Does AMAP need to review its process?

The Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) was formed in 2015 and specifically tasked to come up with regulations/guidelines to facilitate the safe sharing of public pathways. I was very excited to be invited as one of the founding members.

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.

Inaccurate rules lead to dangerous pathways

However, the proposed rules are not “accurate” enough to address safety issues.  Within three years, reported accidents shot up 12 folds from 19 to 225 cases on off-road paths. The root cause of these accidents is irresponsible riding, such as speeding while overtaking.

One example of the “inaccurate rules” is the new speed limit of 10 km/h on the pavement. 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 an accurate solution. The accurate rule should demand (bicycle and PMD) riders to give way to pedestrian unconditionally. If necessary, slow down or stop to make sure both are safe. This is because riding on share path mixing with pedestrians require dynamic skill, you may 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.

IMHO, in 2016, legalising bicycle and PMD riding on the sidewalk should have come with legal protection for pedestrians. In exchange the privilege of riding on pavement, riders must respect the safety of pedestrians, slow down and give way. Unfortunately, the AMAP rules didn’t include giving pedestrian priority on footpath nor shared paths.

After 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 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 unrealistic slow speed on many empty paths.

Above is only one example of several inaccurate rules. A few other examples are:

  • Disallow PMD on footpaths /PCN, while allowing eBike and bicycle on road. This means time-stressed PMD riders have not other options.
  • Mandating cyclists and pedestrians to stop before the pedestrian crossing but not demanding the same on drivers, likely to encourage more dangerous driving dashing across ped-crossing. And the latest,
  • introducing a “Code of conduct” for walking on footpath and PCN, that is likely to shift more blames to pedestrians in any accidents.

There must be a good reason why the panel keeps coming up with inaccurate rules. One reason I guess is that most members are driving or taking public transport. They are not using a bicycle nor PMD on the pavement as a daily commuting tool. Therefore their perceived problems and solutions can be far from reality.

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