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Musings, My Paper

Cycling On Singapore’s Public Roads: Courses Or Licences For Non-Motorist Cyclists?

Following the unfortunate deaths of a number of Singaporean cyclists, as well as the corresponding proliferation of online notes and commentaries pertaining to new legislation or policy recommendations, it seems as if there is renewed impetus for relevant agencies to do something. Not quite curiously, the solutions advanced by the cycling lobby are not exactly groundbreaking; from the drawing of cycling lanes to the heightened education of drivers, significant headway has not been made. At the present moment, individuals appear to be more concerned with lobbing criticisms and assorted anecdotal experiences about how cyclists or drivers – in general – are reckless, inconsiderate, vice versa.

My primary concern is that non-motorist cyclists do not have the knowledge to practise defensive riding on the road.

Courses Or Licences For Non-Motorist Cyclists?

As a constructive starting point, the plan for courses or licences for non-motorist cyclists are premised upon two primary justifications: first, so that cyclists can better protect themselves if they are cognisant of traffic rules and regulations; second, this would then provide the basis for authorities to introduce more rigorous campaigns to educate both drivers and cyclists.

Previous commentaries have called for all cyclists to undergo such programmes, but my primary concern is that non-motorist cyclists do not have the knowledge to practise defensive riding on the road. We are looking at a very specific target audience, within a particular domain. Without the information on how to give way, how to signal, which lanes to keep to et cetera, they are putting themselves in danger.

Opponents to such a proposition could argue that these courses or licences could dampen general interest in cycling, despite its multitude of environmental and health benefits. But this is a necessary evil, if cyclists desire to minimise the risks involved. Road rules are not “common sense”, especially on roads that are becoming more congested and dangerous. This accessibility is a small price to pay for increased security and safety, and is only applicable for cyclists wishing to travel on public roads. They need to recognise their immense vulnerability.

Once this common understanding has been established, it would be in order for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to institute more comprehensive education campaigns to empower both drivers and cyclists. This could, for instance, include emphasis on sections dealing with cyclists and pedestrians in the theory tests, social media campaigns detailing traffic rules and guidelines, as well as pointers to help elementary cyclists keep themselves safe. Unfortunately, on cyberspace, many members of the public are so obsessed with proving their propositions – that errant cyclists are to blame, that careless motorists are at fault – that they forget that collaborative approaches are the way forward. We have to move from this divide.

A version of this article was published in My Paper.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


6 thoughts on “Cycling On Singapore’s Public Roads: Courses Or Licences For Non-Motorist Cyclists?

  1. Well thought out. Would like to add on to it too, if you don’t mind.

    I was an avid cyclist myself, riding long distances around the island. Safety is the responsibility of both drivers and cyclists, and it always takes to hands to clap. This is something that argumentative netizens always fail to consider before shooting off at either sides.

    I have often seen comments from cyclists pushing for cycling lanes, or from motorists demanding that cyclists pay road taxes and ERP and even calling for a complete ban of bicycles on the roads. Others have suggested that all bicycles should be required to be registered and that licence plates be made compulsory.

    These are not solutions to the problem of cyclist deaths. The cycling community’s request for new lanes may seem legit, and if we take a look at certain parts of Europe, it is in fact a good solution. But this is impractical for Singapore. We simply do not have enough space to expand our current road network to include another lane, and even if we did, I doubt the number of cyclists using it will justify the high construction costs. On the other hand, road tax and ERP should not be charged until we experience pollution from bicycles, or traffic congestion caused by cyclists. Any requirement for licence will also defeat the purpose of the bicycle.

    Whenever blame-pushing happens, there is a great tendency to paint all cyclist with a broad brush, maybe due to the lack of knowledge about the various types of cyclists. As such, I feel it is important for all parties to understand the different kinds of cyclists, before shooting off blindly.

    We used to have only two groups of cyclists – labourers, mostly foreign, with no clue about our traffic, and the hobbyists, who wear their helmets and consider the road rules. However, with recent reports of reckless ‘pros’, we might start to think otherwise. However, to keep things simple, we have those who follow traffic rules, and those who do not. The ones who fail to comply with our traffic rules, like the packs who ride through red lights as if they were in the tour de france, should be punished, and the ones who do so out of ignorance, like the ones who ride against the flow of traffic, might need education – but that in itself is another story. Cyclists who are law abiding should not be thought of as a nuisance, and these have every right to use the roads too.

    So it has to boil down to individual responsibility. From what I have experienced, having a good sense of defensive riding and knowledge of our motorways are really important to getting around safely. Once you recognise your position on the roads, things can work out fine indeed.

    Bicycles and motor vehicles CAN coexist on our roads. Accidents happen all the time, and road deaths are an ugly thing that happens even more with motorcycles than bicycles. Yet we are not going to enforce a ban motorcycles – that doesn’t solve anything.

    Again, safety is the responsibility of the individual who uses the roads.

    ~ Just an opinion from a former cyclist


    Posted by Theo | September 16, 2012, 10:53 pm
  2. it would be great to have better informed cyclists on the road but how about also including “cycling awareness” in basic theory test for drivers??

    Posted by BicycleShopSG | April 3, 2013, 6:02 pm


  1. Pingback: Cycling On Singapore’s Public Roads: A Former Cyclist’s Perspective « guanyinmiao's musings - September 19, 2012

  2. Pingback: Accidents, Road Safety In Singapore: Improve Mind-sets, Not (Just) Roads « guanyinmiao's musings - February 6, 2013

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