Set clear priority rules for road users

Two cyclists cruising along the Kallang Park Connector on Jul 20, 2013.
Two cyclists cruising along the Kallang Park Connector on Jul 20, 2013. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Despite being a hard-core petrolhead, I accept that there are merits to the proposals to prioritise non-motorised vehicles as the preferred means of transport in urban areas ("Making cars take a back seat in urban commutes"; last Thursday).

I distinguish very clearly between recreational motoring and driving for employment or economic reasons.

The latter activity can usually be better served with a combination of public transport, cycling and walking.

Bicycles and kick-scooters are ideal for taking care of the last-mile connectivity, which is often the biggest problem faced by planners and users of bus- or train-based mass transport systems.

The devil is in the details when it comes to their use.

But because most of the hurdles have their roots in human attitudes, they are not insurmountable.

In Europe and Japan, I have seen cyclists harmoniously share pavements with pedestrians, and roads with motorists.

Here in Singapore, cyclists sound their bells impatiently and charge through bus stops. And Lycra-clad riders race four abreast along narrow roads, refusing to allow cars behind to pass.

The solution begins with education, enforcement and separation.

Before anything else, clear rules of engagement should be drawn up, stating specifically who should have priority where.

For example, in many HDB towns, there are wide pavements running beside most roads, and, parallel to these, narrower walkways by the sides of buildings.

Cyclists should be given priority on the pavements, and pedestrians on the walkways.

A code should also be drawn up for the sharing of space with motor vehicles on the roads.

Rules regarding the carrying of foldable bicycles and scooters on public transport should also be relaxed.

Public education, starting from a very young age, even in kindergarten, must then be carried out to make sure that these rules are universally known.

And there must be enforcement. Although the authorities have consistently resisted calls to require bicycles to have licence plates, they should ensure that action will be taken against recalcitrant cyclists and that there can be recourse for injured parties.

In this way, Singapore will achieve a car-lite, less pollutive environment in urban areas.

Lee Chiu San

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2015, with the headline 'Set clear priority rules for road users'. Print Edition | Subscribe