There has been a recent spate of news reports, articles and discussions on the issue of cyclists’ safety and the roles of both cyclists and motorists on the roads. This was due to the recent death of cyclist Freddie Khoo and two letters sent to the relevant authorities expressing frustration with regards to the struggles cyclists face and seeking help to alleviate the situation.
Pay taxes=right to use the road?
The whole debate of who (cyclists or motorists) has the right to road use is not new. Sure, road tax costs a bomb here but that does not mean motorists are the only ones who have the right to use the roads. Doesn’t the Highway Code preach caution at all times?
The double bind of cyclists
Most of us who have been cycling here for some time should be able to relate to this. On one hand, we were told that pavements were only for pedestrians. And yes, I have friends who were fined because they were caught riding on pavements but I guess $20 is a small price to pay for safety. So it appears that the alternative for the cyclist is to ride on the road, which presents another set of problems. There is a Chinese saying, “the road is like a tiger’s mouth”, which is an analogy to how dangerous the roads are. While it may be possible to go faster on the roads, cyclists always have the irking fear that some vehicle might sweep and drag them or knock them down. The result is that the cyclist is put in a situation of being in “no man’s land”. It is frustrating.
The existing pragmatic and economic justification is that the roads in Singapore are too narrow to add bicycle lanes for cyclists. Roads need to be ‘optimized’ for motorists and ‘economic’ activities. But it is probably an excuse as I have been in a suburban part of Japan recently where the roads are so narrow, yet , to my surprise, there has been some, though little allowance and demarcation of space for a separate bicycle lane. A possible and viable suggestion here in Singapore is to have painted on bicycle lanes on routes which are cyclist-heavy.
Compromises and solutions
Although the government has just pledged to ‘do more for cyclist safety’, the road/route to a harmonious relationship between cyclists and motorists is still a very long one. As mentioned on our Facebook page before, “it’s not about who pays or doesn't pay taxes, why there are no bicycle lanes or whatever. It's about a basic respect for the lives of others, whether you are a rider, driver, or both”.