Why It Matters

Need for speed on cycle rules

There has been a proliferation of personal mobility devices (PMD) on the roads and footpaths in all forms - from basic bicycles to electric scooters and even unicycles.

This is a positive development for our transport system as these complementary transport modes are likely to take some of the load off public transport and reduce reliance on private vehicles.

But in order to reap the full benefits of such devices in the transport ecosystem, a set of rules and guidelines governing these devices needs to be set out for the safety of all commuters.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a recent blog wrote about setting a "simple, clear and consistent set of rules and norms" to minimise conflict between all users and ensure safety. "We want to encourage walking and cycling... We will have more footpaths and cycling paths."

A panel headed by the Land Transport Authority is currently looking into this, and will begin focus group discussions later this month. The findings will be announced by the second quarter of next year.

But perhaps it should be studied if this could be done sooner. Already, there have been accidents involving PMDs, despite efforts by the authorities to clamp down on errant and reckless users.

Currently, PMD users, pedestrians and motorists have no clue who has the right of way as the rules do not cover many of the new-to-market devices.

For some devices, the current rules are a morass of prohibitions which sometimes run counter to their purpose as alternative "last-mile" commuting aids.

For example, electric bicycles are allowed only on the roads and are banned from park connectors and footpaths. Electric scooters cannot be ridden on footpaths, roads and park connectors and can be used legally only on private property.

Rules or guidelines need to be flexible enough to cover a range of different devices - from e-bicycles able to travel long distances to electric wheelchairs.

Consideration should also be given to a regular review of these rules going forward, as newer technology continues to emerge - or Singapore could find itself once more on the back foot.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Need for speed on cycle rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe