Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Cycling in Parliament

Well, not literally, though it's great to see the topic of cycling in Singapore being discussed in Parliament.

AsiaOne 10 Sept 2012

I came across this short article which proved to be quite an interesting read. Here are my after thoughts, some of which you may disagree with.
"Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that the total number of accidents involving cyclists has decreased by 17 per cent between 2008 and last year."
Misleading to say the least. Percentages and numbers can vary quite drastically.

Take for example in 2010, there were 25 cycling related out of 100 total road accidents.
-> 25 accidents involving cyclists.
-> 25% accidents involving cyclists.

And in 2011, there were 50 cycling related out of 250 total road accidents.
-> 50 accidents involving cyclists.
-> 20% accidents involving cyclists.

The percentage of accidents involving cyclists fell despite the number of accidents involving cyclists having actually doubled!
"He added that new dedicated cycling paths, which will separate cyclists from motorists and pedestrians, are currently being built in seven neighbourhood paths."
Sharing the road with cyclists can be a sticky issue for some. Dedicated cycling paths are certainly a good way to start, as long as cyclists on roads don't suffer the same fate as chewing gums!

The Park Connector Network (PCN) has grown leaps and bounds but it's still a far cry from connecting the island and facilitating inter town commute by bike. Until the PCN fully develops, banning cyclists on roads would be disastrous for bike commuters!
"In a bid to boost education in cycling safety, the Land Transport Authority will make new "Intra-Town Cycling" handbook available soon.The handbook will list good cycling etiquette and safety tips for cycling."

"The Traffic Police and Home Affairs Ministry are also studying measures to inculcate a safe road-sharing mindset among motorists and cyclists, and are reviewing cycling penalties to ensure that they reflect the severity of the offences."
It cannot be more true that there are cyclists out there that abuse their road rights. We've witnessed on more than one occasion, rampant cyclists that disregard rules and beat the red lights, hog lanes and weave about roads gangnam style, behaving as if they were kings of the road. Unfortunately, these black sheep give all cyclists a bad name. In times like these, it only takes one to tarnish any image. 

Education and awareness is definitely the way to go. But it's not just about cycling etiquette and safety tips for cycling. There is much more than that.

It's a total change in mindset, a radical change in culture and it's not just cyclists that need to be addressed. Drivers must be educated to know that roads are meant to be shared too. The misconception that paying road tax entitles you to rights on the road should really be dispelled once and for all. For the uninitiated, this is as true as pigs can fly. Paying road tax does not mean you pay for rights on the road. Cyclists, even though they don't pay tax, are as entitled to use the road. In fact, according to traffic rules, they are supposed to be on the road.

Plus the ignorant notion that cycling is just a hobby. It may be to you but to some, cycling is a form of daily commute, just like how cars get you to places, some prefer to ride their bicycles to their destinations. 

Education takes time but can be very effective. Just like how we were taught at a young age to share with the less privileged. I'm in no means implying that all cyclists are poor. The reality is that rather than being kings of the road, cyclists are more like the homeless, with the lack of rules, infrastructure and culture to protect them on the road. Road users honk them, pedestrians sneer at them.

And if there are to be harsher fines for cyclists, likewise, there should be stricter fines for motorists as well. It should really be both ways.
"Addressing cycling as a mode of transport, Dr Ibrahim said that while the Government will provide infrastructure for cyclists, Singaporeans are still encouraged to use the buses and MRT as the primary mode of transport."
I'm not sure why this should be mentioned at all. Can't help but get the impression that it's not a whole hearted effort to make cycling feasible, convenient and most importantly, safe for everyone.

In a nutshell, while infrastructure helps, the root problem lies within the mindset of road users who aren't willing to share the road. The best way to tackle this is via education, though this will take time. Until this is tackled, I'd say that we're still a long way from making Singapore a better place for cycling. Nevertheless, slow progress is better than no progress and at least there is some talk now.

Keep safe and ride on everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Kevin, thanks for sharing your thought on the parliament debate of the safety issues of cycling in Singapore. Reading between the lines, it seems the SG government try to push all cyclists onto off-road cycling paths or PCN. To them commuting cycling is not preferred or not exists. This attitude is not an issue if there is already many high quality cycling paths connecting everywhere people need to go. But this won't be the case even when the 56 km cycling path completed by 2015 in 7 cycling towns. What can we do to protect those who NEED to ride on the road in the mean time?