Safety on shared path

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 achieving the universal complaint of the 10km/h speed limit:

  • 1- Most riders (e.g. bicycles) don’t carry a reliable speedometer; how will they know if they are riding at what speed?
  • 2- How to enforce the speed limit when so many riders do not know their travelling speed everywhere? Is it even possible to enforce 24/7?
  • 3- When an accident happens. What can you do if the rider insists they 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 necessary to ride at 10 km/h?

In reality, every experienced rider knows the critical factor in ensuring pedestrians’ safety is keeping a safe distance from them and never approaching them at speed. However, for sharing of the footpath/pavement in Singapore, there are two different schools of thought:

The first school of thought:

Everyone should be given the same right regardless of which device they use, bicycle, PMD or walk. It is fair, and all should share the pathways equally.

In this case, both walker and rider (bicycle and PMD) have the same priority. The rider feels all walkers are blocking their way. Therefore some riders are frustrated because they feel entitled to go at the “legal speed” 10 km/h on the footpath but is blocked by the slower walkers.

Walker feels at constant risk because they are supposed to look out for riders coming from their back. But, unfortunately, keeping an eye on your back while you are walking is impossible.

The result: both groups feel frustrated, and the pedestrians feel endangered. That is the current situation since 2016 AMAP allowed bicycles and PMD on pavements without explicitly assigning priority to the pedestrians nor any laws to protect them.

The second school of thought:

People who are more vulnerable/slower should have priority.

The pedestrian has priority over PMD and bicycle users

The rider must slow down when approaching the pedestrians. 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 initially only for walkers. Therefore, no harm in giving way to walkers.

The walker doesn’t need to worry about riders. Just walk as no riders are intruding on their path. 

If a rider feels unfair, he can dismount and “upgrade” himself to become a walker. Then he has equal rights just as a fellow walker.

The result: harmonious sharing of pathways between the faster group and the slower group because the slower group has 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 good solution.
Riding on share path with pedestrians is a dynamic skill, you may go faster when there is no one around, but you need to slow down or even stop to keep a safe distance, in order to ensure the safety of others.

Safe cycling requires a “pedestrian first” attitude. Riders should respect pedestrians’ safety and right of way, always.
The AMAP law should define “pedestrian priority on the pavement”, and if a dangerous rider violates this rule will have to be fined or even jailed.
Such a “pedestrian first” law will protect vulnerable pedestrians. However, it doesn’t affect the majority of safe riders. Yet, it will have a deterrent effect for those “black sheep” riders.

Read more: Does AMAP need to review it process?