Singapore's pedestrian code of conduct divides opinion among path users

The new pedestrian code of conduct drawn up by the Land Transport Authority kicked in this month. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - Real estate lecturer Celeste Ng, 53, was walking down the left side of a footpath in Bukit Batok recently when she spotted a cyclist riding towards her from the opposite direction.

As the path on her right was clear, she decided to continue walking without stepping aside. But the cyclist was also unwilling to give way.

"He swung to my right at the last minute and swore at me for not giving way to him," said Madam Ng.

"You tell me, should the code of conduct be set for the cyclist or for the pedestrian? In no time, these cyclists are going to chase us pedestrians out of our walkway."

Madam Ng is among those who are against the new pedestrian code of conduct drawn up by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) that kicked in this month.

But the code has also drawn support from people who feel that ensuring safety on public paths is a shared responsibility.

The new code, for instance, tackles one of Mr Lee Peng Hock's concerns - the many pedestrians who have their eyes glued to their mobile phones.

The retired ship finance consultant, 76, said: "They don't understand the dangers posed by cyclists, personal mobility devices and fast joggers."

The code makes four recommendations.

First, a pedestrian should stick to a footpath if there is a choice between walking on that or a path shared with cyclists.

Second, a pedestrian should cross a road using a pedestrian crossing if there is a choice between that and a bicycle crossing.

Third, a pedestrian walking on a footpath or shared path should keep as far left as possible unless he or she is overtaking another pedestrian.

Lastly, a pedestrian should stay alert and refrain from using a mobile device in a way that will hinder their ability to detect danger.

There are no penalties imposed on pedestrians who do not follow these suggestions, which were recently added to an existing code of conduct for path users that had previously focused on cyclists and users of personal mobility devices.

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport researcher Park Byung Joon said the code is "a tad overly defined".

He said: "Imagine a 10-year-old boy is walking with his younger sisters side by side. Some adult will yell at them to walk on the left... Isn't it too dry?

"I only see the side of efficiency and safety. I did not feel any human touch in the code.

"It makes me a bit sad, actually."

Cycling group Love Cycling SG founder Francis Chu said cyclists should always give way and keep a safe distance from pedestrians, as stated in the code of conduct for active mobility device users.

"As a cyclist, I want cycling to be socially accepted. There are far more pedestrians than cyclists. It doesn't make sense to demand such a large group to adapt to the small... group," he added.

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Those who support the code of conduct say that pedestrians have a part to play in avoiding accidents.

IT security specialist Samuel Yap, who is in his late 40s, said he has been taking precautions while walking on public paths, such as keeping to one side and staying alert as stated in the code.

However, he still feels there is a need for more enforcement against errant riders and for a clearer demarcation of paths, where feasible, to facilitate safer path sharing.

Dr Robert Liew, director of arts presenter Arts Management Associates, who is in his early 70s, said he supports guidelines to facilitate more efficient use of shared paths but noted that paths should be clearly marked to indicate whether they are footpaths or shared paths.

"Unfortunately, there are not many visually distinctive paths around."

Dr Liew, who also rides bicycles and e-scooters regularly, added that inculcating a greater sense of sharing and responsibility among path users would help improve safety.

"Without mutual sharing... when conditions allow, we can never have a seamless network," he added.

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