Bicycles without brakes should be banned from roads and footpaths, says advisory panel

The panel said the minimum brake requirement would improve safety for both riders and path users.
The panel said the minimum brake requirement would improve safety for both riders and path users.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Bicycles without a functioning handbrake should be banned from footpaths and roads, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) said on Wednesday (Dec 30).

If accepted, this proposed rule will affect fixed-gear bicycles, which generally do not have hand-operated brakes but instead rely on the rider's pedal resistance to stop.

It will also affect bicycle motocross (BMX) bicycles, which are off-road sport bicycles used for racing and stunt riding.

The panel submitted its recommendation on the issue to the Ministry of Transport on Wednesday.

In its report, AMAP said: "After consulting technical experts, studying other jurisdictions' experience, and engaging various stakeholders, the panel recommends that there should be a minimum brake requirement for all bicycles used on public paths and roads."

It said this would improve safety for both riders and path users.

The panel said fixed-gear bicycles, known as fixies, are mainly used for recreational cycling or for track cycling. It said inexperienced cyclists may find it challenging to stop fixed-gear bicycles effectively.

Such bicycles came under public scrutiny in January this year.

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. She was riding her friend's fixed-gear bicycle down a ramp.

AMAP noted that the accident happened because the girl was unable to stop the bicycle.

It added: "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."

The carpark at Blk 526A Pasir Ris Street 51 where a girl is believed to have fallen to her death on Jan 8. PHOTO: ST FILE

With the proposed new rule, all users of fixed-gear bicycles must install at least one handbrake to use the devices on paths and roads.

On BMX bicycles, the panel said it found they were typically used in controlled environments such as cycling parks and were generally not used for commutes.

Cyclists who use them within such controlled environments will be able to continue doing so. But they will have to install at least one brake if they want to use the bicycle on paths and roads.

AMAP added: "The panel will also work closely with the Government to monitor whether the current practice of conventional bicycles being equipped with two handbrakes would change with the new regulation, and take further action if needed."

The panel also recommended in its report that regulations on third-party liability insurance (TPLI) should not be imposed on non-commercial users at this point.

It said mandating the insurance would impact all active mobility users, including infrequent users.

"Before introducing any new TPLI requirements on non-commercial users, TPLI products should be affordable and easily available," said AMAP.

"The current high cost of TPLI, especially when compared to the cost of active mobility devices, will deter many non-commercial users from taking up active mobility modes."

It said it will continue to study the issue and work with the insurance industry to develop affordable third-party liability insurance for non-commercial riders.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who chairs the AMAP, said in a Facebook post that the panel will also monitor the effectiveness of the mandatory third-party liability insurance for commercial active mobility device users.

He added: "Even as we strive to keep our rules and guidelines relevant, we are conscious of the impact changes can have on our active mobility community."