Fines for errant road cyclists to be doubled, new rule to cap size of cycling groups

The Ministry of Transport has accepted all the recommendations made by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel on measures to improve road safety. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Cyclists caught flouting traffic rules will have to pay a $150 fine from Jan 1 next year, up from $75 now.

The composition fine will apply to those who break existing rules while on the road, including not stopping at red lights, riding abreast of another cyclist on single lane roads and cycling on expressways.

It will also apply under a new rule that caps the size of cycling groups at five cyclists in a single file or 10 cyclists when riding abreast from Jan 1 next year.

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) announced the increased fine on Wednesday (Oct 20), after it accepted all the recommendations made by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel on measures to improve road safety.

In its report submitted to MOT on Oct 1, the panel had said capping cycling groups to a maximum length of five bicycles will ensure the space that they occupy on the roads is similar to that of a bus.

It said the Government should continue allowing cyclists to ride two abreast on roads with two or more lanes, for safety and visibility.

The panel also proposed that the Government not require cyclists to get licensed or to have bicycles registered at this juncture, in spite of calls by some motorists for these stricter rules.

In agreeing with this suggestion, MOT said: "Besides affecting the majority of law-abiding cyclists, there is little evidence from overseas case studies and Singapore's past experience that licensing of cyclists is effective in promoting road safety or deterring errant cyclists.

The panel had made several other recommendations, such as introducing guidelines to get cycling groups to keep a distance of about 30m from one another on roads. It also called for a guideline for motorists to keep a minimum distance of 1.5m when passing cyclists on roads.

In addition, the panel - which was tasked by the Government to look into regulations for on-road cycling after a debate erupted online in April over rule-breaking cyclists - also said cyclists should be strongly encouraged to get third-party liability insurance.

MOT said it will step up enforcement against errant motorists and on-road cyclists.

For more serious cases, a cyclist may be charged in court and fined up to $1,000 as well as jailed for up to three months for the first offence.

Repeat offenders can be fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed for up to six months.

MOT said the Government will continue to partner stakeholders in its public education and outreach efforts, to raise public awareness and enhance clarity of new rules and guidelines.

It cited the example of public transport operators tapping simulations to let bus drivers better understand cyclists on roads.

During a virtual interview on Wednesday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has taken enforcement action against more than 500 cyclists who flouted rules on roads since the start of this year.

Such operations by the traffic police and LTA are carried out at roads that are more heavily used by cyclists. Officers are also deployed to roads flagged by the authorities' surveillance efforts and the public.

On whether introducing only one new rule - on cycling group sizes - would be enough to improve road safety, Mr Chee noted that the lack of compliance is sometimes due to people not being aware.

Introducing more rules would make compliance more difficult, he said. "Because when the rules are too complex... that will not help the outcome."

He said the new rule on group sizes will address a concern brought up by road users about large groups of cyclists, and that the guidelines will give road users more clarity about safe practices.

Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who chairs the panel, is hopeful that the new guidelines will help support the safe growth of active mobility in Singapore.

He said the panel would like to see more public education and outreach efforts to improve awareness about existing rules and guidelines.

The panel's recommendations drew mixed opinions, with some saying that it struck the right balance, while others called for a tougher stance.

Associate Professor Walter Theseira, who heads the master of management (urban transportation) programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said it would have been worth considering whether rules on registration, licensing and insurance could have been introduced for road cyclists, given the level of skill required and risk involved for such road users.

He said he would have favoured some form of mandatory insurance system for road cyclists, to ensure that victims of accidents where cyclists are at fault can be taken care of.

"With motor vehicles, the purpose of mandatory insurance is so that drivers who cause accidents and can't pay up do not harm their victims any more with not being able to compensate them," he said.

"There have been too many accidents where the cyclists simply can't pay up."

The National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) called on cyclists to avoid riding in bus lanes during operational hours when traffic is heavy, for their own safety.

NTWU executive secretary Melvin Yong noted that the current design of roads means that buses will need to encroach on the next lane while overtaking cyclists with the recommended 1.5m safety distance.

"As it is common for buses to have to overtake the same (group) of cyclists multiple times, the repeated overtaking and encroachment into the adjacent lane will increase the risks of road traffic accidents happening, particularly during peak hours," he said.

Ms Megan Kinder, president of cycling club ANZA Cycling, said the cap on group sizes should be a guideline, rather than a rule warranting a fine when breached.

While she agreed that limiting cycling group sizes can make for "a better shared road", she added that it is not always possible to be so rigid due to situations such as road conditions and the need to overtake.

On the increased fines, Ms Kinder said: "The increased penalty for errant cyclists may work if there is on-the-spot enforcement. But at the same time there should be equal weight placed on penalties, deterrents and enforcement for errant motorists - particularly in regard to minimum passing requirements, which need to be enshrined in law."

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