Active Mobility Bill – Speech by Dennis Tan

(Delivered in Parliament on 10 January 2017)


Madam, the Active Mobility Bill provides for a new legal regime for use of public paths by bicycles and other personal mobility devices. Today I would like to touch on three issues relating to cycling and mobility issues in Singapore. They are cycling culture, political will and public education.


Cycling culture

Cycling has been one of my favourite past times since I was in school. Having lived near the East Coast Park for years, I spent many happy moments on the cycling paths of East Coast Park. As the park became more and more crowded in the weekends over the years, I have been avoiding cycling in the park itself.

Why do I avoid cycling in East Coast Park itself? I think it has become unsafe over the years. Many cyclists do not obey the direction signs or keep a proper lookout for pedestrians or other cyclists. Many pedestrians walk on or across the cycling paths without caring for the safety of cyclists. Many cyclists cycle on the footpaths. And I have seen accidents in the park over the years, accidents that can be avoided if we had the right cycling culture. Madam, the cycling culture in East Coast Park reflects the cycling culture nationally. We should improve our cycling culture.  Although most cyclists comply with the law and have good cycling habits, some of the following acts are still carried out by a minority of cyclists including e-bikes and PMD users on an everyday basis e.g. when on roads beating red lights or cycling against the traffic, and in public paths and park connectors, cycling at high speed, not keeping left and not giving way, thus creating risk of accident with pedestrians or other users.

When I was at university in England, my second hand road bike was my main form of transport. Even in those years in early 90s, the law required everyone to cycle on the roads, not on footpaths or pavements, and to keep left when cycling. When it was dark, everyone had to use a standard set of white front lights and red rear lights. Everyone seemed to follow the law and practice.  In the first few weeks at university, I learnt a very important lesson about cycling culture. I mistakenly got onto a footpath and was roundly told off by an elderly lady.

What is positive about such an environment? Everybody knows what to expect about cycling and cyclists. A pedestrian will not expect to meet a cyclist coming his way except when dismounted. A motorist will not expect to see a cyclist cycling against the traffic. There is certainty and this breeds mutual respect between all users and I believe that in turns promotes a better and safer environment for cyclists and cycling. This is important for Singapore because cycling is not going to go away or bicycles be banned from the roads and the e-scooters and e-bikes are here to stay. The Government has talked about bicycles being an important element for the final mile connectivity. Having a safe and good cycling culture will promote that.


Political will

Madam, to improve our cycling culture, the Government must have the political will to do so. Around 10 years ago, I remember there was at one time a flurry of complaints in the newspapers about non enforcement against errant cyclists. Cyclists cycling on the wrong side of the road or beating red lights were already common occurrences then. I remember once the authorities replied to say that they had inadequate resources to address the problem. Lack of resources might well be the given reason but it looked to me that this issue was not a priority and there was no will to deal with the problems then. So the effect is that the can is kicked down the road.

We missed a great opportunity to solve the problem back then, in the mid 2000s. In those days, the only people who seemed to have broken the law were elderly cyclists. But after that, there was a huge influx of foreign workers and this meant a huge increase in the number of people using bicycles and many also followed the cycling culture: ignored the road safety rules because of lax enforcement.

And then from the late 2000s, with the increase in white collar foreign labour, we also saw many of them taking up recreational road cycling at the same time as many Singaporeans. So the number of bicycles on the road have continued to increase in the last 10 over years.

Then came e-bikes. Many people who use them regard them as a cheap and unlicensed substitute for scooters and motor-cycles.

And finally, we have e-scooters in the last 2-3 years. In November 2016, the Straits Times reported monthly sale of e-scooters hit 400. We have been hearing of accidents involving e-bikes for a while and lately accidents involving e-scooters. I think it is now harder to improve our cycling culture.

I know the LTA is now trying harder to carry out enforcement actions and put out regular advisories or publicity about their actions on Facebook. LTA also have volunteers to do the messaging for the new cycling rules. We will have public path wardens. I really appreciate all that and hope that we are finally moving in the right direction. I can imagine the authorities will need a lot of resources. But when will the day come when we do not see the acts that I talked about on a daily or regular basis? It will depend on the resolve of this Government.

Madam, I support the provisions in this Bill. This Bill signifies an intention on the part of the Government to reset the safety parameters and promote safe cycling culture, in light of new mobility devices. I note the severe punishments imposed for various breaches and I am in support as I feel that people have to understand the importance of riding safely and being considerate to other road users. It will be down to the consistent enforcement efforts of LTA to make the new regulations work.

I understand that the Government is going to  create different regimes for different footpaths, some can be used by bicycles and e-scooters, some only for pedestrians, and e-bikes will not be allowed on footpaths but will now be allowed on park connectors (although I have seen e-bikes on footpaths and park connectors for years!). What are the Government’s plans to ensure that members of the public will be able to adapt to the new signages without any confusion.  I can imagine that there will be much public education required.


Public Education

On this note, let me talk about public education. For many years, the Government has been talking about having public education on safety in cycling. This Bill may still be inadequate without regular and strict enforcement together with effective public education. May I call on the Government to go beyond the existing efforts in public education?  This is particularly important if we are not going to be able to require compulsory third party insurance for bicycles, e-bikes and PMD users.

Madam, recently when I visited an early education school, I was amused to see a whole row of skate scooters and bicycles lined up by the entrance. Go to any public parks during the weekends, and we can see many children using bicycles and skate scooters. It is important that we engender in our young children the culture of safe and considerate riding when they start riding. The Government should consider having appropriate lessons on cycling culture and road safety. Will the Government consider upgrading the syllabus of the Road Safety Park to include lessons incorporating new mobility devices covered in this Bill particularly e-scooters and e-bikes?  Will our Safe Cycling Programme which is being introduced, be incorporated into our school syllabus like in New South Wales, Australia, where they have incorporated road safety programme into their primary and secondary syllabus?



Madam, Section 20 of the Bill allows for excepted use of non compliant personal mobility devices. May I ask the Minister to clarify what is the intent of Section 20 and give us examples of when excepted use of non-compliant personal mobility devices are allowed?

Madam, during the Committee of Supply debates last year, I asked whether owners of existing unauthorised e-bikes which may technically be able to comply with the new proposed rules be given the chance, at least on a one-off basis, to apply for authorisation and registration. I would like to know whether the Government will allow this.

I also mentioned during the COS debate that throttle may be more suitable for some users e.g. the elderly, as they do not need some strength to pedal and ‘kick-in’ the electric power required in current authorised models. I have said that control of speed by throttle is more precise and as long as the maximum speed of the bike is limited, the throttle does not make the bike unsafe. Is the Government going to allow the use of throttle? If throttle is a no-no for e-bikes because of safety issues, how does the Government reconcile that with its position on e-scooters? We have seen many e-scooters going at high speeds on the roads and get into accidents on the road or on footpaths. I have read from media reports that some had a speed as high as 80 km/h.

In conclusion, I support this Bill and hope that it will enhance our cycling culture and promote safe and considerate use of public paths for all users.