Friday, September 21, 2012

National Strategy to Promote Safe Cycling on the Roads

Taken from the Parliment of Singapore website

Parliament No:12
Session No:1
Volume No:89
Sitting No:6
Sitting Date:10-09-2012
Section Name:Oral Answers to Questions
Title:National Strategy to Promote Safe Cycling on the Roads
MPs Speaking:Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Mr Yee Jenn Jong, Mr Nicholas Fang, Ms Janice Koh, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport (Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim), Mr Speaker


The following question stood in the name of Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong
8 Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong asked the Minister for Transport (a) whether cycling is included in the Ministry's transport and infrastructure policy; (b) whether the Ministry has planned for the rising number of cyclists on the roads; and (c) whether a comprehensive and coordinated national strategy to promote cycling as a mode of transport will be introduced, including developing bike-friendly infrastructure and a regulatory framework for cycling.

9 Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong asked the Minister for Transport whether the Ministry has conducted a systematic study on how other developed cities with busy roads have integrated cycling into the traffic system with a coordinated network of lanes, road signages, road markings and traffic signals and, if so, what practical lessons have been drawn that can be implemented in Singapore.

10 Dr Janil Puthucheary asked the Minister for Transport (a) what measures does the Ministry intend to adopt to increase the safety of cyclists and reduce the risk of accidents on the roads; (b) whether the Ministry foresees a greater proportion of Singaporeans utilising cycling primarily as a means of transport; and (c) if so, how does the Ministry intend to plan for this shift in behaviour.

11 Mr Yee Jenn Jong asked the Minister for Transport (a) what is the outcome of the $43 million pilot programme undertaken by the Ministry since 2009 to design and construct dedicated cycling paths in the five selected HDB towns of Tampines, Pasir Ris, Taman Jurong, Sembawang and Yishun; (b) whether there will be a detailed public report on the outcome of the programme; (c) what are the lessons learnt that can be applied to having similar cycling paths or cycling lanes in the rest of Singapore; and (d) what other lessons have the Cycling Facilitation Committee learnt that may be applied to improving safety for both cyclists and other road users.

12 Mr Nicholas Fang asked the Minister for Transport given the current regulations requiring motorists to undergo training and testing before being licensed to go on the road, whether it is possible to (i) put in place a similar requirement for all cyclists to undergo training and education on safe road use before being allowed to take to the roads; and (ii) increase information for motorists on how to drive safely in relation to cyclists in order to reduce the number of accidents involving cyclists on Singapore roads.

13 Ms Janice Koh asked the Minister for Transport (a) what is the number of reported traffic accidents between pedal cyclists and motorists each year since 2008; (b) how many such fatalities have resulted each year since 2008; (c) what are the main causes of such accidents; and (d) whether there is a need to re-consider calls for bicycle-lane markings or dedicated cycling lanes on our roads to better protect our pedal cyclists.

14 Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong asked the Minister for Transport given the increasing number of cyclists on the roads (a) what are the Ministry's plans for improving road safety for cyclists; (b) whether a campaign will be mounted to change the attitudes of motorists towards cyclists and to condition motorists to look out for them; and (c) whether the Ministry will review the penalty framework for driving offences that cause death to pedestrians and cyclists.

15 Dr Lim Wee Kiak asked the Minister for Transport in view of the recent spate of traffic accidents including fatalities involving cyclists and motorists on Singapore roads (a) what measures have been taken in the last five years; and (b) what additional measures are in the pipeline to curb such injuries and loss of lives.

16 Dr Janil Puthucheary asked the Minister for Transport (a) how many cyclists were killed in the last five years as a result of traffic accidents; (b) of these accidents, in how many cases were the cyclists deemed to be at fault; (c) whether the Traffic Police will consider publishing a list of cycling accident black spots; (d) how does the usual punishment for a driver causing the death of a cyclist compare with other criminal offences where a death was unintentionally caused; and (e) whether the Ministry will consider reviewing the $20 composition fine on errant cyclists who are found to have flouted rules.

Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol): Question No 8, Sir.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport (Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim) (for the Minister for Transport): Mr Speaker, Sir, may I have your permission to take Question Nos 8 to16 together?

