Cycling as a hobby or with a more competitive/recreational nature has been gaining a lot of interest in Singapore. While there are some established cycling clubs here, the bulk of those cycling recreationally form ad-hoc groups or clubs. Some may be 5-10 strong, while others have 'members' in their 10s or 20s. All this is well and good. Cycling is a good sport or hobby to take up. I used to cycle a lot and really enjoyed the exercise.
OCBC Singapore's Pro Cycling Team posing for a group photo. The number of cycling groups here has increased tremendously over the past decade.
Unfortunately this upward trend has given way to an ever increasing number of errant cyclists, a large proportion being recreational cyclists. The cycling community had campaigned for the '1.5m' space on most roads, to demand that motor vehicles give them a buffer zone to ride safely. This has been granted, although there are always some who don't comply. But generally many motorists recognise a cyclist's right to be on the roads, and their entitlements and right of way are respected.
However the disturbing trend from this is that many recreational cyclists and cycling groups, are not satisfied with this. Instead of the '1.5m', they want to occupy the whole left lane, sometimes even the 2nd lane. There are certain roads where they are allowed greater space, like Changi Coastal Road, Lornie and Upper Thomson Roads amongst others. However there are certain rules to it, they are allowed to do so during off-peak hours and whilst public buses are not operating.
'1.5metres matters' is the name of the campaign for vehicles to give cyclists space.
Among the rules cyclists must comply – they must behave like any other motorist, keep left, ride single file, observe traffic rules, such as stopping at red lights, no overtaking from the left, no weaving in and out of heavy, stalled or slow moving traffic. If they want to cross a traffic junction as a cyclist, they must wait for the green light before cycling across. If they want to use the pedestrian crossing they must dismount and push the bicycle. They cannot cycle on pedestrian pathways, although its long been acceptable, if the pathways aren't heavily used.
I have noticed that people who use the bicycle as a means of transport to work or non-recreational use, try to avoid making a fuss. They just want to use the roads or pedestrian paths to complete their journey in the shortest time possible. They are more likely to comply with the '1.5m' rule and ride single file and usually try to avoid causing inconvenience to other roads users. Their main faults are dashing across pedestrian crossings when they are a distance from it and behind turning motorists. A motorist turning left or right, sees the road is clear and executes the turn, only for the cyclist to appear from nowhere. The other is their use of traffic junctions, again executing a turn or going straight when the lights are not in their favour. Because of their slower speed, they do not appear on the horizon of a turning vehicle until the very last. Motorists usually tend to speed up to make the turn when the indicator arrow is green, a cyclist disobeying the red light by going straight will not see the oncoming turning vehicle.
A classic example of a cyclist ignoring the red light and attempting to cross an intersection with vehicles on the other side making a legitimate turn.
The way around this is education. Educate motorists to slow down, not speed up and these kind of cyclists to be patient and not make sudden dashes across pedestrian crossings or junctions, even though the coast looks clear. A more public campaign with short clips on television can drum this message home. Posters and signboards should be erected at busy intersections and crossings.
There are sufficient parks and low traffic roads during off peak hours for cyclists, but even these it seems isn't enough for them.
But they aren't the problem, the problem is recreational cyclists or those using the latest, expensive, top of the range racing bicycles. They seem to think just because they spent a few thousands on their bicycles, their bicycles are speed demons that can match any motor-vehicle. Below is a list of offences that they prone to committing:
1) Riding abreast sometimes 3-4 cyclists occupy a lane.
2) Encroaching into a second lane.
3) Riding for leisure during the busiest part of the day or night beyond the 1.5m.
4) Riding during bus lane operations, causing buses to have veer to the right to avoid them.
5) Failing to give way to buses, stopping at bus-stops with no berth. They attempt to overtake a stopped bus, either on the left or right, without realising that they are in the driver's blindside. Very often they are half-way in the process of overtaking when the bus begins to move off, without realising a cyclist is alongside.
Some even use hand-phones while cycling oblivious to the danger to themselves.
6) Riding at very fast speeds on bumpy and uneven roads without realising that there's a high chance of gravel of the road.
7) Continuing to ride at fast speeds on the left most lane, after being overtaken by a motorist who intends to make a left turn shortly. The vehicle overtakes the slower cyclist and proceeds to slow down in order to turn left. Instead of slowing down themselves, these cyclists continue to ride at the same speed and adamantly wants to proceed straight on while the vehicle is executing the turn. Having already overtaken the cyclist, the last thing the driver or rider expects is for the cyclist to appear alongside on the left and going straight on.
8) Like the non-recreational cyclist, these cyclists also do not stop at red lights and wait for the green signal. The moment the traffic on the other side with right of way trickles down, they attempt to cross the intersection even though the light is still red. This puts them in danger of being knocked down by vehicle going across, with the lights being green in their favour. Motorists will stop and wait, these cyclists do not.
