Does AMAP need to review its process?

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. 

The Formation and Flaws of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel

Established in 2015, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) was entrusted with the critical task of devising regulations and guidelines to facilitate the safe coexistence of various users on public pathways. As one of the founding members, I was initially filled with enthusiasm for the potential positive impact of our work.

Undoubtedly, the legalization of cycling on pavements marked a significant milestone, greatly expanding the utility of bicycles and affording many elderly riders the opportunity to navigate without perilous encounters on roads, all within the confines of the law. It was indeed a monumental leap forward for cycling in Singapore.

However, the initial excitement was soon tempered by the realization that the proposed rules fell short in addressing crucial safety concerns. Within a mere three years, reported accidents skyrocketed by a staggering 12-fold, soaring from a mere 19 to a troubling 225 cases on off-road paths. The primary culprit behind these alarming statistics? Irresponsible riding practices, such as reckless speeding and hazardous overtaking maneuvers.

One glaring example of these “inaccurate rules” is the imposition of a new speed limit of 10 km/h on pavements. While defending this decision in a Facebook post, AMAP member Steven Lim asserted that the only viable options were either a complete ban or a reduction in speed limits. However, this rationale fails to acknowledge the nuanced complexities of the issue at hand.

A fixed speed limit of 10 km/h fails to provide an accurate solution to the inherent challenges of shared pathways. Instead, what is truly needed is a rule that unequivocally mandates bicycle and Personal Mobility Device (PMD) riders to yield to pedestrians without exception. This entails the imperative of slowing down or halting altogether to ensure the safety and well-being of pedestrians. Riding responsibly necessitates adopting a “pedestrian-first” attitude, prioritizing their safety and right of way above all else.

In my humble opinion, the legalization of bicycle and PMD riding on sidewalks in 2016 should have been accompanied by robust legal protections for pedestrians. In exchange for the privilege of riding on pavements, riders must demonstrate unwavering respect for the safety of pedestrians, consistently yielding and slowing down as needed. Regrettably, the AMAP regulations failed to afford pedestrians the priority they deserved on footpaths or shared paths.

Despite numerous accidents and tragic fatalities, the 2018 review of AMAP rules presented an opportunity to rectify this glaring omission. However, with the introduction of new laws, such as the 10 km/h speed limit, pedestrians still find themselves without priority on pavements.

Even today, irresponsible riders involved in accidents can exploit the 10 km/h limit to shift blame onto pedestrians, citing their sudden intrusion into their path. Conversely, responsible riders who conscientiously yield to pedestrians are left questioning whether they are violating the law by exceeding the impractically slow speed limit on deserted paths.

This example merely scratches the surface of several inaccuracies within the rules. Other problematic provisions include the prohibition of PMDs on footpaths and Park Connector Networks (PCNs), while permitting e-bikes and bicycles on roads—a disparity that leaves time-pressed PMD riders with limited alternatives.

Moreover, mandating cyclists and pedestrians to halt at pedestrian crossings without imposing similar requirements on drivers may inadvertently encourage hazardous driving behaviors, endangering pedestrians in the process. Additionally, the introduction of a “Code of Conduct” for walking on footpaths and PCNs risks unfairly shifting blame onto pedestrians in the event of accidents.

One cannot help but question the rationale behind the panel’s recurrent formulation of inaccurate rules. One plausible explanation may lie in the composition of the panel itself, wherein most members rely on driving or public transportation rather than utilizing bicycles or PMDs as daily commuting tools. Consequently, their perceptions of problems and proposed solutions may diverge significantly from reality.

I earnestly hope that AMAP will engage in critical self-reflection to address the shortcomings that have led to the current untenable state of affairs. The ability to introspect is paramount in effecting meaningful progress and ensuring the safety and well-being of all pathway users.

More reflection on AMAP law 2018