All bicycles used on S'pore public paths, roads will soon be required to have brakes

Safety concerns from the use of brakeless bicycles arose following a fatal accident last year.
Safety concerns from the use of brakeless bicycles arose following a fatal accident last year.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - All bicycles used on public paths and roads must soon have at least one functioning handbrake after the Government accepted a proposal to mandate such a move.

Safety concerns from the use of brakeless bicycles arose following a fatal accident last year.

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement on Monday (Jan 25) that the proposal mooted by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) was welcomed by the active mobility community, retailers and pedestrians.

"We will work closely with the panel to implement it. More details will be announced in due course," the ministry said.

The new rule will affect fixed-gear bicycles, also known as fixies, which generally do not have hand-operated brakes but instead rely on the rider's pedal resistance to stop.

Such brakeless bicycles came under scrutiny last year when a 13-year-old novice cyclist fell to her death after she collided with a metal railing in a multi-storey carpark in Pasir Ris.

The girl was riding her friend's fixed-gear bicycle down a ramp and was unable to stop it.

Citing the case in its submissions to the MOT in December last year, AMAP said inexperienced cyclists may find it challenging to stop fixed-gear bicycles effectively.

"Although these bicycles could have handbrakes installed, owners tended not to do so, as it would be perceived as cooler, and had lower maintenance costs," it added.

Mr Ethan Tan, 34, owner of bicycle shop Fixie Singapore, said some customers have asked about installing handbrakes on their fixed-gear bicycles after reports came out on the panel’s proposal.

Previously, some riders would even dismantle the brakes of fixie bikes that came with one, he added. 

Mr Tan reckons the new rule could bring in more business as fixed-gear bikes with handbrakes have more parts that need maintenance or repair, if riders hang on to them.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said the regulation of brakeless bicycles is a timely and necessary move, noting that interest in and the use of such devices has grown recently.

"I am heartened to know that many in the active mobility community, pedestrians and retailers welcomed this move. Our paths and roads will be safer," she wrote.

The proposal comes as part of the AMAP's latest review of the active mobility scene in Singapore, the fourth since the panel was set up in 2015.

The new rule will also affect off-road BMX bicycles, which are used for racing and stunt riding.

In its December report, AMAP also urged the Government not to introduce requirements for third-party liability insurance for non-commercial active mobility device users until such insurance products are affordable and easily available.

Third-party liability insurance was made mandatory for active mobility device users who ride for businesses or commercial reasons last month.

MOT said on Monday that it agreed with AMAP's assessment on the need to monitor the effectiveness of the measure and to engage the insurance industry to develop more accessible and affordable products.

Dr Khor posted on Facebook: "MOT will continue discussions with AMAP and the industry on this aspect and how best to proceed."

She added: "The safety of all active mobility riders and public path users is paramount, we will continue to do what is needed to create and foster a safe riding environment in Singapore."

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who chairs the AMAP, said on Monday that the move to mandate at least one handbrake was an improvement on the status quo.

On third-party liability insurance for non-commercial riders, Assoc Prof Faishal, who is also Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, said the issue was an important and intricate one.

“Such a regulation will impact many Singaporeans like the elderly, families and children who ride for leisure... We need to look at the trade-offs carefully, without losing ground on our push for active mobility,” he wrote on Facebook.