Cycling community split over mandatory helmet proposal

One of the recommendations made by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel included the compulsory use of helmets when cyclists are travelling on roads. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Most cyclists agree that wearing a helmet is a safer way to ride - but some argue that making the headgear mandatory could deter people from ditching their cars and pedalling to work instead.

The Active Mobility Advisory Panel released a list of recommendations for the Government on Friday (Aug 24) on how cyclists and users of personal mobility devices should behave on footpaths and in crowded areas.

One of these included the compulsory use of helmets when cyclists are travelling on roads.

But some cyclists say this could discourage certain groups of people from taking up cycling as a mode of transport, such as the elderly or bike-sharing users, therefore going against Singapore's goal of becoming a car-lite society.

Mr Woon Tai Woon, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG, said these groups of cyclists usually ride on pavements, but sometimes have to go on roads due to the existing infrastructure. "In this scenario, where does this leave them?" he said.

While he acknowledged that the intentions behind the recommendation are good, it "complicates matters".

"We are trying to advocate cycling for everyone. I think a safety helmet is a good thing, but I don't think it should be mandatory. Surely there are other ways to make cycling safer," added Mr Woon, 44, who gave up driving two years ago.

Mr Woon also noted that in countries such as Australia, a mandatory helmet law has discouraged bicycle use.

Protests were held across Australia in March to oppose the compulsory wearing of helmets, with organisers saying the law has become a barrier to bicycle use.

Member of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, Mr Han Jok Kwang, told The Straits Times that the proposed rule is not meant to discourage people from taking up cycling as a mode but to encourage safety.

"When you're on the road, you're dealing with faster and bigger vehicles. You are not in control of the road condition," said Mr Han, 64, who is also a member of the National Cycling Plan Steering Committee.

He added that the panel does not expect the proposed helmet rule to affect bike-share users significantly, as shared bicycles are typically used on footpaths.

Meanwhile, other cyclists welcomed the helmet proposal.

Manager of bicycle shop Treknology3, Mr Azhar Abdullah, said: "If it is comfortable and lightweight, it can become second nature. If motorcyclists are required to wear helmets on the road, it's only logical that cyclists should too."

Avid cyclist Zac Pow said it is "ridiculous" for cyclists not to wear helmets on the road.

"Wearing a helmet is the minimum," said the 30-year-old sales engineer. "I have many friends whose helmets saved their heads, and they have cracked helmets to tell the story."

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