Why It Matters

Finding balance in sharing space

Last week's court hearing of a cyclist who collided with an elderly pedestrian is significant in more than one way.

While it was the first time a cyclist was jailed for knocking down a pedestrian on the pavement, the incident also raised the question of whether more will be done to safeguard pedestrian interests.

The case involved Lim Choon Teck, 35, who knocked down Madam Chng Kian, 69, and left her with upper arm and wrist fractures while cycling on a pavement in Ang Mo Kio in May.

He was jailed for three weeks by the High Court, after an appeal by the public prosecutor to slash the original eight-week term imposed by a district judge earlier this month. Among other things, District Judge Lee-Khoo Poh Choo's decision grounds highlighted the lack of protection or compensation when cyclists collide into pedestrians.

Concerns about cyclists riding on pavements and endangering pedestrians have also been voiced elsewhere. For instance, MPs warned in March that the proliferation of cyclists and others using personal mobility devices could pose a danger to pedestrians. Yet, most would not begrudge the occasional sight of a parent taking her child to a nearby school on a bicycle via the pavement, given safety concerns about cycling on the roads.

How then should a balance be struck between protecting pedestrians' and cyclists' interests?

In Britain, the feedback of a pedestrian association started almost a century ago helped shape road traffic rules. In this context, the Land Transport Authority's recent move to hold a consultation exercise on rules for the use of personal mobility devices and how common spaces like footpaths and pavements are to be shared is timely. Also, there is the Singapore Road Safety Council's current move to seek consultancy services on how to educate cyclists.

Consultation, education and greater awareness from incidents like Lim's case will strengthen understanding and lead to safer sharing of space between pedestrians and cyclists.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'Finding balance in sharing space WhyItMatters'. Print Edition | Subscribe