No go for cycling lanes

Are they bike warriors or a road menace?

There are careful cyclists who don safety gear and keep a lookout when they take to the roads or cycling paths.

Then there are those who tempt Lady Luck.

Like the boy, 13, who was cycling on a two-lane road at Jurong East Avenue last month. The teenager was wearing earphones as he cut into the outer lane while the traffic lights were green.

A black Toyota that had just started to move forward hit the teen. He flew into the air and landed on the road, unconscious.

He's not the only statistic.

In the first six months of this year, 12 people died and 170 were injured in accidents involving cyclists. (See report on facing page.)

On average, 18 cyclists died every year from 2008 to 2011, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said in Parliament on Monday.

Half of the cyclists involved in fatal and injury accidents were partly at fault, he added.

The mishaps were commonly caused by road users, including cyclists "failing to keep a proper look-out", "disobeying traffic light signals" and "failing to give way to traffic with the right of way".

Those who don't observe the highway code are also a menace.

Cyclists sometimes ride two-abreast in a single lane, blocking vehicles whose drivers end up waiting behind them, said avid cyclist Stephen Choy, 47.

Some cyclists in housing estates also ride on pedestrian paths "thinking they have the right of way and then expect drivers to give way at zebra crossings", he added.

But there are motorists, like lorry drivers and cabbies, who go very close to cyclists.

Vulnerable

"They don't understand how vulnerable cyclists are. If we go into the drainage holes at the side of the roads, we're dead," said Mr Choy, a member of cycling group Team Cychos.

He had penned an open letter to Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew - renewing calls for cycling lanes to be introduced - after his buddy Freddy Khoo died after he was hit by a lorry at Loyang Avenue last month.

But the authorities seemed to be more keen to develop off-road cycling instead.

Said Dr Faishal: "We will continue to give priority to our efforts to develop off-road cycling paths to facilitate intra-town cycling."

The Government is also reviewing "if we can do a little more on the infrastructure front to facilitate on-road cycling".

Mr Choy is distressed that the cycling lane option is not being considered.

He said: "We're not asking for new lanes to be built. We're just asking for a 1.5m dotted line to be drawn on existing roads in areas that are popular with cyclists."

These include Upper Thomson Road, Mandai Road and Changi Coastal Road.

Sports cyclists typically ride at speeds of up to 40kmh, higher than the 15kmh on the park connector network (PCN), he added. "Asking sports cyclists to go onto PCN or pedestrian paths will create other set of problems."

He suggested the authorities join various cycling groups on routes to better understand the situation.

Perhaps part of the solution is to have shared lanes, said Dr Janil Puthucheary, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Visual marker

Roads can have a visual marker showing the space for cyclists.

When there are no cyclists around, motorists can drive on them like normal lanes.

"A lot needs to be done to get people used to the idea of sharing roads.

"We can't just separate cyclists from pedestrians and motorists or have each group using distinct paths," added the MP.

Hence the need for public education and a mindset change "to encourage the right kind of behaviour".

President of the Safe Cycling Task Force Steven Lim, 45, said having hardware like bike lanes and off-road cycling addresses the needs of certain groups of cyclists only.

"The software, like gracious behaviour, has to be in place too. We have to bring in the whole package," he added.

In the coming months, Dr Faishal intends to meet more stakeholders to see if the approach and provisions made to facilitate cycling in Singapore need to be reviewed.

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