Bicycle barriers deter cyclists, but what about wheelchair users?

SINGAPORE - The Disabled People's Association (DPA) has come out strongly against an initiative by the East Coast Town Council to deter irresponsible cycling at void decks.

The town council installed bicycle barriers in Bedok Sunflower Estate, off Bedok South Road. They have been put up in blocks 62, 63, 64 and 65.

Placed in front of the ground floor lifts, these barriers also warn of a fine of $5,000 for cyclists who cycle in the void decks.

They were installed in April, starting with block 63, said Mr Chern Tsuen, senior manager of the East Coast Town Council.

DPA president Nicholas Aw said that while the association appreciates efforts to make the walkways safe, they are not sure if that is the best solution.

The barriers are about 1.2m apart.

But, according to DPA, "this does not mean that they are easily navigated by those using wheelchairs".

Said Mr Aw: "Moreover, even if a wheelchair user can negotiate around these barriers, this does not mean that the barriers will not create problems for others with disabilities, such as those who are visually impaired."

But why put them up?

A spokesman for the town council said there were minor collisions and near misses between cyclists and residents in the estate.

No major accidents have been reported, but police reports have been made. This is why the town council decided to put up the barriers and implement a fine.

A S$5000 fine is the maximum that can be imposed by the town council for infringement.

No one has been fined yet.

However, warnings have been issued to reckless cyclists. Summonses have also been issued to some motorcyclists.

"We (also) want to make it user-friendly," said Mr Chern.

Tried and tested

He said the barriers weretested before being installed.

Last week, Mr Chern and other members of the town council went down to Bedok Sunflower Estate to test these barriers again.

Two residents in wheelchairs showed that the barriers were not a hindrance.

Mr Chern himself understands the situation well as his own parents are wheelchair-bound.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force has also stated that the barriers do not infringe fire safety regulations.

Even though the barriers help prevent accidents between cyclists and pedestrians, there are still concerns for the disabled.

Resident Fiza Fikri, 30, a homemaker, said that from her observations, wheelchair users still find it tricky to manoeuvre around them.

But others, like Madam Rosalind Lim, 56, also a homemaker, find that the barriers serve a good purpose.

"Better to cope with a bit of inconvenience rather than (risk injury)," she said.

Mr Aw still feels that there should be a "more holistic approach" to the problem with cyclists.

He added that initiatives to protect residents from reckless cyclists should not be "at the expense of the safety of those who use wheelchairs, crutches or any other mobility aids".

Mr Chern said there are plans to install more barriers, in blocks 33 to 35 of the estate. The town council will take things on a case-by-case basis, provided there is the space and need, he said.

"Even if a wheelchair user can negotiate around these barriers, this does not mean that the barriers will not create problems for other persons with disabilities, such as those who are visually impaired."

- Mr Nicholas Aw, president of the Disabled People's Association

atanya@sph.com.sg

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