Cyclists + footpaths = Bad mix?
Tan Dawn Wei Alex Liam
Sun, Feb 10, 2008
The Straits Times

SOON after some good news for cyclists came from the Transport Minister, one rider had to spoil it all.

On Jan 31, Madam Stevanie Nur Rindynie and her three-month-old daughter were knocked down by a cyclist while they were walking along a footpath in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10.

The baby, who was in Madam Stevanie's arms, hit her head on the kerb, suffering abrasions to her nose and a mild head swelling.

Madam Stevanie, 24, did not see the cyclist coming: He had approached from behind and was riding fast enough to knock her off her feet and onto the road.

He did not stop to help.

Madam Stevanie's husband, when told of the incident, was so infuriated he sent pictures of his bruised baby to online portal Stomp. An upset Mr Abdul Halil Abdul Hamid, 34, told The Sunday Times: 'My baby was lucky but others might not be so lucky.'

The incident came on the heels of goodies handed out by Transport Minister Raymond Lim last month to cyclists: Foldable bicycles can go onto trains and buses if a six-month trial from next month goes well.

Also promised were better bicycle parking facilities at MRT stations and bus interchanges and signs to alert motorists to popular cycling routes.

Except in Tampines - where a year-long trial to allow cyclists on footpaths is into its ninth month - it is still illegal for cyclists to ride on footpaths.

Secretary Rina Tan, 43, who has been swiped by bicycle handles while walking, wants no change to the no-rider-on-footpath rule.

'Can you imagine if they are given the right?' she asked.

General practitioner Lily Aw said injuries sustained from being hit by a bicycle can range from bruises and cuts to major injuries like head and spinal injuries and even internal bleeding.

Dr Aw, 52, a jogger who thinks cyclists should have their own tracks, said: 'Any injury is possible.'

Those caught riding without due regard for the safety of others are liable for a composition fine of $20.

If charged in court, cyclists face a fine of up to $1,000 or jail of up to three months. Repeat offenders face a fine of $2,000 or jail of up to six months.

There were no fatalities in accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians in the last three years, according to the Traffic Police.

But 168 cyclists were booked for reckless or dangerous riding last year while in 2006, a total of 206 were booked.

Reactions to the Tampines trial have been mixed.

Of the 30 non-cyclist residents The Sunday Times spoke to last week, 13 were against having riders on footpaths while nine were for it. The rest were neutral.

Twenty residents insisted that since the trial started, cyclists were riding faster and even acted as if they had the right of way.

Tampines residents who are cyclists were naturally on the defensive.

Nearly all the 30 cyclists interviewed said they took care not to endanger pedestrians. But 12 admitted to having had brushes with pedestrians.

Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng said the trial, still being monitored, will go on till May. The town council and Land Transport Authority are also widening footpaths where possible and building more segregated bike lanes.

'Until our roads are made safer for cyclists or more segregated bike lanes are built, many will still use the footways,' said Ms Ng.

Mr Wong Hsien Wae, 35, whose 21/2-year-old son was knocked down by a young cyclist last year along a pavement in Sembawang, wants the authorities to make clear what the avenues of redress are.

'They have been very ambiguous about this. The legislation may be there but people are not aware of what they should or should not do,' said the senior air force technician.

Housewife and Tampines resident Faridah Sidek, 39, rides her bicycle on the footpath to the market and to her daughter's kindergarten.

'Bicycles are small and are no match for the big vehicles on the road,' she said.

But some pedestrians prefer cyclists to have their own paths. Others, like Mr Abdul Halil, want the authorities to issue licences to each bicycle so those hurt in hit-and-run accidents - like his wife - can go to the police with the bicycle's registration number.

That, and an education campaign.

'The Government can provide the facilities but without education, accidents will happen,' he said.

Co-existence between cyclists and pedestrians may well have to come down to two things: education and enforcement.

But that is easier said than done. And so, the war over the footpaths may rage still.



Should cyclists be allowed to ride on footpaths? Send your comments to suntimes@sph.com.sg


Cyclists on footpaths

'Until our roads are made safer for cyclists or more segregated bike lanes are built, many will still use the footways.' MS IRENE NG, MP for Tampines GRC who said the trial will go on till May

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