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Spike in bicycle accidents on Singapore roads amid cycling boom last year

Spike in bicycle accidents on Singapore roads amid cycling boom last year

File photo of a dedicated cycling lane on Tanah Merah Coast Road. (Photo: Elizabeth Neo)

SINGAPORE: There was an increase in the number of road traffic accidents involving bicycles last year, amid a COVID-19 inspired boom in the popularity of cycling. 

There were 572 traffic accidents involving bicycles in 2020, up about 25 per cent from 459 accidents the previous year, according to figures provided by the Traffic Police. 

The number of fatal accidents saw a slight drop, falling from nine in 2019 to seven in 2020. 

In 2018, there were 501 accidents involving bicycles, of which 10 were fatal. 

Though the figures for this year are not yet available, there have been several fatal accidents involving bicycles reported in the media. 

In May, a 49-year-old woman died in a collision with a bus while cycling around the Nanyang Technological University campus. 

Later that month, a 14-year-old male cyclist died after an accident with a trailer along Marina East Drive. 

READ: Singapore sees cycling boom amid COVID-19, with increased ridership and bicycle sales

Mr Saktiandi Supaat, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said there were “various plausible reasons” for the spike in bicycle accidents, suggesting one reason could be an increase in the number of cyclists. 

Many cities around the world, including Singapore, have seen more people taking up cycling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with retailers reporting greater sales of bicycles and cycling accessories

This could also mean more new cyclists with limited cycling experience and safety knowledge on the roads, said Mr Saktiandi (PAP-Bishan-Toa Payoh). 

The Active Mobility Advisory Panel - which proposes regulations on the use of bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMD) in public spaces - is currently reviewing the rules surrounding cycling on the road to improve safety for both cyclists and motorists

However, Singapore University of Social Sciences urban transport expert Park Byung Joon believes there may be no need for further regulation of bicycles. 

“I think the current rules are robust enough; it is more a question of enforcement,” said Associate Professor Park. 

READ: Panel to review rules on cycling on the road, registration of bicycles to be studied: Chee Hong Tat

Stricter regulations would not improve matters if the manpower and surveillance equipment needed to enforce the rules were not in place, he said. 

Mr Saktiandi said he hoped any new regulations would not “curtail the exuberance of cycling for leisure and work commutes”, describing it as a fine balance that needed to be achieved. 

More can be done to enhance the “sharing and safety culture” of roads and park connectors here, he believes. 

“Enhancing cyclist safety awareness at point of purchase at shops or among cycling groups would be one, especially for cases when cyclists are dealing with pedestrians and motorists,” he said. 

He suggested the authorities could work with apps such as Strava - an activity tracking app popular with cyclists and runners - to include safety tips and rules in Singapore.

“For motorists, maybe we could embed more situational elements in the basic and advanced theory tests as well as the practical tests on how to deal with cyclists and what cyclists are allowed to do on roads et cetera,” he said. 

READ: Registration of bicycles, licensing of cyclists may not make roads safer, say observers

Observers have said on-road cycling lanes could help keep cyclists safe, though there would be trade-offs in introducing such a measure. 

“The ideal solution would of course be dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorists and pedestrians, but given Singapore’s land constraints there are stretches that cannot see dedicated lanes,” said Mr Saktiandi. 

Associate Professor Park said that while introducing dedicated cycling lanes would help boost safety, it would also require significant investments in infrastructure. 

He suggested that registration of bicycles could help improve safety, as it would be easier to identify errant cyclists. 

READ: IN FOCUS: Why can't cyclists and motorists just get along?

The registration of bicycles and cyclists are among the possible measures being studied by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel.

However, Senior Minister of State of Transport Chee Hong Tat noted in Parliament last month that there were mixed views from the public on implementing such a measure.

The panel would review the practices in other cities and study the different options and trade-offs carefully before finalising its recommendations, Mr Chee said then. 

Source: CNA/az

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