Regulating Cyclists


I’m glad someone decided to write this article. If I wrote it, however nice I try to put it, I’d quite likely incur the wrath of many cyclists. Now, the wrath is upon Alphonsus. I can just ride along and comment on his suggestions which, interestingly, are somewhat related to what I also had in mind.

One of the things that annoys the hell out of many people (the non-cyclists, of course), is that cyclists want to have the best of both worlds: be pedestrian and motorist, switching back and forth whenever they like, as long as the situation benefited them.

(It gets worse when you consider their contradictory expectations of road users. For example, they ask for 1.5m clearance from other vehicles, yet they are the ones who squeeze between vehicles with barely a few centimetres to spare.)

My take has long been that cyclists should make up their mind. Or, perhaps, it is the Government that should decide where cyclists belong, and update the necessary laws to accommodate that. I’m not specifically opposed to cyclists being on the road, or on pedestrian walkways. But whichever the case may be, decide where they belong and regulate them accordingly.

Cyclists like to talk about their right to use the road, and that their right is in fact provided by the law. Well, guess what, laws do get outdated and they can get changed. Now is the time for the Government to decide and make adjustments to the legislation where needed.

Alphonsus’ suggestion is to categorize bicycles into two categories: one for pedestrian paths, and the other for the road. Cyclists who wish to ride on the roads must pass the Basic Theory Test. This would reduce the unpredictability of cyclists’ behaviour for two reasons:

  1. Cyclists are expected to obey regulations that apply in their respective categories. E.g. cyclists on the roads are expected to behave like a vehicle and follow all road traffic regulations.
  2. There will be no unpredictable “mode switching” (i.e. from road to pedestrian path and vice versa). Cyclists on the road will not suddenly merge into a pedestrian path, and similarly, those on pedestrian path will not surprise drivers by suddenly turning into the road.

I like the idea of properly regulating cyclists who wish to use the roads. It is high time road-using cyclists learn to ride properly on the roads. Effective enforcement, however, could be a challenge.

One idea is for the police to tap on citizen reporting of traffic violations, using supporting tools like video cameras. It will help catch errant motorists too. However, I expect there would be much difficulty in identifying cyclists. License plates on bicycles would certainly have to be much smaller, and hence difficult to read. Furthermore, that’s provided the bicycles have legitimate license plates at all.

It will be hard for things to change overnight. It’s going to be much easier to get away with unlicensed bicycles as compared with unlicensed motor vehicles. Road blocks can quite easily trap motor vehicles (though maybe not so easy for motorcycles), but bicycles can easily get away. So it will be difficult to get compliance, at least not for a couple of years. But more importantly it is the attitude change that is needed, and that will be even harder to achieve.

Of course, until the law is amended, cyclists enjoy their de facto right to be on the roads. Or, perhaps it will stay that way because the Government doesn’t want to make the difficult decision.

One Response to Regulating Cyclists

  1. For every new bike purchased, there should be a booklet or video accompanied to show the traffic rules for cyclists and the way they should navigate either on the pavement or on the roads. There can’t be any enforcement currently but this can change when all the government agencies (LTA, NParks, Town Councils, HDB, TP) agree on a SOP for cyclists.

    The Singapore Cycling Federation must also play a role by promoting the cycling as a sport together with the SSC.

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