Why It Matters

Cycling on the right track

An expert advisory panel on Thursday submitted a list of recommendations to the Government that, among other things, proposed legalising cycling on footpaths.

If adopted, the change will be a big boost for cycling and cyclists.

At the moment, cycling on the pavement is outlawed in all towns except Tampines - but many cyclists choose to do so anyway because they feel it is safer than riding on the roads. But in doing so they play a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities, who carry out occasional enforcement blitzes, but turn a blind eye most of the time.

It is important that this finally looks to be a thing of the past, as it is silly to penalise cyclists - who include the elderly and children - for choosing not to risk life and limb on the road. Having said that, the safety of pedestrians is also paramount. To that end, the panel has set out codes of conduct that put the rights of these vulnerable parties first.

Cyclists and those on more powerful mobility devices should be responsible, courteous, and give way to pedestrians at all times, it said.

Crucially, their recommendations - if adopted - would legitimise the use of the bicycle on the pavements, and thus give considerable momentum to Singapore's push to forge a cycling culture through its off-road cycling network.

Under the National Cycling Plan, this network will span 700km by 2030. At the moment, we are about halfway there. All this, of course, is part of a larger nationwide effort to go car-lite, and there are promising signs that Singapore is on the right track.

Anecdotal evidence shows that in towns with developed cycling networks such as Tampines and Pasir Ris, the mode share for cycling is much higher than the national average of between 1 and 2 per cent.

With this legitimacy, more infrastructure, as well as rules and guidelines to govern engagement between all users - the ambiguity surrounding who should travel where, and why, is removed.

And in time, many more people may opt for two wheels over four.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Cycling on the right track'. Print Edition | Subscribe