Mr Speaker: Yes, please.

Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim: Sir, I thank Members for their questions on cycling. In recent years, recognising its increasing popularity, my Ministry has taken active steps to facilitate cycling as a mode of transport, starting with a $43 million pilot programme in 2009 to construct dedicated cycling paths in five selected HDB towns − Tampines, Pasir Ris, Taman Jurong, Sembawang and Yishun. We have since expanded it to seven towns with Bedok and Changi-Simei coming on board. Now, under our National Cycling Plan and with the support of our partner agencies, we will also be rolling out basic cycling infrastructure in all new developments − in the new Marina Bay area, new housing estates, as well as during major estate upgrading programmes under the Remaking our Heartland (ROH) initiative by HDB.
These plans take time to roll out but already, we have provided 6.4 km of dedicated cycling paths in the first five cycling towns. By 2014, this will increase to well over 50 km in our HDB towns. In addition, LTA has recently provided 1.5 km of cycling paths along the perimeter roads of the new Gardens by the Bay, and the plan is to provide up to 16 km of cycling paths in the Marina Bay downtown area as the area develops.
These cycling paths that we are building are dedicated off-road paths, allowing us to segregate cyclists from on-road vehicles, as well as separating pedestrians from cyclists. We are investing in such cycling paths as they are safer for cyclists of all proficiencies, cater to the most number of users, and are generally planned to cater to short intra-town cycling trips, for example, to key amenities and transport nodes like MRT stations and bus interchanges.
We recognise that some cycling commuting trips are made between towns. For these less prevalent trips, we will look into linking up the intra-town cycling paths. Where appropriate, we will capitalise on the Park Connector Network, which will eventually allow us to achieve a larger, safe cycling network that can cater to longer-distance travel.
There have also been calls for the Government to do more for on-road cycling. In Singapore, land is a scarce commodity and, I dare say, road space is even scarcer. Most of our roads today are optimally sized for traffic conditions, and adding a dedicated lane for non-motorised traffic would require additional land, or the narrowing of existing vehicle lanes, with attendant adverse traffic impact. Given our circumstances, we have therefore prioritised off-road cycling, which is safer and can cater to greater numbers of people. I hope that Members and Singaporeans will understand that there will be these trade-offs, and that the Government is unable to accommodate all the wishes of all cycling communities, but must think of larger, overall needs. However, within reasonable limits, we can see if there are specific locations where we can do more for on-road cycling.
LTA has studied many cities that have attempted to integrate cycling as part of their traffic systems. Every city has a different approach, influenced by factors such as population density, quality of public transport, land availability, cycling culture, traffic speed, and so on. Some cities in China, Denmark and the Netherlands take a similar approach as us where cycling lanes are essentially separated and protected from vehicular traffic, while cities in the US and UK have implemented unprotected cycling lanes, which are regarded as being less safe. We will continue to study other cities’ approaches, and are prepared to pilot some of their ideas where feasible in Singapore.
Ms Janice Koh, Dr Lim Wee Kiak and Dr Janil Puthucheary expressed concerns about traffic accidents involving cyclists. I share their concerns. The total number of reported fatal and injury accidents where cyclists are involved has declined by 17% between 2008 and 2011. Cyclists were found to be at least partly at fault for about half of these accidents. The number of cyclist fatalities averaged 18 per year over the same period from 2008 to 2011. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 11 cyclist fatalities.
Every fatality, cyclist, pedestrian or otherwise, is one too many, and I share Members’ sentiments that we should minimise them. All road users, be it cyclists, motorists or pedestrians, need to play their part in this. The common causes of accidents attributable to cyclists or other road users include: failing to keep a proper look-out, disobeying traffic light signals, and failing to give way to traffic with the right of way. The Cycling Facilitation Committee (CFC), started by Minister of State Mr Teo Ser Luck, recognised that public education is key in shaping cyclists’ behaviour. The CFC advocates a community-led approach to do so, and the volunteer cycling wardens that you see in some HDB towns is part of this approach.
