SINGAPORE: As more people take to cycling on the roads in Singapore, an advisory panel will conduct a review of the rules to see how safety can be improved for both cyclists and motorists, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat on Monday (Apr 12).
The Active Mobility Advisory Panel - which proposes regulations on the use of bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMD) in public spaces - will look at the possibility of measures such as the registration of bicycles or licensing of cyclists, he said.
Authorities may also consider the possibility of requiring cyclists to take a theory test, as is the case with PMD users and electric bicycle riders now, Mr Chee added.
He noted though that the pros and cons of such moves will have to be studied.
Speaking to reporters at the Land Transport Authority's headquarters, Mr Chee pointed out that in countries such as the Netherlands - where more than a quarter of all daily commutes are made by bicycle - there is no need for bicycles to be registered or cyclists to be licensed.
"Instead they use other ways to ensure safety, but it is a proposal that the panel can look at as part of the overall review of our existing rules, and see whether such a move, overall, is good for Singapore," said Mr Chee, who is also Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
"While we do this, it's important that we do so in a balanced and fair manner, because we don't want to inadvertently end up discouraging cycling," he added, noting the role of cycling in making Singapore's transport network more environmentally friendly.
Many cities around the world, including Singapore, have seen more people taking up cycling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suggestion to license cyclists is not new. In 2013, then-Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah proposed that cyclists take lessons on road safety before they are given licences by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
LTA said in 2016 that it had studied the licensing of bicycles and cyclists "very carefully", but there are "practical difficulties" to ensuring that the registry of licences is regularly updated by licence holders.
"Many bicycles are sold and change hands every year. The profile of cyclists is diverse, ranging from very young children to the elderly" said LTA's then-director of active mobility Tan Shin Gee in a forum letter in the Straits Times.
"Some people cycle to work, while others cycle occasionally to neighbourhood amenities, or for leisure and exercise.
"It will be resource-intensive to implement and police a system to license bicycles or cyclists that is up to date."
READ: Electric bicycle riders must pass theory test to ride on roads under proposed changes to Road Traffic Act
On Monday, Mr Chee said the panel's review also aims to raise awareness of existing rules - such as the need for cyclists to obey traffic rules on the road and not using their mobile phones while cycling - noting that this will have to be accompanied by greater enforcement by LTA and the Traffic Police.
"The third point is that we do also need to take a look at our existing rules to see whether they are relevant, and we will also study the practices of other countries, especially countries where they have a good culture of cycling," said Mr Chee.
The panel will look at whether rules and practices from other countries can be adapted to the local context. It will engage different groups of cyclists, such as those who do so for work, for commuting purposes and for leisure, as well as other road users, he said.
The process may take "a few months", he added.
"If the AMAP requires a bit more time, I think it's important for us not to rush the process but to hear from all the different stakeholder groups before we come up with a set of recommendations," he said.
The review will also consider how to enhance safety for all road users in a scenario where even more people take up cycling in the future, with Mr Chee noting that this would be "a good thing".
"So the rules are not only something that we look at for the current situation, but also for the future," he said.