Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should cyclists be licensed? Pass tests? Or does cycling safely just require common sense? Letters to Today Online

TODAYonline | Voices - should cyclists be licensed?
Only the letters are available below; click to read the letters and comments,

"Cyclists should have to get licensed too." Letter from Raymund Koh Joo Guan. Today Online, 21 Mar 2011.
I refer to the article about bicycle theft being prevalent in Tampines (March 21).

The menace of bicycles everywhere and the scourge of illegally parked bicycles causing obstruction to pedestrians are not new. The authorities should consider mandating all bicycles to have registration plates and ID tags.

All bicycles should be registered with the Land Transport Authority. Cyclists need not pay road tax but they should be subjected to a toll if they wish to use the bus lanes.

Some errant cyclists ride and chat in the middle of the bus lanes, obstructing buses. While the LTA takes enforcement action against motorists caught abusing bus lanes, there isn't anyway to track offending cyclists. Therefore, registration plates for bicycles are useful.

With bicycle numbers on the raise, we have seen more cyclists riding illegally on the pavements. The Traffic Police and Town Councils have a hard time enforcing the rules. Bicycles are also sold without any move to advise cyclists that cycling on the pavement is an offence.

The authorities should make it mandatory for all cyclists to obtain a licence, similar to a motorbike license. The applicants must pass a theory test. Practical tests should be carried out on both motorised and conventional bikes.

This would drive home to the public that we take a serious view on cycling on the pavements, not to mention the use of stolen bicycles.

"Licences would make cycling less accessible." Letter from Aaron Samuel Yong Today Online, 23 Mar 2011.
I READ Mr Raymund Koh Joo Guan's letter "Cyclists should have to get licenced too" (March 21, Voices Online) with an odd mixture of empathy, bewilderment and ultimately disagreement.

As an occasional motorist, avid cyclist and frequent pedestrian, I can safely say that the cycling environment in Singapore is already bordering on hostile without adding administrative problems for cyclists on top of the existing physical ones. I myself have encountered visibly irritated drivers and had my space uncomfortably encroached upon by lumbering heavy vehicles while cycling on the road - just as brazen cyclists have made me unsettlingly wary while driving or downright cross while walking.

What Singaporeans need to understand, however, is that by most measures, cyclists are at the losing end of the transport deal.

Cycling on roads, though technically the law-abiding option, is not safe by any stretch of the imagination, no matter how many precautions both cyclists and motorists take. The excellent Park Connector network leaves me in no doubt that the Government would do even more to cater to cyclists if we were not so constrained by space, but the reality of today is that every cyclist takes a risk every time he or she journeys out onto the road.

Singapore already has a reputation for rather zealous administrative policies; a bicycle registration and cycling licensing scheme would almost certainly make us a laughing stock in the international community.

Besides being a completely unnecessary burden on the Land Transport Authority's time and resources as well as taxpayers' money, such a scheme would only serve to discourage thousands of Singaporeans from engaging in an extremely affordable, environmentally-friendly and healthy mode of transport.

To license a cyclist is to both over-complicate and completely miss the point of the activity: Cycling appeals because it is so accessible to people of all ages. I am hard-pressed to imagine a scene more ridiculous than a nine-year-old girl innocently pedalling along the East Coast Park on a S$90-bike, registration plates mounted front and back and a licence in her pocket.

It would be a scenario of unprecedented micro-management on the Government's part. What next, a pedestrian licence to drive home our serious view on jaywalking?

As for the issue of illegally-parked bicycles, I would expect the authorities to first do something about the plethora of illegally-parked (and actually registered) motorcycles obstructing pavements across the island and the motorcyclists with the audacity to tailgate passers-by while parking them, before finding fault with humble human-powered vehicles.

"Rules for cyclists to live by." Letter from Isaac Koh Zhao Jin. Today Online, 24 Mar 2011. Tests, insurance would help to ensure their safety on the roads
I REFER to the letter "Licences would make cycling less accessible" (March 23). Mr Aaron Samuel Yong correctly pointed out that cycling on the roads is not safe.

What he did not point out is that Singapore has one of the highest vehicle densities in the world and we need to adapt our traffic rules accordingly.

As a motorist, I've witnessed countless near-misses involving reckless cyclists. Many do not know the risks involved and forcing them to go through proper lessons and training would go a long way towards mitigating accidents and fatalities.

I've seen cyclists going against the flow of traffic, riding without reflectors at night and even a pair hogging two lanes during peak hours.

I would like to suggest that cyclists meet the following criteria before being allowed on the roads:

  1. Cyclists must know and abide by existing traffic rules. Having them pass the basic/final theory tests by the Traffic Police would be sufficient.
  2. Cyclists should be able to pass the "plank-test" required of all motorcyclists. Cyclists unable to maintain good balance pose a danger to motorists and themselves.
  3. Cyclists need to know what safety precautions to take. Penalties should be imposed on those failing to comply.
  4. Motorcyclists are required by law to wear crash helmets; cyclists should not be exempted.
  5. Cyclists must be able to ride at a minimum speed to avoid holding up traffic. A minimum speed of 30kmh should be required.
  6. Like all motorists, cyclists should be insured against accidents. Currently, motorists bear the cost of any accident involving cyclists. Cyclists must share the responsibility.

These may seem draconian but remember that, in any accident, cyclists may suffer more injuries.

It should be the cyclists' responsibility to ensure their own safety and it should never be at the expense of other road users.

Licensing cyclists is not about protecting cyclists from motorists: it's about protecting cyclists from themselves.

"Better to cycle against flow of traffic." Letter from Lim Kai Teck Andrew. Today Online, 26 Mar 2011.
I refer to the letter "Rules for cyclists to live by " by Isaac Koh Zhao Jin. I do not think he has ever met with a bicycle accident. My brother observed the traffic rules and cycled with the flow of traffic. He was unable to assess the behaviour of the motorist behind him; he was also knocked down not knowing by whom or even what kind of vehicle.

It would be so much better to cycle against the flow of traffic, so that the cyclist can determine if a motorist appears reckless or drunk, and at least in the event of being knocked down, the cyclist can note the model of the vehicle or even better, the licence number.

It it ridiculous for Mr Koh to suggest having cyclists go for basic/final theory tests. Imagine uneducated aunties or grannies being forced to take the tests. Cycling safely requires just common sense, such as not speeding when there are passers-by on the pavement, and observing the traffic crossing rules.


Back2Nature said...

How can riding against traffic flow be better? Actually, no need to think so much, but just look at what people are doing in places like the Netherlands and similar cycling friendly countries/cities.

I do agree it is important to know what's behind, and I strongly advocate the proper use of rear view mirror.

On zebra crossings, the main issue is to avoid giving surprises to drivers. Thus, speed is the main issue here. I look out for vehicles about 10 m before reaching zebra crossings at near walking speed and if I want/need to let the vehicle go first, I will stop a few meters away.

Initially, I wonder why there are so many issues with cyclists in recent years, until I notice more and more hobby cyclists on the roads. Even though I am a cyclist, and not a driver, I dislike those cyclists who ride in groups, occupy a lane, and obviously riding NOT for commuting. Worse when they don't behave in a way their professional looking attire suggests.

El Wey said...

I wonder - if you asked some of these people who wrote in with their suggestions to actually try it out themselves, would they then write better and wiser letters?