SINGAPORE - A proposal to register bicycles and license cyclists to ride on the roads has garnered resistance from the cycling community, who said making bikes like cars would not help make roads safer.
But drivers are mostly supportive of some form of licensing for cyclists, saying it would make them more accountable and ensure that they have the required knowledge of riding in traffic.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said on Monday (April 13) that a panel will review regulations for cyclists on the roads, and study whether theory tests and licences should be required.
The review panel was called after a video shared by actor Tay Ping Hui of a group of road cyclists disregarding traffic rules led to some asking for more regulations on cyclists on roads.
Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG, agreed that more can be done to improve safety, but said the onus does not just lie with cyclists.
He said conflicts between cyclists and motorists occur when either party is reckless or ignorant of rules. Mr Chu suggested both cyclists and drivers be required to take a simple online test about how to safely share road space with one another.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) can also work with cyclists to identify and improve areas where road configurations might lead to more conflicts with cars.
On calls for bicycle registration, Mr Chu pointed to the failure of a similar scheme to improve safety for personal mobility devices.
"If the registration scheme didn't help to improve safety on footpaths, it will be more difficult for drivers to capture the number plate on the road," he said.
"A compromise could be to register the cyclists," added Mr Chu. "Someone who wants to cycle on the road could be required to pass an online test, and their results can be checked by the traffic police when needed."
He noted that if rules are too harsh or complicated, it would discourage people from cycling.
Former MP Teo Ser Luck, 52, who is a regular cyclist, said cyclists would benefit from learning how to ride safely.
He added: "Most cyclists really are careful and compliant riders. They know the risk is greater for them if they ride dangerously."
Singapore University of Social Sciences urban transport expert Park Byung Joon said the review of rules now is timely given the uptake in cycling.
Despite the opposition of cyclists to a registration and licensing scheme, Associate Professor Park said it would help by reducing safety issues and averting a blowback similar to the one suffered by personal mobility devices.
For example, the registration of bicycles and making cyclists display a registration plate would put more responsibility on them to follow rules on roads knowing that they can be identified. This should be accompanied by the deployment of more traffic cameras, said Prof Park.
But he added: "Even in other cities that are more advanced in terms of their cycling culture, such as Amsterdam... confrontations between cyclists and drivers are very, very common.
"The confrontation is not really due to irresponsible riders, but it's more due to cyclists and drivers having to share the road... these kinds of conflicts are kind of unavoidable."
A spokesman for Roads.sg, which seeks to promote safe use of the roads, agreed that most cyclists ride safely, but said the team has been receiving complaints from both cyclists and cars about unsafe habits on a daily basis.
Calling the review of rules on road cycling overdue, the spokesman said: "We are definitely pro-registration of riders if they want to use the roads, but riders who use park connectors and public paths should not be held to the same requirement.
"Using the roads come with inherent dangers and hence there are rules which all other motorists have to learn, be tested for, licensed and registered before they are allowed to use them."
He also called for third-party liability insurance for cyclists who ride on the roads, as drivers now cannot claim against any damage to their cars in a collision.
In a recent poll by Facebook group SG Road Vigilante, which documents unsafe habits on roads, almost 90 per cent of some 5,300 respondents said they wanted bicycles to be registered with a proper licence plate and insurance.
Transport economist Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences agreed that third-party liability insurance for cyclists would be important going forward.
He said: "Even if you have licensing and penalties, it doesn't do you a lot of good if a cyclist hits somebody and there is no adequate compensation."
Associate Professor Theseira added that more can be done to enhance safety in relation on roads, but theory tests alone would not significantly address the current concerns, as most cyclists are aware when they break traffic rules, like ignoring traffic lights.
Prof Theseira suggested more enforcement action as well as a penalty framework. Specific guidelines for riding on roads that have heavier traffic would also be necessary as well, he added.
Mr Saktiandi Supaat, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that instead of licensing cyclists, the focus could be to have safe cycling in the curriculum for students. The authorities could also work with bicycle workshops and retailers to help educate cyclists, he added.
Mr Saktiandi also said that improvements to the cycling paths in the future would also help to reduce the number of cyclists on the roads, thus easing the issue.
But while several drivers are up in arms about cyclists being on the roads, others note it is incumbent on motorists to share the roads safely with other users, cyclists or pedestrians.
Ms Sulian Tay, 48, who works in the finance sector and is a driver as well as a cyclist, said she was happy to accommodate cyclists while driving.
She said: "My husband cycles, my children cycle, I don't want to get a phone call from the police that one of them has been killed.
"When I am on the road and I see cyclists, I know that they have relatives too. I think it's just courtesy."