Panel reviewing if on-road cyclists should ride in a single file at all times, or to limit group size

Cyclists currently have to ride in a single file only while on single-lane roads and in bus lanes during bus lane hours. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

SINGAPORE - A panel reviewing rules governing on-road cycling is studying whether cyclists should be required to ride in a single file at all times, or if there should be limits on group sizes for cyclists.

These are among the suggestions that the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (Amap) is considering, besides licensing cyclists, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said in Parliament on Tuesday (May 11).

Cyclists currently only have to ride in a single file only while on single-lane roads and in bus lanes during bus lane hours.

Responding to Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC), Mr Chee said the authorities have received mixed views from the public so far about licensing.

"Some are in support of licensing so that errant cyclists can be more easily identified and punished," he said.

"Others have expressed concerns that licensing on-road cyclists will increase compliance costs and affect the livelihoods of Singaporeans who are using their bicycles for work and commute."

Mr Chee said the Government-appointed panel has not decided on whether to recommend such a measure yet. It is studying the practices overseas, where most cities do not have a registration scheme in place.

He cited China's capital city Beijing, which used to register bicycles but abolished the scheme in 2004 as it was costly and ineffective.

While Tokyo has a bicycle registration scheme in place, the purpose is to deter bicycle theft and not enhance road safety, he said.

"Licensing may seem like an attractive idea to improve road safety, but... whether that is indeed an effective way, or are there other more effective ways, I think that is something AMAP is carefully studying," he said.

Noting that many people have taken up cycling in Singapore since the Covid-19 pandemic started, Mr Chee said there will be many instances when motorists and cyclists have to share road spaces.

He acknowledged that the majority of cyclists follow the rules. But there is a minority of cyclists who disregard the rules by using their mobile phones while riding, refusing to stop at red lights, riding in the middle lane of a major road - including expressways, where bicycles are prohibited - and reacting aggressively when they are called out for their actions.

"We will enforce against such behaviours," he said.

Mr Chee added that the Government will also take action against motorists who drive recklessly and endanger the lives of others, including cyclists.

"We should bear in mind that cyclists are more vulnerable than those travelling in motor vehicles," he said, adding that Amap will review ways to raise awareness among motorists on how to share the road safely with cyclists and other road users.

"Ultimately, there needs to be more graciousness, consideration, as well as give and take on the road. Other countries have done it, and so can we," he said.

Other than enforcement, the Transport Ministry is looking to improve safety by building more off-road cycling paths as well as raising public awareness on sharing road spaces, Mr Chee said.

Responding to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), he said cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast on roads with more than one lane.

The panel is looking at whether this is a good practice, he added. "It does help to enhance safety because when they are riding in a group... the cars that are driving past treat this group as though they are one slow-moving vehicle," he said.

"And then you pay more attention to looking out for them, and being more aware of their presence. So there are some valid reasons as well as to why this rule is currently (in place)."

Dr Hing Siong Chen, president of the Singapore Cycling Federation, agreed that cyclists riding beside each other would make them more visible.

It would encourage drivers to use the next lane when overtaking, and also help motorists by shortening the distance required for overtaking, said Dr Hing.

"We would strongly recommend that cyclists should still continue to ride two abreast in situations where they feel it will ensure their safety on roads with two or more carriageways," he added.

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