WhyItMatters

Bike-policing unit needs bite

Speedsters, beware: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has rolled out a new enforcement team to crack down on reckless cyclists and personal mobility device (PMD) users on footpaths.

The team was deployed for the first time on Wednesday morning in Woodlands Avenue 7 and patrols will start at other locations around Singapore soon.

The launch of the dedicated team, which will focus solely on policing the pavements and cycling paths, will allay concerns of pedestrians who feel they are being muscled out by bicycles and PMDs.

During the Budget debate in Parliament last month, it was announced that these devices will be allowed on pavements in an effort to both boost the popularity of these active mobility transport modes and reduce the reliance on private cars.

The legislation that will make this official is still pending, but many pedestrians felt it was a controversial move and were very vocal about concerns for their safety. The concerns are justified and should be addressed, so it is encouraging that the LTA is policing the cycling paths and sidewalks here. It has even formed its enforcement team ahead of the legal changes.

Unfortunately, this also leaves its officers in a bit of an unusual situation. As laws are not yet in place, they are unable to take punitive action against recalcitrant riders. The LTA said its officers would not physically stop non-compliant riders and, indeed, on Wednesday, some cyclists did not stop when asked to.

The relevant laws have to be passed soon to give these officers some bite to their bark and bring unruly riders to heel. Together with building infrastructure and education, visible and effective enforcement is a necessary component for active mobility to take off here.

For cyclists and PMD users to take the issue seriously, they need to know there are consequences if they misbehave. This is crucial if the overall effort to encourage cycling and PMD-use for the first and last miles of trips is to work.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'Bike-policing unit needs bite'. Print Edition | Subscribe