More cyclists killed or hurt in accidents

A 16-year-old boy managed to get off the bike and escaped with minor injuries in this accident in October 2014. The number of cyclists injured in accidents has gone up by 17 per cent - from 503 in 2014 to 590 last year. In 2013, 436 were hurt.
A 16-year-old boy managed to get off the bike and escaped with minor injuries in this accident in October 2014. The number of cyclists injured in accidents has gone up by 17 per cent - from 503 in 2014 to 590 last year. In 2013, 436 were hurt.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

17 deaths last year; experts point to spike in number of users and lack of education, infrastructure

The number of cyclists hurt or killed in traffic accidents has been rising over the past three years.

Experts blame an increase in the number of cyclists as well as a lack of infrastructure and education to guide them.

Last year, 17 cyclists or their pillion riders were killed in accidents, up from 15 each in 2014 and 2013, according to the latest statistics from the Traffic Police.

The number of cyclists injured in accidents also rose, by 17 per cent from 503 in 2014 to 590 last year. In 2013, 436 were hurt.

The growing population of electric bikes is also a concern.

In Parliament on Monday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a written reply that the number of accidents involving power-assisted bikes increased from six in 2013 to 27 last year.

SPACE CONCERNS

With more people using bikes for commuting or leisure, immediately, you can foresee capacity issues for the park connectors and the pavements.

MR FRANCIS CHU, co-founder of LoveCyclingSG.

Five of those accidents last year were fatal.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has told The Straits Times it will be increasing penalties for those who misuse these bikes.

A panel headed by the LTA is also expected to announce new rules and guidelines soon, to govern the use of such bikes here.

LoveCyclingSG co-founder Francis Chu said: "With more people using bikes for commuting or leisure, immediately, you can foresee capacity issues for the park connectors and the pavements. With more users in the same space, it is hard to avoid conflict."

There are no hard figures on how many cyclists there are in Singapore, but Mr Chu said LoveCycling SG - one of the largest cycling clubs here - has seen its membership more than double since 2013. It now has more than 13,000 members.

A lack of education on safe cycling has also contributed to the rise in accidents involving cyclists.

"We are still seeing cyclists running (traffic) lights," said Mr Steven Lim, president of the Safe Cycling Task Force. "Groups and clubs have a social responsibility to educate their members against behaviour like this."

However, fewer cyclists have been caught for offences such as riding on footpaths or the expressways. Last year, 1,258 were caught by the police for cycling offences, down from 1,305 in 2014 and 1,455 in 2013.

But observers say this does not necessarily show that cyclists are more law-abiding. Statistics could vary depending on how often the police go on enforcement drives.

Rather, Mr Chu and other cycling advocates feel that cycling offences are under-reported.

Earlier this month in Parliament, Mr Khaw said government agencies received about 600 complaints about errant cyclists in 2014, and 800 last year.

Experts say it is natural for accident statistics to rise as the cycling community here grows. Mr Ang Hin Kee, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said there is a need to redesign road infrastructure and traffic islands in housing estates to ensure adequate space for all users to navigate safely.

"The environment has been engineered to smooth traffic flow or allow vehicles to move at a certain speed. But in certain areas where accidents have happened, we may need to change the environment and sacrifice some speed or expediency for safety."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'More cyclists killed or hurt in accidents'. Print Edition | Subscribe