Clear rules needed for cyclists, pedestrians to share space safely

Last Friday's report ("Rash cyclist: DPP to ask for shorter jail term") is a wake-up call on the danger that cyclists pose when riding in places designed and meant for pedestrians, such as pedestrian walkways, shop-front spaces in HDB and non-HDB precincts, pedestrian malls, parks, void decks, town centres and bus stops.

I have written several letters to the Forum page, highlighting the danger of cyclists riding in places meant for pedestrians ("Put cyclists on the right track"; July 21, 2012, and "Root out reckless cycling habits"; Sept 16, 2013, and "Problem of cycling on walkways has worsened"; April 23, 2014, and "Rein in dangerous cycling habits"; Aug 28, 2014; both published in Forum Online).

Many readers have also written in on this matter.

I advocated various measures which the authorities could adopt, including a nationwide campaign to raise the awareness of proper and safe cycling behaviour, educating students on proper cycling etiquette, increasing police patrols to nab errant cyclists, and meting out severe penalties on errant cyclists.

If cyclists are allowed to share road pavements with pedestrians - given the absence of bicycle lanes and the danger of riding on roads - there must be clear rules for sharing the common space, so that both pedestrians and cyclists understand their respective responsibilities in ensuring safety for all.

Although I am disappointed with the court's reduction of the jail term for the rash cyclist from eight weeks to three weeks ("Prosecution succeeds in getting cyclist's jail term cut"; last Saturday), there is a need to look at the big picture, that being: What happens after this?

Do we wait for yet another accident in order to punish the offender?

Or do we implement measures to prevent future accidents?

Now is the time for the authorities to expedite measures to ensure the safety of pedestrians, especially the elderly, as their population is increasing and we need to make common spaces safe for them.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'Clear rules needed for cyclists, pedestrians to share space safely'. Print Edition | Subscribe