Mr Nicholas Fang asked if the Traffic Police should require cyclists to undergo training and education on safe road use before being allowed to take to the roads. Since the profile of cyclists ranges from school children to senior citizens, from foreign workers to persons who pursue cycling as a sport, the Traffic Police’s approach is to engage cyclists within the different groups and impart relevant knowledge on safe road use to them through targeted platforms, rather than instituting a formal training and licensing regime. Efforts have been stepped up to educate the community on safe cycling practices and road rules. In the first half of 2012, 150 sessions of road safety talks in schools, workers’ dormitories and at community-level events have been conducted, and 15 safe cycling exhibitions were held. At these events, “Safe Cycling Guides”, containing information on proper riding apparel, safe cycling and road sharing tips, are distributed to participants. A recent collaboration between the Traffic Police and the Singapore Sports Council included the production of a 10-minute safe cycling video entitled “Gear Up! Safety begins with me”. LTA will also be producing an “Intra-Town Cycling” handbook as a reference for good cycling etiquette and to share safety tips. I am taking a personal interest in this area and will work with key stakeholders and relevant Government agencies to see if more can be done to improve safety.
Motorists, during learner driver training, are taught various safety considerations towards cyclists on the roads. Drivers are taught to give ample room to cyclists, especially when passing them. Drivers are also taught not to make sharp turns at corners, and to slow down and give way to vulnerable road users, which include cyclists. It is a strict requirement for learner drivers to check their blind spots before making a lane change or a turn. This is to ensure that drivers are aware of any motorcyclists and pedal cyclists who might be riding alongside. We have noted the suggestions raised by Ms Irene Ng and Mr Nicholas Fang and are studying further education measures with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Traffic Police to inculcate a safe road sharing mindset amongst motorists and cyclists alike.
On the enforcement front, the Traffic Police will continue to maintain ground presence to ensure that cyclists and motorists abide by traffic rules. Firm action will be taken against those who display dangerous road behaviour such as driving or riding without due regard to the safety of others. We also urge cyclists to recognise their own vulnerability in relation to motorised traffic.
Ms Irene Ng and Dr Janil asked about the penalties for errant motorists and cyclists. A driver who unintentionally causes the death of a person in a road traffic accident may be charged under the Penal Code or the Road Traffic Act depending on the circumstances of the case and the degree of culpability. A convicted driver will be punished with an imprisonment term of up to five years, or with a fine, or both. These persons will also be disqualified from driving for a period of time.
Similar considerations are applicable to other types of criminal offences where a death was unintentionally caused and where the person is also charged under the Penal Code. The Police periodically review its penalty framework for all offences, and will continue to monitor the situation carefully.
Cyclists who flout traffic rules will be issued summonses. Depending on the circumstances, a cyclist may be offered a composition amount of $20 for the offences. In the case where a person was hurt, the cyclist may be prosecuted in Court under the Penal Code for endangering the safety of others by rash riding, and they will face larger fines or even imprisonment. MHA and the Traffic Police are reviewing the cycling penalties to ensure that they are commensurate with the severity of the respective offences, and will announce the findings when their review is completed.
To sum up, we will continue to give priority to our efforts to develop off-road cycling paths to facilitate intra-town cycling. We will also review if we can do a little more on the infrastructure front to facilitate on-road cycling. Beyond infrastructure, it is also important for us to inculcate good cycling habits and responsible driving through public education supplemented by an effective regulatory regime. It is my hope that over time, we will be able to engender a good cycling and driving culture that allows for mutual understanding, basic courtesy and, more importantly, a safe environment for all road users.
In the coming months, I intend to meet more of the different stakeholders to better understand their viewpoints and to see whether we need to review the approach that we have taken so far and the provisions that we have made to facilitate cycling in Singapore.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Nee Soon): Mr Speaker, Sir, let me thank and congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary for his maiden reply in this House.

