People

Jul 21, 2017

Cyclist versus Motorists – The road to peace

It is a problem shared by motorists and cyclists in Singapore – the shared space in our land-scarce nation is small and understandably, tensions between the two groups occasionally come to a boil.

You can get a load of this at Roads.sg to see how real the struggle between cyclists and motorists on our roads is.

What drives both groups to see red when they see the other on the road?

Mr Jon Chew, 60, who cycles his road bike for exercise around his neighbourhood, said he has come across drivers who have appeared short-tempered even though he tried his best not to inconvenience them.

“I ride as near to the kerb as possible, but sometimes, I get honked at anyway,” he said. “Maybe they are trying to warn me that they are behind me, but it does sometimes seem like they want me off the road,” he said, sighing in resignation.

Cyclists cycling alongside a short-tempered driver on the road.

Photo source:Giphy

“We are all a little bit too impatient,” said Mr Chew. He added that drivers should consider that cyclists really don’t want to get in their way.

As drivers handle heavier vehicles, it is most likely cyclists who will suffer injuries in an accident. “So give cyclists a safe enough berth and we can all enjoy our beautiful roads together,” Mr Chew said.

Motorists often complain that cyclists like using the road during peak hours. “I see them every day, and I wish they’d cycle when it is safer for them to do so instead of during peak hours,” said Ms Joyce Lee, in her 30s, who drives to and from work daily.

Mr Tony Tan, 50, explained: “The ones you see on the roads during peak hours are probably using the roads for the very same reason you do – to get to work or to get home.”

He was involved in Bike Smart Tampines, a programme which sets out to equip students in 22 schools in Tampines with skills to ride safely and responsibly. And as a driver, and editor of motoring publications, Mr Tan understands the other side of the argument, too. He feels that while motorists need to work on their general attitude towards cyclists, cyclists also need to know they need to be safe and look out for others.

Be mindful of the road situation, he suggested. In some cases, cyclists should ride in a single file to prevent obstruction, no matter how many cyclists there are in the group.

A Singaporean posing with his bicycle.

Photo source:Tony Tan

Indeed, while cycling two abreast is legal under the Road Traffic Act, it is prohibited on roads with a single lane in one direction and bus lanes during their operational hours. In these scenarios, it is required for cyclists to ride in a single file.

Professional cyclists riding in a single file on the road.

Photo source:Giphy

One worrying behaviour he observed about some cyclists: Not stopping at traffic lights. If it’s a red light, stop. When cycling in a group, don’t try to beat the lights to catch up with the rest as you will put yourself and your groupmates in harm’s way.

Mr Tan also said cyclists may be endangering themselves if others can’t predict their movements. They also need to make sure they are visible to others when it’s dark.

“When changing lanes or slowing down, use clear hand signals,” he advised, as it reduces uncertainty and undue stress to everyone. “Also, wear clothes with bright, visible colours at night and make sure your bike has front white and back red lights.”

A group of cyclists from Singapore clicking a groupfie.

Photo source:Brendan Goh, Love Cycling SG

It appears we have some way to go before both groups of users can co-exist well. But whether you are a cyclist or a driver, both Mr Chew and Mr Tan are in agreement that we could begin by being more gracious on our roads. Even Ms Lee agreed that patience is an important starting point.

“It’s true, I’m a bit impatient,” she said with a guilty giggle.

How should we share the road? And why? These questions form an ongoing debate. Perhaps the two communities need a friendlier exchange of perspectives.

With a better understanding of each other’s needs, and a little more patience, maybe Singapore can start to achieve harmony between cyclists and motorists that many other countries also strive for.

Also More: 5 Things You Need To Know Before Using Tanah Merah Coast Road Cycling Lane