9) At intersections while turning right, they do not keep to the outer turning lane. Some take the inner turning lane which will put them in the faster right most lanes after making their turn. They will then attempt to filter left dangerously with faster motorists on lanes 1 and 2. Some don't even keep left or right, like motor-cycles they wait in between lanes and when turning, they're right smack in the middle of turning vehicles left and right. The safest way would be to stop on the left, dismount, wait for the pedestrian light and push their bicycle across, thereafter once they have crossed safely and are on the left most lane, mount and ride on. But this they will not do.
10) Failing to give way to pedestrians at crossings. They just cycle in between crossing pedestrians.
1.5metres? No, this cyclist wants to ride in the whole lane and expect cars to follow slowly behind.
11) Failing to ride safely and properly within the 1.5m. Some of them think they are in the 'Tour de France.' Instead of riding steadily and straight, their bicycles bobble left and right beyond 1.5m putting them at risk of being hit by a vehicle travelling alongside.
12) Like buses, they also fail to give way to vehicles such as taxis or passenger vans, stopping ahead of them to let passengers alight. When riding in groups, you have a large number of cyclists overtaking the vehicle and encroaching into the 2nd lane.
13) During heavy or slow moving traffic, these cyclists become 'motorcyclists,' by weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes ending up in the middle and faster lanes. And if the traffic starts moving they are in the middle of moving traffic, endangering themselves.
14) Failing to consider the conditions when riding around construction sites with a lot of heavy vehicles. Upper Bukit Timah is 1 prime example. A winding bumpy road, these cyclists ride with gay abandon, without realising that these lorries and trucks may not be able to see them.
15) Finally – getting hostile, when they are honked by vehicles to alert them to the danger. Instead of being grateful of the warning, they get angry, show the middle finger and some even want to confront the motorist.
This Caucasian cyclist refused to let a woman driver who overtook him to enter the condominium first. He sped up and insisted on going through despite being behind her. And then confronted her, leaving her shaken.
And in the unfortunate event, a cyclist is knocked down, injured or killed in an accident, the cycling groups are up in arms. Candlelight vigils and 'white ghost bicycles' are erected, followed by a barrage of criticism of motorists being reckless in forum pages and social media. I am not saying motorists are all angels. Singaporeans already have a reputation as 'kiasu drivers,' a culture of giving way is still somewhat lacking. There are bad drivers, and there definitely are good recreational cyclists who observe the rules. Unfortunately their numbers in recent years are declining, whereas the kind of cyclists mentioned in points 1-15 are rising and I dare say, reflects the majority of cyclists today.
And here's another who blocked the road long Thomson Road. The Caucasians are the most flagrant abusers of the rules here.
The chief reason I suspect is because cyclists are not registered. For sure there are rules in place but because there's no regulating or registration, they can get away with this boorish anti-social and even dangerous road behaviour. Motorists are, and there are ample cameras in place to spot and catch errant motorists in the act. Cyclists have no IU (In-vehicle Unit) or registration plates to identify them. And among the biggest culprits without raising the 'xenophobic card' just happens to be Caucasian expatriates. Just because their home countries have designated cycling lanes and rules for them, they take it that Singapore too must accommodate their whims. Hand on heart, ask yourself if you're a driver, which ethnic group is the one that flagrantly ignores rules and expects motorists to slow down to 'crawl speed' to accommodate cyclists? The answer in most cases is the Caucasian cyclist. Even in the busy Shenton Way/Marina business district or Orchard cordon, you will spot them cycling with a 'couldn't care less attitude' when traffic is at its heaviest and busiest. And they are the most confrontational.
A 'ghost bike' erected in memory of Ben Mok who was killed while cycling at Clementi.
And who do we have to blame for it? It has to be Traffic Police and its partner enforcement agencies – LTA, Cisco and Aetos Police. They simply refuse to do anything. No campaigns (at best the occasional half hearted poster plastered at a few places), no media clip and most of all, no enforcement. You can see cyclists flouting rules and a police car driving by, but doing nothing. No stopping to direct, warn and book the errant cyclists. And forget about an operation to catch errant cyclists. They are only interested to catch illegal parking or other traffic offences by motorists with hefty fines, leaving the cyclists a free hand to do as they please.
.Traffic Officers posing in front of their new 'bikes.' New vehicles, new headquarters, new gadgets, state of the art cameras, delegation of duties, faster promotions and bonuses this century, how about putting some effort and making our roads safer for a change?
PAP MP Lee Bee Wah came out with a suggestion that bicycles should be registered. It was laughed off as being silly, but given the spate of rule breaking and the dangers posed to themselves and other road users, the suggestion might not be so funny now. I however think that that step is a bit too drastic. The logical step is for a more visible enforcement action by the Police and its partner agencies and a concerted campaign to promote good and safe riding practices.
So when is the Police going to step up and crack down on errant cyclists? The number of causalities on the road involving them is increasing. And it's not always the motorist's fault. Of course no one wants to knock down a cyclist, and no cyclist wants to be knocked down. However until there's leadership, education, commitment and enforcement by the Traffic Police, this menace and danger on the roads will continue to escalate.