Review of rules on road cycling splits opinions

Cyclists say regulations will not make roads safer; drivers mostly in support of licensing

A review panel was called after a video shared online of a group of road cyclists disregarding traffic rules led to some asking for more regulations. But while several drivers are up in arms about cyclists being on the roads, others note that it is i
A review panel was called after a video shared online of a group of road cyclists disregarding traffic rules led to some asking for more regulations. But while several drivers are up in arms about cyclists being on the roads, others note that it is incumbent on motorists to share the roads safely with other users, whether cyclists or pedestrians. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

A proposal to register bicycles and license cyclists to ride on the roads has garnered resistance from the cycling community, who said regulating 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 to ride in traffic.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said on Monday 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 taking to the 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 the rules, suggesting that both cyclists and drivers be required to take a simple online test on how to safely share road space with each other.

The Land Transport Authority 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 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... 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.”

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.”

A spokesman for Roads.sg, a website 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 drivers 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 road habits, 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 thirdparty 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 for cycling on the roads, but theory tests alone would not significantly address the current concerns, as most cyclists are aware when they break traffic rules, such as when they ignore 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, he added.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that  instead of licensing cyclists, the focus could be on having 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 cycling paths in the future would help 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 that it is incumbent on motorists to share the roads safely with other users, whether cyclists or pedestrians.

Ms Sulian Tay, 48, who works in the finance sector and is a driver as well as a cyclist, said she is happy to accommodate cyclists while driving.

“My husband cycles, my children cycle. I don’t want to get a phone call from the police informing me 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.” 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2021, with the headline 'Review of rules on road cycling splits opinions'. Subscribe