Ramped-up safety for cycling event

New measures implemented after death of participant last year

IF YOU cycle dangerously at this year's OCBC mass cycling event, be warned that someone will be coming after you.

Twenty skilled and experienced riders will be going around to ensure cyclists pedal safely and do not weave in and out of lanes.

These safe-cycling ambassadors will catch up with errant cyclists and warn them against endangering the lives of others, said event sponsor OCBC Bank's head of group corporate communications Koh Ching Ching.

This is just one of the many new safety measures, estimated to cost about $300,000 in all, to be introduced this year after full-time national serviceman Chia Wee Kiat, 24, died at last year's OCBC Cycle Singapore. Mr Chia sustained serious head injuries in a crash during the 59km Super Challenge event, which has since been scrapped.

His death, the first at the popular cycling event since it started in 2009, had sparked discussions on how to improve safety.

Other new safety measures include reducing the number of participants from last year's record 11,500 to 9,000 this year and bringing in heavier and taller traffic cones from China.

Participants will also be shown a short video on safe cycling before flag-off this year, said Ms Koh. The same video would be sent to participants before the event. Other videos to help participants familiarise themselves with the route will also be created.

Organisers are also looking to deploy more route marshals and paramedics on bicycles or motorbikes.

OCBC is committing more than $1.5 million to sponsor this year's event, which falls on Aug 29 and 30, and will start and end at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Besides $300,000 for the safety measures, $1.2 million will go towards set-up costs, venue rental, manpower costs, activities and stakeholders engagement as a result of road closure, said Ms Koh.

More than 4,000 people have signed up despite not knowing this year's route.

The route is still being worked out, but Ms Koh said she hopes to "introduce some exciting turns and slopes so that the event can be fun". She also urged participants to cycle safely.

"We don't want them to think that it sounds very safe now, therefore, they can do stunts... that will also pose a danger to others," she said.

Safe-cycling advocates had mixed reactions to the measures.

Mr Steven Lim, 48, president of Safe Cycling Task Force, thinks safe-cycling ambassadors are good but doubts cyclists will pay attention to the safe-cycling video shown before flag off.

A video to help familiarise cyclists to the route will be more useful, he said.

Safe-cycling coach Tony Tan, 48, suggests that road marshals be better trained and equipped.

For example, road marshals could use a whistle to better control the crowd and traffic, especially at sections of the route accessible to pedestrians.

"There will definitely be some 'bad apples' who will take this cycle as if they were in a race. The onus is on the participants to practise defensive cycling," said Mr Tan.

"Ride with eyes and ears open, and ride within your capability," he advised.

joycel@sph.com.sg