The Sunday Times says

Safe path towards cycling nation

A proposal to allow bicycles on footpaths should not be seen as a charter for cyclists to pedal as they please. On the contrary, creating cyclist- friendly networks must be bound with the safety- conscious use of all paths.

No pedestrian, particularly the vulnerable, should have to fear the assertion of machines in shared spaces. After all, even on paths reserved for cyclists, common sense would dictate that users look out for one another. Just as cyclists often decry motorists who do not look out for them, so too must they bear in mind the vulnerabilities of pedestrians.

Of course, dedicated cycling lanes would minimise such risks, but providing such infrastructure everywhere would not be possible in land-starved Singapore. Hence the only route towards becoming a cycling nation, akin to the cities of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, is for all to embrace a code of conduct, as recommended by a panel, that puts a higher value on the welfare of others than on arriving expeditiously at a destination. If such a code is observed more in the breach than in the promise, then traffic rules must be enforced vigorously. And if nabbing offenders proves to be somewhat of a cat-and-mouse game, one might have to rely on the deterrent effect of strict liability laws that presume the dominant path user is at fault, barring evidence to the contrary.

Of course, one would not want to get to the point where footpaths are so cumbersome to negotiate that people are put off from cycling. Simple traffic management at busy areas, facilitated perhaps by neighbourhood volunteers and the biking community - and much patience all round - might help people to take turns so all can move efficiently.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 27, 2016, with the headline 'Safe path towards cycling nation'. Print Edition | Subscribe