I would like to ask a simple supplementary question regarding whether his Ministry would consider designating certain roads, especially on weekends and public holidays, for cycling. At least to reserve one lane, especially on roads that are less used in the catchment areas such as Mandai or even in the Changi area. These are the frequent haunts of recreational cyclists. I do not think that recreational cyclists will want to cycle on cycling tracks so I hope the Ministry can consider that.

Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim: Sir, I would like to thank the Member for the suggestion. As I am doing my engagement process today and beyond today, I will take that as feedback and suggestion. I will take note of this when we review our plan.
But, Sir, beyond providing space for our cyclists, motorists and pedestrians, what is important is for us to have a caring attitude, to develop a caring attitude amongst Singaporeans. Since my Facebook posting, I received many views and suggestions from Singaporeans to improve road safety. I have also met cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. One issue that resonates deeply amongst us is the need to care for one another.
I mentioned earlier one death is too many. In fact, I find that one injury is also too many. Any death and accident affect that individual as well as their friends and families. It may affect their physical abilities. At the same time, it will also affect their friends, their livelihood, the way they live with their family. I remember one of my friends who was paralysed from a traffic accident. He was a money-changer. His livelihood just changed totally. At the same time, his family was affected badly. Sometimes when I travel around along the expressway, I see this message “Drive safety, think of your loved ones”. This connects very well with me and connects with many Singaporeans. It reminds us to be careful, to take care of one another, to take care of the person driving in front of you, beside you, behind you and those who are walking along the pedestrian walkway and the motorists that are sharing the road with you. Wherever possible, we should care for one another.
With this attitude, it is important for us to see how we can develop, continue this journey of caring for one another. Sometimes, I think the people who are next to me are going to visit their loved ones, the person who is behind me going to visit their friends, meet their friends to have a good time, or to visit their aged parents. Thus, it is important for us to continue this effort to develop a caring community, and I feel with this effort, we can keep our roads safer day after day, month after month and year after year.

Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol): I would like to echo the congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary, and ask a number of supplementary questions. In the engagement and the review of the process of looking at cycling, going forward, I wonder whether the Ministry might consider the priority. The framework, as explained, is to essentially segregate traffic cyclists and pedestrians but no matter how many cycle paths we build, there will always be on-road cycling. There is just no possibility of building enough cycle paths. And given that no cyclists have killed any pedestrians and pedestrians have not been killed on cycle paths, perhaps rather than trying to significantly change the existing behaviour by building more and more cycle paths and doing a little bit more for on-road cycling, could the Ministry consider the priority might be to map funding and resources to the existing behaviour and the existing risks which is for cyclists who are being killed on the road for consideration.
The other question I have is with respect to fines. I do not advocate an increasingly strict enforcement regime to drive behaviour but I would ask if the Ministry would consider that some consistency in terms of the enforcement framework would be necessary. I give one particular example. The Parliamentary Secretary said errant cyclists flouting the rules would be fined about $20 if it was a minor infringement. Just outside Parliament House in the walkway along the river, as the walkway extends under the bridge, there is a large sign saying that cyclists have to dismount and push and if one does not, the fine is $1,000. There is a significant discrepancy for an on-road risk flouting the Highway Code and off-road courtesy and safety to pedestrians. Would the Ministry consider looking at cycling in a more holistic way to rationalise the enforcement framework?

Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim: Sir, I thank the Member for the good questions. As Members mentioned cycling behaviour is affected by many, many things. We feel that one of the factors to provide safe cycling is to have separate off-road cycling lanes. Beyond that, we will continue to educate the public, not only the cyclists, but the motorists and beyond to see how we can care for one another. We will continue to educate the public and, in fact, we have engaged the community widely during the community events and beyond to see how we can share cycling safety tips among the cyclists as well as for children and the elderly, when they walk along these pathways how they can detect some of the dangers coming on board in front of them.
With regards to the enforcement regime, I take the suggestion by the Member and, as I mentioned in my answer, the Traffic Police and MHA are reviewing the enforcement regime. We are going to see how we can make it commensurate with the severity of the offences.

