Sunday 15 July 2012

Cyclists should dismount when using crossings

Cyclists are not considered pedestrians if they ride across pedestrian crossings, and do not have any right of way ('Set cyclists straight about rule at pedestrian crossings' by Mr Benny Fang; last Sunday).

Cyclists should dismount from their bicycles when using the zebra crossing, and should use the crossing on foot, pushing their bicycles with them.

Cyclists who ride dangerously across pedestrian crossings and endanger the safety of pedestrians and other road users can be booked for a traffic offence.

For the first six months of this year, the Traffic Police have issued more than 700 summonses to cyclists for various traffic violations.

Road safety is the responsibility of all road users. Let's play our part in making our roads safe for everyone.

Fong Weng Kiong
Assistant Director
Media Relations (Covering)
Singapore Police Force
ST Forum, 15 Jul 2012

Set cyclists straight about rule at pedestrian crossings

I am a driver and I have noticed cyclists riding their bicycles across zebra crossings.

Are cyclists considered pedestrians if they ride across pedestrian crossings? If not, do they have the right of way, as pedestrians do? As more young cyclists are taking to the road, I am concerned that they may be under the wrong impression that they have the right of way.

Could the authorities issue guidelines that cyclists are to push their bicycles across pedestrian crossings, and not ride across?

Benny Fang
ST Forum, 8 Jul 2012

True kings of the road
Many cyclists here flout the rules and you don't see any of them stopped, let alone booked and fined
By Ignatius Low, The Straits Times, 15 Jul 2012

A few weeks ago, as I was shopping for - of all things - deckchairs, I randomly came across in the same outdoor furniture store a bicycle, which was also for sale.

It wasn't one of those cutting-edge racing bikes with wheels the width of a slice of toast, but its sturdy minimalist white frame and old-world steel and leather trimmings were very handsome nonetheless.

'Very Monocle,' I remarked to my friend, referencing the uber-trendy design and world affairs monthly magazine.

Then the salesperson wandered over and pointed out something which was almost a deal clincher.

'It's one of those bikes that has no chains,' he said. 'It works on hydraulics.'

'Wow!' I exclaimed, suddenly realising why the body looked so neat and pristine. 'No more oil stains on my legs and on the floor!'

For a minute, I seriously contemplated buying it.

There are many reasons for me to do so. I live in Joo Chiat, where the increasingly trendy shops are arranged in historic low-rise shophouses on little streets.

The distances are just too long to walk, especially in Singapore weather. But they are also too short to be driving around in a car just to have breakfast and run errands.

Cycling seems the perfect solution for a quaint neighbourhood like this, especially when you have a gorgeous bike to match.

The trouble is that I have a real love-hate relationship with cycling in Singapore.

The love bit comes from zipping around with the wind in your hair, the feeling of being able to go anywhere, the not-caring- at-all about being slightly lost in a labyrinth of streets.

The hate bit, however, has been building for a while now from years of confronting cyclists, both as a pedestrian and as a motorist.

In fact, now that cycling has become quite popular again as a low-cost and environmentally friendly means of getting around, I see more and more bicycles on the streets.

And I am amazed on a daily basis at the freedoms cyclists here have. It seems that here in Singapore, you can get away with almost anything.

It cuts both ways. If I were to buy a bicycle, I would benefit from this, I suppose.

But I am struck by some of the differences I see compared to cyclists in other countries.

When I was an undergraduate studying in Britain, I bought a second-hand bicycle because it was the most convenient way to get to lectures, tutorials and shops around town.

On weekends, my friends and I would sometimes cycle long-distance (okay, mid-distance) to neighbouring towns. To do that, we would have to cycle on fairly busy trunk roads alongside cars and other scary big vehicles.

I remember it was pretty much compulsory to wear a helmet, even if the rules didn't quite specify it.

We also had to have front and rear lights. To prevent them from being stolen, I remember carrying the rear ones in my backpack and clipping them onto my pants when I set off at night.

But it was the rules of the road that I remember the most. We could not cycle on pavements. On the road, we had to keep left, in single-file and always in the same direction as traffic.

At pedestrian crossings and bridges, we had to dismount and push the bike across before getting on again and riding off.

In Singapore, it seems that anything goes.

For starters, cyclists are free here to ride on both the pavement and the road, whatever strikes their fancy.

And from what I see, they are true kings of the road.

Held up by slow-coach pedestrians on the walkways? Never fear, just ring the bell or whistle loudly and the crowds part automatically like the Red Sea.

Hassled on the road by cars? Don't worry, motorists are now being told to keep a distance of 1.5m when overtaking bicycles. This means that they actually have to change lanes to do so. If traffic is heavy and they can't, they will just have to follow the cyclist's pace.

If a cyclist here feels irritated or unnerved by motorists behind him breathing down his neck, they can always cycle against the flow of traffic. It seems perfectly allowed in Singapore, even on the biggest multi-laned trunk roads.

Given all these freedoms, cyclists here mix it up to their advantage.

I've seen cyclists who are riding on the road and decide they don't want to stop at a red light. They simply ride back up onto the pavement, whistling and ringing their bells to scatter any pedestrians in their way.

If the road is blocked ahead of them, they just nonchalantly swerve over to the opposite side - against the flow of traffic - to continue their journeys. It looks remarkably easy to improvise.

Safety-wise, there are some rules, but I have never seen any of them enforced. Motorists are pulled over and booked for traffic offences every day, and more than occasionally, pedestrians are fined for jaywalking.

But have you ever seen a cyclist stopped, much less booked and fined, for anything at all?

There is absolutely no requirement to wear a helmet in Singapore and many bicycles in Singapore have no lights at all at night. I have seen cyclists here talk on mobile phones as they ride and carrying passengers sitting side-saddle.

To be fair, there are many cyclists who know the rules and abide by them for their own safety and the safety of those around them.

But I have also found there is a remarkably high tolerance here for irresponsible and inconsiderate cyclist behaviour as well.

Maybe it's because cycling has taken on a new-found heroism in this new environmentally conscious world we live in. It's also a necessary low-cost transport option in a world of rising fares.

Maybe we are more forgiving of foreign cyclists who import bad habits from home because, unlike their counterparts who take public transport, these habits are not scrutinised at close range.

Or is it an unwillingness on the part of the Government to lay down the law clearly for cyclists and provide the necessary cycling lanes and other infrastructure that will engender orderly behaviour?

I don't know what the problem is. But I guess that if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.

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