Rush to share footpaths a regression of pedestrians' rights

The Ministry of Transport's full acceptance of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel's recommendations signifies a regression of pedestrians' rights on walking spaces ("Bicycles, e-scooters may be allowed on footpaths by year end"; April 13).

Allowing cyclists, riders of personal mobility devices and users of personal mobility aids (PMAs) to travel at 15kmh on our narrow pedestrian paths is favouring riding efficiency over the personal safety and walk quality of pedestrians.

Ironically, the original objective of safe-riding passage is compromised by the risk of multiple collisions.

The elevation of PMA users to the level of riders is disconcerting, as user competence is a significant concern for operators with reduced functional capacity.

The exemption of physical criteria should have been a reason to require that PMA users move at walking pace on pedestrian paths.

The Transport Ministry suggested flexibility in accommodating riders whose speeds exceed the limit by 1kmh to 2kmh.

The kinetic energy produced by a cyclist of 55kg in weight riding a 13kg city bicycle at 15kmh is 31 times that of a senior citizen of the same weight walking at 3kmh. This increases to 35 times at a riding speed of 16kmh and 40 times at 17kmh.

Every single increment in speed variance between users on the same path raises the risk of conflict and aggravates the severity of collisions.

Riding rules for pedestrian paths are minimised and the code of conduct is not legally binding.

Again, consideration for riders seems to take precedence. No filing of police reports is required for crashes that result in injuries.

There are no rules to prohibit riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol, use of handheld devices while riding, carrying of passengers on devices designed for single-person use, use of trailers, cargo being transported in a dangerous manner, and so on.

Targeted enforcement will likely exclude quiet areas with low pedestrian traffic. Such areas include deserted bus stops where speeding cyclists jeopardise the safety of commuters alighting from buses.

The Transport Ministry expects a safe-riding culture to develop over time. In the meantime, pedestrians will have to bear the burden of injuries with little recourse.

The ministry's decision embraces a quantum leap of faith in graciousness in an environment that values efficient journeys, and begins the gradual erosion of pedestrians' basic right to safe walking in public spaces, including public parks.

Pedestrians pay the price to enable the Government to realise its vision of islandwide safe-riding connectivity overnight.

Tan Lay Hoon (Ms)