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Proposal to lower speed limits of PMDs and bikes receives flak; advisory panel member resigns

SINGAPORE — A recommendation by an advisory panel to bring down the speed limit of personal mobility devices (PMDs) and bicycles from 15km/h to 10km/h on footpaths drew strong reactions from users. It also led to the resignation of a member of the advisory panel — Mr Francis Chu — who disagreed with the recommendation, saying it was impractical and "impossible to enforce".

Proposal to lower speed limits of PMDs and bikes receives flak; advisory panel member resigns
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SINGAPORE — A recommendation by an advisory panel to bring down the speed limit of personal mobility devices (PMDs) and bicycles from 15km/h to 10km/h on footpaths drew strong reactions from users. It also led to the resignation of a member of the advisory panel — Mr Francis Chu — who disagreed with the recommendation, saying it was impractical and "impossible to enforce".

Cycling enthusiasts and users of PMDs largely disagreed with the Active Mobility Advisory Panel's recommendations put out on Friday (Aug 24), in a bid to address the sharp rise in accidents involving these transportation equipment. Besides calling for slower speeds, the panel proposed to make it compulsory for PMD and bicycle users to "stop and look out for oncoming traffic" at road crossings, as well as for cyclists on roads to wear helmets.

Among the three, the recommendation on lowering the speed limit of PMD and bicycles travelling on footpaths received the most ire.

Mr Chu, a member of the National Cycling Plan Steering Committee and co-founder of cycling enthusiast group LoveCyclingSG, wrote in a Facebook post on Friday: "It is with regret that I have decided that I cannot support the recommendations published… and have therefore resigned my membership from the panel.

"Specifically, I object to reducing the footway speed limit from 15km/h to 10km/h. I feel this is not only impossible to enforce, but at the same time makes commuting by bicycle and PMDs impractical. In the event of an accident, it would be very difficult to prove if the rider is riding within the speed limit or not."

Mr Chu added that he supports keeping the present 15km/h limit, and introducing a mandatory "slow to walking speed" rule when approaching pedestrians and blind spots.

This would provide "much more protection for pedestrians, while still allowing PMD and bicycle riders to "travel at a practical speed", he explained.

When contacted, Mr Chu — who is also the founder of Totobobo, a business selling respiratory masks — told TODAY that he resigned on Aug 16. "I have been communicating my alternative proposal previously, but the panel did not take it up. I'm disappointed they didn't take up this suggestion previously and now."

His point was that cutting down the speed limit will mistakenly "guide" riders into believing that riding at 10km/h will "lead to a safety outcome".

"But that's not the case. More attention should be applied on the behaviour of riders," he said.

 

MIGHT AS WELL WALK

The proposal to reduce the speed limit was "discouraging" news to PMD users and cyclists, who felt that it will defeat the purpose of using these modes of transportation in the first place, given that the speed is "almost equivalent to walking".

One 17-year-old student, Arif Husain, who cycles three to four times a week around his neighbourhood in Woodlands, said that the cap of 10km/h will be "seriously too slow" even for "leisure cyclists who travel on pavements".

"Even the elderly can cycle faster," he said. "It is similar to a jogger's speed and you are unlikely to reach your destination faster, which defeats the purpose of using a bicycle in the first place."

Mrs Vivian Lim, 48, who co-owns electric-bike shop Mighty Velo with her husband, said: "It's a bit discouraging for riders… They'd probably think, maybe we should just walk… we could be moving backwards instead of forward in encouraging a car-lite society."

Cyclists and PMD users also questioned if changing the speed limit is the best move.

Mrs Lim's husband, Mr Steven Lim, suggested that instead of imposing a "blanket" cap, there should be more encouragement for riders to attend "safe-riding courses, where they will learn when to ride fast and when to go slow".

The 58-year-old, who uses a bicycle or a PMD every day, acknowledged that all regulations have limitations: "Even if you lower the speed limit, there will still be a group of people who are reckless and non-compliant, so these are the people the authorities should look at and correct."

Mr Chan Gent Ho, an associate account director at a creative agency, agreed that the focus should be on educating riders and pedestrians to be more considerate and understanding towards each other.

The 32-year-old, who has been commuting to work on a bicycle for the last seven years, said: "I've always believed that it's the inherent lack of respect and empathy for each other that such alarming numbers of accidents happen… If we're to hold everyone accountable only to regulations (and not to each other), how far will we get?"

 

DIFFICULT TO ENFORCE RULES

On the other hand, most pedestrians interviewed by TODAY welcomed the recommendations as a step towards ensuring greater safety on pavements — although they pointed out that if the proposals are approved, these will still require competent enforcement.

First-year business student Tyler Tan, 23, said that a slower riding speed "does give both pedestrian and riders more time to react, especially if both of them are coming at each other around corners".

However, he believes that it will be a challenge to enforce all the recommendations. "For example, riders who use shared bicycles like Ofo or Mobikes to complete their last-mile journey… (they won't) carry around helmets," he said.

While she sees the recommendations as a good step in ensuring safety on pavements and roads, 26-year-old pharmacist Amanda Goh said: "You can't trust all users, especially e-scooter riders to ride responsibility, (like the) younger users, who just speed because they enjoy the thrill of going fast.

"Right now, I still feel that the elderly may still be at risk of being injured by errant e-scooter riders, but if stricter enforcement actions are taken against these irresponsible users, it could give pedestrians a peace of mind." ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FARIS MOKHTAR

 

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