MPs call for helmet use, courses to ensure safe public paths

MPs gave a range of suggestions to boost safety such as mandating third-party insurance, and getting cyclists and PMD users to wear helmets and attend safety courses.
MPs gave a range of suggestions to boost safety such as mandating third-party insurance, and getting cyclists and PMD users to wear helmets and attend safety courses.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Active Mobility Bill passed; LTA to look at speed guns, cameras to boost enforcement

The safety of pedestrians took centre stage in Parliament yesterday as 13 members questioned how this will be guaranteed, with a new law allowing the use of bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMDs) on public paths.

The Active Mobility Bill, which regulates the use of bicycles and PMDs such as e-scooters, was passed yesterday after a debate that lasted 2 ½ hours.

When the new law goes into force later this year, bicycles and PMDs can travel on public paths, together with pedestrians.

MPs gave a range of suggestions to boost safety such as mandating third-party insurance, and getting cyclists and PMD users to wear helmets and attend safety courses.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) told the House that as the use of PMDs proliferate, pathways would get more crowded and "more accidents involving PMDs are bound to happen".

Mr Sitoh, Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) were among MPs who suggested mandating third-party insurance to cover accident claims from victims.

EXPANSION OPTIONS

It will take time, but we will certainly look into expanding the network of cycling paths and widening the pathways and also the options available in private or mature estates.

MRS JOSEPHINE TEO, Senior Minister of State for Transport.

 
 
 

Currently, victims have to file a civil suit in order to claim compensation in the event of an accident. The courts can also decide if compensation should be paid if the offender is convicted.

In response, Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said cyclists and PMD users span a broad demographic, and many of them use these modes as an "affordable means of getting around". Mandating insurance would come at some cost to them.

"Cities with a strong culture of active mobility such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen likewise do not mandate insurance, but instead focus on cultivating safe and responsible behaviours," she said.

Other MPs asked how enforcement efforts would ensure the safe use of bicycles and PMDs.

Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan said people need to understand the importance of riding safely and being considerate. "It will be down to the consistent enforcement efforts of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to make the new regulations work."

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) said a key challenge was to educate the transient foreign worker community about these norms.

Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang), who is coordinating chairman of all 15 People's Action Party (PAP) town councils, said the town councils receive about 200 complaints annually relating to cyclists and PMD users speeding, riding recklessly and parking illegally. Closed-circuit television cameras could be deployed at high-risk locations to deter this, he suggested.

Mrs Teo said LTA currently has a team of 16 active mobility enforcement officers, but will increase the numbers progressively.

The team, supported by over 600 grassroots volunteers, targets "hot spot areas such as near crowded bus stops and traffic junctions". They are also deployed in response to public feedback.

"To complement their efforts, LTA will examine how best to deploy technologies such as speed guns and CCTV cameras," she said.

Several MPs suggested having a compulsory course for PMD users, like how those learning to drive motor vehicles have to pass the Highway Code.

Calling it a "good suggestion", Mrs Teo said the Government would be rolling out a Safe Cycling Programme this year - offenders could be made to attend the course in order to get their offence compounded.

Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked if enough was being done to improve the infrastructure. "Existing pavements are relatively narrow. It is essential that shared paths are neither too narrow nor too steep to ensure safety and ample space for every user."

Mrs Teo said new footpaths will be at least 1.8m wide, up from 1.5m today. For cycling paths, they will be 2m wide for intra-town paths, and 2.5m wide for inter-town routes. "It will take time, but we will certainly look into expanding the network of cycling paths and widening the pathways and also the options available in private or mature estates," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'MPs call for helmet use, courses to ensure safe public paths'. Print Edition | Subscribe