Important to engage people on the ground to boost road safety, says Faishal Ibrahim

Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (in black) and Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay (in white) speaking to cyclists and giving out fliers on safe cycling at East Coast Park yesterday.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (in black) and Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay (in white) speaking to cyclists and giving out fliers on safe cycling at East Coast Park yesterday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

With more people taking up cycling amid the pandemic, being on the ground to engage cyclists and other road and path users on safety has become even more important, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim yesterday.

"Road safety efforts need to be ground-up and have to be continual. When it is ground-up, you work with the community, they own the safety space and they can co-create it," he added.

He was speaking to reporters at East Coast Park during one such effort. With him were Singapore Road Safety Council (SRSC) chairman Bernard Tay, and representatives from Traffic Police and the Land Transport Authority. They spoke to cyclists and gave out fliers with tips on cycling responsibly.

This is part of a series of engagements launched by Dr Faishal in his Nee Soon constituency last month, with various agencies and interest groups collaborating to spread the safety message in different areas.

He said: "It is important for us to continue going to the ground to share repeatedly the importance of (being) gracious and, wherever possible, giving way to others... If we do it across Singapore, I am quite confident it will have some positive impact on our road safety landscape here."

Dr Faishal, who is also chairman of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, added: "The agencies are coming together in a concerted effort to not only come up with policies and regulations, but also really go deeper."

Although Singapore is small, people will be able to enjoy the space there is if safety can be promoted across the board, he said.

His comments come as conflicts between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians have continued to flare up as more people share public paths and roads here.

Mr Tay noted that there have been recent newspaper forum letters about how cyclists and pedestrians in East Coast Park are not giving way to one another. "This can be avoided if everybody's mindsets can be changed," he said. However, he added that changing such habits can take a long time.

"Road safety is a marathon. This is one of the reasons we try to (inculcate) habits at the school level. Start young," Mr Tay said, adding that hopefully, the young ones can also do the same with their parents or grandparents.

While SRSC's efforts to engage the public have been hampered due to Covid-19, it is now tapping social media to conduct outreach.

Ms See Hwee Hwee, 43, who cycles every fortnight, recounted how a friend fell while cycling at night without a helmet and had cuts on her face and nerve damage in her arm.

Ms See, a nurse with two sons aged six and seven, said: "I worry for my children's safety, so I always make sure they wear a helmet (when cycling). It is troublesome but I will wear one too."

Mr Sean Teoh, 29, who is self-employed, said it makes sense to have regulations such as wearing a helmet while on the road and turning on front and rear bicycle lights after dark, which are in the safe cycling flier. "But common sense is not common sometimes," he said.

He said he cycles only on footpaths or park connectors. "Cars can reach a much higher speed. So sharing the same road doesn't make much sense.

"It comes down to whether people are considerate to one another, but I think mindsets take time to change. If we want a solution that makes everybody happy, we need to allocate some space to slower transport modes. Cyclists don't belong on pedestrian paths, and they don't belong on roads either."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2021, with the headline Important to engage people on the ground to boost road safety, says Faishal Ibrahim. Subscribe