believe in the Car-lite vision. Road safety and cyclist’s safety can be improved by coherent policies, which support health, the environment, and personal choice.