Handbrake soon a must for all bikes on public paths, roads

Govt accepts panel's proposal for move after fatal accident in 2020 involving brakeless bike

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

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.

The move comes on the heels of safety concerns that arose following a fatal accident last year involving a brakeless bicycle.

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) said yesterday 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 in a statement.

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

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

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

Citing the case in a report to MOT last month, AMAP said inexperienced cyclists may find it hard to stop fixed-gear bikes effectively without handbrakes. It added that although these bicycles could have handbrakes installed, owners tend not to do so, as the bicycles would then be perceived as "cooler" and have lower maintenance costs.

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 on the panel's proposal came out.

Previously, some riders would dismantle the brakes from fixie bikes that came with them, he added.

He reckons the new rule could bring in more business as fixed-gear bikes with handbrakes have more parts that need maintenance.

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

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

AMAP had also urged the Government to hold off on third-party liability insurance for mobility device users until it is affordable and easily available. Such insurance was made mandatory last month for those riding for businesses or commercial reasons.

Dr Khor said MOT will monitor the effectiveness of the measure and continue discussions with AMAP and the industry on how best to proceed.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who chairs AMAP, said the issue of third-party liability insurance for non-commercial riders is important and intricate. "We need to look at the trade-offs carefully, without losing ground on our push for active mobility," he wrote on Facebook.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2021, with the headline 'Handbrake soon a must for all bikes on public paths, roads'. Subscribe