Sparring over Big Brother, cabs and cycling: Page 2 of 2

Sparring over Big Brother, cabs and cycling

While MPs and ministers joined forces on this, there were other moments when they seemed to be talking at cross purposes.

MP Ang Hin Kee pressed LTA to review its taxi availability standards.

The executive adviser of the National Taxi Association (NTA) said cabbies had complained about having to cruise empty just to chalk up daily minimum mileage requirements.

He said: "I would urge that LTA officials may want to go down to the ground and understand the implementation on the ground, because it deviates fairly much from the intended objective of what the MOT (Ministry of Transport) has put in place."

Mr Ang clearly knows the issue inside out, and could recite figures showing that the new standards have not caused an increase in taxi ridership. In other words, what is the point of insisting on taxis chalking up mileage - and cruising empty - when it does not result in more commuters managing to get cabs?

Without conceding the point, Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo nevertheless replied in good grace at the end of the exchange: "It is good that the NTA has continued to raise this issue with the taxi companies, and we certainly agree with Mr Ang that it is useful to find out what more is happening on the ground, and we will do so."

On cycling, too, there was no easy meeting of minds. Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhamad Faishal Ibrahim said Bishan, Bukit Panjang and Woodlands would become cycling towns, and that Marina Bay would pilot a bike-sharing scheme.

MP Irene Ng, an ardent cycling advocate, acknowledged progress in cycling infrastructure, but thought the approach was too "piecemeal". She pushed for a national plan, with a target to be set for cycling as a mode of transport.

But is that what people really want, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew asked. Most cyclists in Singapore are recreational ones. Some bike to get to nearby areas. Only a small group use it as their primary mode of transport.

Given this profile of cyclists, he said, "our priority is to have off-road segregated cycling paths" that let cyclists get to their destinations without over-exposure to speeding cars, and on paths where they will not endanger pedestrians.

The issue of cyclists on the roads is at risk of becoming polarised between motorists and cyclists, with some incidents of conflict caught on camera.

While some want a concerted effort to promote on-road cycling, Mr Lui is right to be cautious.

It is easy to say all road users must share the road - which of course they must - but it is a different thing altogether to get more cyclists using fast-flowing roads when other road users are not ready to give way.

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