Trial case highlights errant cyclists, victim seen riding recklessly

Issue raised in court as victim in fatal car collision was seen riding recklessly

A motorist whose car collided with a cyclist at a traffic junction and killed him was fined $1,000 and disqualified from driving for four months in a district court last week.

But while Yap Thien Leong, 40, had pleaded guilty to the less serious charge of driving without due care, the case drew notice to the habit of errant cyclists riding on pavements and pedestrian crossings at traffic junctions, and posing grave risk to life and limb.

Yap had failed to keep a proper lookout when he knocked down Mr S. Muneeshwaran at a traffic junction along Pasir Ris Drive 2 on Dec 17 last year.

Mr Muneeshwaran, 24, who was cycling across the pedestrian crossing despite the green light in Yap's favour, suffered severe internal injuries. The Indian national was taken to Changi General Hospital where he died the next day.

Video footage showed that he was cycling on the road pavement in the same direction as Yap but on the opposite side of the same road. He also rode over the pedestrian crossing at a much higher speed than a pedestrian would have crossed, giving little time for Yap to react.

Yap's lawyer Selva Naidu argued that it has become "a worryingly frequent experience in Singapore to find cyclists riding on pavements meant for pedestrians and riding across a pedestrian crossing. Many seem unaware they should not be riding across the pedestrian crossing".

"The deceased should never have cycled at all on any pedestrian crossing. Pedestrian crossings are for pedestrians, not cyclists," he added.

Mr Naidu suggested that employers of foreign workers who use bicycles had not done enough to educate them in this regard.

According to the Traffic Police, cyclists have to avoid riding on footways and if they use pedestrian crossings, including zebra crossings, they must dismount and push their bicycles across.

Cyclists who flout the rules face fines under the Road Traffic (Bicycles) Rules.

Police figures show a total of 1,290 cyclists were booked last year for various traffic offences, up from the 1,238 summonses issued in 2011.

For the first six months of this year, between three to four cyclists a day were booked based on data supplied in response to Straits Times queries.

Police urged cyclists to follow the rules as their acts give little time for motorists to react.

On its Traffic Police website, police said cyclists must always be alert and never assume that other vehicles will give way to them, even in situations where they do have the "right of way".

In addition, if they are to ride in a rash or negligent manner likely to cause injury or endanger human life, they may face more serious charges under the Penal Code that involve jail terms of up to a year, or be fined up to $5,000, or both.

Police added that cyclists are also a vulnerable group of road users, and road safety is ultimately a shared responsibility for motorists and cyclists.

Earlier this year, three fatal road accidents involving cyclists on three consecutive days put their safety in the spotlight. It is understood they were not at fault.

Mr Steven Lim, president of the Safe Cycling Task Force, a non-profit organisation that promotes the safety and interest of cyclists, expressed optimism then that motorists and cyclists can co-exist on Singapore roads.

"The most important thing is to keep to the rules. When you flout them, you give up the right to be kept safe," he had then said.

vijayan@sph.com.sg