Jail and fine for duo behind illegal bicycle races

Zulkifli (far left) and Khoo had admitted to promoting the HolyCrit bicycle races without written approval and conducting it without a permit on Sept 26 and Nov 29 in 2014. The judge said that public safety was compromised during the races.
Zulkifli (left) and Khoo had admitted to promoting the HolyCrit bicycle races without written approval and conducting it without a permit on Sept 26 and Nov 29 in 2014. The judge said that public safety was compromised during the races.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Two men who organised eight editions of a night-time bicycle race without police approval and permits were each jailed for seven days and fined $5,000 yesterday.

Former bike shop owner Eric Khoo Shui Yan, 29, and project manager Zulkifli Awab, 40, had each faced 16 charges. They admitted to four charges - two each of promoting the bicycle race named HolyCrit without written approval and conducting it without a permit along Stadium Drive on Sept 26, 2014, and Tanglin Halt Close on Nov 29 in the same year.

Both had met through their mutual hobby and eventually came up with the idea of organising a series of cycling races for fixed-gear bicycles - bicycles with only one gear and no brakes.

The first race was held in Yishun on Sept 27, 2013.

Each of the races was publicised on Facebook. Race participants would each pay a $10 registration fee to the duo, who would pool the sum to be given to the winner of that day's race.

Zulkifli's lawyer, Mr Shashi Nathan, said neither profited from the events. In fact, they would even be out of pocket as they would use their own money to buy drinks and refreshments for cyclists.

The duo conducted much of the race operations themselves, from the planning of routes to coming up with basic safety regulations.

As they knew the HolyCrit races would be held on public roads, Khoo had made enquiries with the relevant authorities. But when he received no reply, he went ahead with the cycling races without the requisite permits and permission.

The offences came to light when a concerned member of the public called the police at about 11.50pm on Nov 29, 2014 to report the bicycles racing in Tanglin Halt. He said they had tried to cordon off the area and his car had almost hit them.

In her brief oral grounds, District Judge Carol Ling noted a certain level of disregard for the law displayed in holding the races. Public safety was compromised, she said.

"No matter how noble the intentions may have been in organising these races, I find that the accused persons, in choosing to promote and conduct these races without obtaining the requisite permits, had displayed a lack of consideration for other legitimate road users and placed the safety of participants, spectators and other road users at risk," she said.

A Straits Times article on Dec 9, 2014 described several "close shaves" at the time when the races were held. A bystander was reported as saying "there were so many lorries and trucks... and so many times where cyclists almost crashed into them, it was so scary".

The judge said it was "extremely needful" for organisers to get the requisite permits to hold races of this nature in a country with "high road and vehicular density" to effectively manage public road use, address safety concerns and avert any potential dangers inherent in such races taking place on public roads.

While she agreed with the prosecution that general deterrence must be one of the key objectives in sentencing offences of this nature, she disagreed with the defence that a day's imprisonment for each charge of promoting the HolyCrit would be enough.

Khoo's lawyer Josephus Tan said the intention of the races was really to bond the community to promote cycling as an alternative form of transport.

He said the Singapore Cycling Federation has stepped forward to endorse and support future HolyCrit competitions through providing the necessary sponsorship, logistics and permits.

Mr Nathan had said that going forward, his client and Khoo would continue to run the races with licences.

The maximum penalty for promoting any competition or trial of speed is six months' jail and a $2,000 fine. For conducting an event without a permit, the maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine or three months' jail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Jail and fine for duo behind illegal bicycle races'. Print Edition | Subscribe