Mr Nicholas Fang (Nominated Member): I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the answers. I would like to raise three supplementary questions. One of the first issues that we should look at that is affecting the discussion between cyclists and other road users today is the view of what cycling is meant to be. So far, in all your answers, you make it quite clear that cycling is viewed as a way for either recreation or very short intra-town journeys. I would like to ask if the Ministry would ever consider pushing for cycling to be adopted as an alternative way of transport, especially in the CBD area. For example, I personally know a lot of people who would be happy to cycle from their homes to work if they do not live prohibitively far away. This will actually help to alleviate congestion and pollution within the CBD area. Singapore, as an environment, is very well suited. We do not have winter. We have heavy rains sometimes but by and large, we have an environment that is suitable for cycling as a mode of transport.
I would also like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the answers on the regulatory measures that can be implemented. I understand that the varied groups of cyclists mean that trying to put in place a cycling licence, for example, may not be ideal. But if you look at the amount of regulation that is put in place for road users in cars and the kind of strict testing that we have, it seems to me at odds with the fact somebody exposed on a bicycle, sharing those same roads with vehicles that could cause much greater damage, are not required to undergo any form of certification or systemised education. I hope that the Ministry would consider looking at that a bit more in depth because it seems out of place. Somebody in the car who, if involved in an accident is protected by the car, has to go through much more stringent requirements, than somebody who is exposed on the bicycle.
And thirdly, safety requirements such as mandatory helmets or, perhaps, reflective vests or bands, could be put in place as mandatory for all cyclists. I understand they are not at the moment. Would the Ministry consider such a measure?

Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim: Sir, I would like to thank the Member for his supplementary questions. He asked if we view cycling as an alternative mode of transport. Indeed, it is an alternative mode of transport, especially for the first and the last mile travel. We are encouraging intra-town travelling. And, in fact, if you look at the trend, there is a development that cycling has increased in terms of intensity in the last few years. If you go to the interchanges, MRT stations, and you look at the bicycle racks that have been provided, they are full, especially when you come to Yishun. I can see that they are highly utilised.
We are also looking at how cyclists can travel from one town to another town – inter-town. In fact, yesterday, I just met a grassroots leader who shared with me that he cycles to work from Yishun to Loyang, even though he takes one hour. But he is a different type of cyclist in the sense that he said he uses all the intra-town connections - the park connectors to the Lorong Halus and all the way to the Punggol Waterway, all the way to Loyang.
We recognise such a phenomenon and, as I have mentioned earlier, in time to come we will develop more cycling paths in the whole of Singapore. With new estates coming on board, it will be an integrated one, and we will certainly like to see how we can make it a more sustainable transport system in Singapore. We want to encourage that and, in fact, cycling is something that allows families to bond. The essence of cycling is that it has multiple purposes. Some use it for leisure, others use it for travelling within their town – to go marketing, to go to the MRT station, to work – and also there are those who do it for sports.
With regards to the rules and requirements for cyclists, we are reviewing that, as what I mentioned earlier. We understand your point and it is important for us to understand that if you look at cyclists, they range from the small kids to senior citizens, foreign workers and those who use it for sports. We are very mindful of that and we want to make sure that we reach out to the relevant segments and different segments would have a different kind of educational process. To do so, it will require us to continuously work with the community and see how we can further improve the safety as well as the infrastructure for the cycling community. The safety requirements that the Member mentioned: the helmet and the reflective bands. We have deliberated this time and time again, even during Minister of State Teo Ser Luck’s time, and the CFC is aware about this. As in my reply to the hon. Member Lim Wee Kiak, we will take on this suggestion. We will relook at it to see how we can make cycling a safer mode of transport in Singapore.

Mr Speaker: Mr Nicholas Fang, last question.

Mr Nicholas Fang: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Just one clarification, as to my first question: so would the Ministry ever consider advocating cycling as an alternative form of transport not just intra-town but from town to CBD, and actually encouraging that. That would change a lot of the way other road users view cyclists. People look at cyclists now as people who are doing it for recreation or only for short distances and hence they are not used to the idea of more cyclists on the road in the CBD and hence adjusting their behaviour accordingly.

Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim: Sir, we could look at it as a natural phenomenon, such as when I shared with you how my resident cycled from Yishun all the way to Loyang. We recognise that there are not many people doing this, possibly due to our weather and because we have an efficient public transport system whereby the MRT and the buses provide a better transport mode for our people for the majority of us. Nevertheless, we will provide the infrastructure for cyclists who may want to travel from one town to another town. It is important for us to give this choice to Singaporeans. We do not want Singaporeans to be forced to take a certain mode of transport. Most importantly, we want to encourage people to use our public transport system.

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