THREE accidents involving cyclists on Thursday have reopened a longstanding debate between motorists and cyclists over the issue of safe cycling on roads here.
A 35-year-old cyclist died after he was hit by a lorry in Bedok South Road.
In Tampines Street 81, a 64-year-old cyclist was seriously injured when he was involved in a collision with a lorry.
Another accident in Clemenceau Avenue saw a motorcyclist seriously injured after he was in a collision with a cyclist, who escaped with abrasions.
Police are investigating all three accidents. But the debate has already begun.
Motorists are frustrated with cyclists who they say road hog and switch lanes abruptly, often without regard for traffic behind them. The cyclists, however, say motorists are impatient and often drive too close to them and too fast, especially when overtaking.
In the first nine months of this year, there were 15 fatal accidents involving cyclists. There were 22 such fatal accidents each in 2007 and last year.
Former national cyclist Kenneth Tan, who cycles daily to his workplace in Thomson Road from his Woodlands home, said the hour-long ride is often dangerous.
A year ago, he was flung off his bicycle when the passenger door of a truck was suddenly opened as he was cycling past. He was warded for three days with serious injuries to his arm.
'The bus drivers are more considerate, but other drivers now tend to go faster and come very close when they overtake,' said Mr Tan, 42.
But marketing manager Tanya Tan, 34, said drivers were not always to blame.
She recalled an incident two weeks ago when a man in his 40s cycled on the centre lane of a three-lane road in Toa Payoh at less than 20kmh. 'All the cars had to slow down and there were several near misses,' said Ms Tan, who drives to work every day.
Under the Road Traffic (Bicycles) Rules, cyclists should ride close to the left-hand edge of the road so as not to obstruct vehicles.
In the first nine months of this year, the Traffic Police issued more than 1,300 summonses to cyclists flouting traffic rules, compared to 471 summonses for the whole of last year.
Most were fined for failing to ride in an orderly manner or cycling on footpaths. They were also fined for changing lanes without due care, failing to keep a proper lookout, and failing to give way to traffic with the right of way.
Many of the drivers and cyclists The Straits Times spoke to were also unclear about the traffic rules concerning bicycles. Several drivers said cyclists should get off the roads and ride on footpaths instead. But it is illegal for them to do so.
To ensure safety, several cyclists suggested that a cycling lane be introduced. Said Mr Adrian Mok of the Safe Cycling Task Force: 'We can mark out smaller lanes on existing roads or widen pedestrian paths for cycling.'
But a Land Transport Authority spokesman said that, given Singapore's land constraints and the need to optimise available land space to meet the needs of all road users and pedestrians, it was not feasible to provide dedicated lanes for bicycles on the road.
Currently, there are cycling tracks off the road in five towns - Tampines, Yishun, Sembawang, Pasir Ris and Taman Jurong.
Mr Tan Jin Thong, president of the National Safety Council of Singapore, wants to make it mandatory for cyclists to wear helmets and abide by bicycle rules. firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional reporting by Linus Lin
"Save lives by having separate lanes," letter by Daniel Chan. The Straits Times Forum page, 14 Dec 2009.
"LAST Saturday's report highlighting accidents involving cyclists ('3 accidents in a day: Cyclists concerned') once again brings the issue of safe cycling to the fore.
There were 15 fatal accidents involving cyclists in the first nine months of this year, and one wonders how many more fatal accidents there must be before the authorities sit up and take notice.
While cyclists do not threaten the safety of motorists, the lack of space for motorists to pass cyclists safely only adds to the frustration of driving. Also, a lack of policing has allowed some cyclists to flaunt traffic rules at their own whim and fancy.
Clearly, something must be done to accommodate the increase in numbers of both cars and cyclists on the roads. As the statutory board that spearheads land transport developments in Singapore, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) must take cognisance of both the safety of cyclists and the frustrations of motorists.
It is no longer tenable nor persuasive for the LTA to reiterate that Singapore's land constraints make it unfeasible to provide cycling lanes. Cities such as London and New York, which are as densely populated as Singapore, have successfully introduced cycling lanes. The benefits are obvious: Traffic flow will not be impeded by slow bicycles, while cyclists will be shielded from dangerous traffic. Other countries like France have made it illegal for cars to overtake cyclists without a gap of 1.5m.
The experiences of other countries make it clear that positive action can be taken to better accommodate both cyclists and motorists in Singapore. LTA's unwillingness to take action has frustrated all road users."
"Cyclist recalls close calls on the road," letter by James Wong. The Straits Times Forum page, 15 Dec 2009.
"I REFER to yesterday's letter by Mr Daniel Chan ('Save lives by having separate lanes'), regarding safety of cyclists on Singapore roads and the number of fatal accidents involving cyclists.
I am an avid cyclist who cycles once or twice a week. Last Saturday morning, I was almost run down by a taxi driver.
I was cycling along East Coast Road at 6.15am. Suddenly, a taxi travelling in the opposite direction turned right into my path to pick some passengers standing on my side of the road.
Had I not slowed down to avoid the taxi, I would have been knocked down. I confronted the taxi driver but instead of admitting his mistake, he challenged me to a fight, all the time shouting at me that I had no right to be on the road.
I have had a few close calls on the road and most of the time, taxi drivers have been the culprits. They stop suddenly to pick up a fare, make illegal U-turns, or cut two or three lanes to drop or pick up a passenger. Bus and truck drivers are the other bullies.
My bicycle has a bright flashing headlight and tail light. There is no way I cannot be noticed. It is just that most motorists feel cyclists do not belong on the road and have no right at intersections.
Many cyclists use Changi Coast Road on weekends. Although there are many speed regulation strips along this stretch, many motorists use this road to test the speed limit of their cars.
I hope the Traffic Police will not wait until more cyclists are killed before they install speed cameras there.
I also suggest that the Traffic Police and the Land Transport Authority put up more conspicuous signs to remind motorist to look out and give way to cyclists. Some signs are already there but they are not conspicuous enough.
Cyclists also share some of the blame. Some cycle at night without proper lights and do not follow the Highway Code. Traffic Police should make it mandatory for bicycles to have headlights and tail lights all the time, with a stiff penalty for failure."