The benefits of encouraging people to cycle are immense; from decreasing congestion on roads and rail to increasing the number of healthy and less obese people (which means less use of hospital resources, less MC etc.) to a greener economy and country to name but three. So why don’t more people ride bikes to work or school? Answer: because they may end up being killed or maimed by motorists.
Singapore promotes cycling half-heartedly despite these obvious benefits and more. There are no cycle lanes in Singapore so cyclist have to literally risk their lives to ride on the roads.
There were apparently more cyclists killed and injured on the roads of Singapore in 2013 than any previous year. There is a theory amongst cyclists that cars, lorries and vans target cyclists because they don’t pay the enormous road tax that they do.
When I say target I mean that many cars are known to swerve deliberately into cyclists, ride close to them, many do not give them room, many come within a hairs breath of knocking them off their bikes, many generally intimidate them and of course we know of many cyclists who were killed and injured by vehicles in 2013.
Reaction on social media bizarrely tends to blame the cyclist even when it is overwhelmingly the motorists fault. Who has the powerful steel machine being driven at 40mph and who has no defence and is effectively cycling on air unprotected?
Cyclists should be welcomed and encouraged not intimidated by ignorant motorists and commuters on social networks. Stop complaining about congestion on our roads and on our MRT if you’re not willing to encourage cyclists who have taken the initiative to seek other ways to get to work that leaves the roads and MRT free for you to enjoy.
The annual OCBC Cycle race is just around the corner. One of its aims is to promote cycling as a means to commute and get fit. One of its messages is that vehicles should allow 1.5metres between them and the cyclist. When you see the 1.5metres sticker on cars this is known as being ironic amongst cyclists as none of the vehicles allow anything like 1.5metres of space.
When cyclists are killed in Singapore amazingly courts have found motorists guilty and not jailed them. The worst that happens appears to be a fine, suspension of license and points on their license. Is that what a cyclists life is worth?
Surely there should be stiffer penalties for deliberately or carelessly knocking a cyclist off the road and injuring or killing them. If there was then maybe the 1.5 metre guide would be taken more notice of by motorists.
Motorists reaction to cyclists are not only ludicrous but illogical. They complain that there are too many motorists on the road causing congestion and anger and yet have a go at cyclists which are taking up no space and taking cars off the road. They want it both ways.
If you think are I am exaggerating try it out. I cycle to work and back every day and deliberately spend only 10% of that time on roads, the rest on paths, parks and gardens which may be longer but at least I will get there in one piece. That 10% I take my life in my hands every day.
Cars swerve deliberately to intimidate me off the road into the gutter for no reason and that is a common gripe amongst cyclists in Singapore. The fact that the roads are designed with the drains on the cycling side means that if a car/lorry/van gets too close a cyclist literally has nowhere to go.
If the cyclist go towards the drain they will hit it and topple over into the traffic or into the path both ways could spell death or serious injury. If they don’t move they risk being hit by the unthinking vehicle owner who clearly are driving with no empathy towards the cyclist.
Compare this with New York where they successfully not only introduced a cycle scheme of sharing 6,000 new bikes but have had no deaths on the roads in the first 5 months of it being implemented. That’s on New York’s notorious roads where drivers are much more aggressive than they are Singapore. So if New York can welcome cyclists with all the commercial, environmental and health benefits they bring a big bustling city why can’t Singapore?
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Chris Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia Pacific. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.