Does 10km/h ensure safety on footpaths?

In theory, a 10km/h speed limit will ensure safety on the footpaths. Yes, in theory. However, in practice, this is not the same as the proponents imagine.
There are key challenges to achieve the universal complaint of the 10km/h speed limit:

  • 1- Most riders (e.g. bicycle) don’t carry a reliable speedometer, how are they going to know if they are riding at what speed?
  • 2- How to enforce the speed limit when there are so many riders not knowing their travelling speed everywhere? Is it even possible to enforce 24/7?
  • 3- When an accident happened. What can you do if the rider insists he/she didn’t exceed the speed limit?
  • 4- There were “black sheep” riders who didn’t obey the previous 15 km/h speed limit, why should they follow the new one?
  • 5- On an empty footpath with no one else, it is really necessary to ride at 10 km/h?

In reality, every experienced rider knows, the key factor to ensure pedestrians’ safety is not only the device speed but the person who control the device. For sharing of the footpath/pavement in Singapore, there are 2 difference school of thoughts:

A) 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.
– B) People who are more vulnerable/slower should be given priority.

(A) Equal priority for all path users
In this case, both walker and rider (bicycle and PMD) are given the same priority. In this case, the rider feels all walkers are blocking their way. Therefore many riders are frustrated because they feel entitled to go at the “legal speed” 10km/h on the footpath, but most case can’t due to the slower walkers.
Walker feels at constant risk because they are supposed to look out for riders coming from their back. It is not possible to keep an eye at your back while you are walking.

The result: both groups feel frustrated, the walker group feel endangered, and that is the current situation since 2016 AMAP allowing bicycle and PMD on pavements, without explicitly assigning priority to any group.

(B) Pedestrian given priority over PMD and bicycle
In case (B), the 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.

Safety in practice
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 10km/h speed limit is not a practical solution.
Riding on share path with pedestrians is a dynamic skill, you can go faster when there is 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.

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?