Suggestions to better share pavement space

I cycle daily on pavements in Tampines New Town to travel the last stretch of my daily commute, avoiding our dangerous roads while manoeuvring around pedestrians ("Clear rules needed for cyclists, pedestrians to share space safely" by Mr Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan; Tuesday).

While that does not make me an expert, it does give me an idea of how pedestrians, cyclists and users of personal mobility units (PMU) can share our pavements safely.

It requires a combination of a clear, simple, enforceable code of behaviour and a simple cost-effective design solution.

I hope the authorities can consider it.

First, we must do away with simply providing more and more cycling paths as a solution to this problem, especially if we simply place them parallel to and along existing pedestrian paths.

We can see in Tampines, Pasir Ris and East Coast Park that such provisions are invaded daily by both user groups interchangeably, making them pointless.

Second, to make pavement usage clearer, we should revert to the original purpose.

We should reinforce through education and enforce by regulation the idea that "the pedestrian is king" on roadside pavements and park connectors.

Cyclists and PMU users can use these facilities but must recognise pedestrians' greater right to them.

In other words, it should be an offence to shoo pedestrians away with bells and horns.

Instead, other users should either trail or overtake the pedestrians safely.

Third, to make this happen safely and spontaneously, all that is needed is about 40cm of the grass verge on both sides of these pavements to be reinforced with perforated slabs, such as those widely used for surface carpark spaces.

This will make the extension strong enough for bicycles and PMUs to ride on, but uncomfortable for pedestrians, wheelchair users and pram-pushers to invade, thus keeping it free, safe and convenient for overtaking.

In fact, the same system can be adapted to serve as pedestrian-cum-bicycle/PMU crossings at all traffic junctions.

With physical infrastructure that induces safe cycling and walking norms, the rules will be easier to follow and enforce.

Osman Sidek

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Suggestions to better share pavement space'. Print Edition | Subscribe