A doctor in Singapore has ignited a lively not to mention heated debate regarding the presence of “recreational” cyclists on doing the presence of cyclists on the island state’s roads after writing to the southeast Asian country’s leading newspaper, the Straits Times, to urge that they instead use stationary bikes in the gym.
Singapore, once one of the jewels of the British Empire, may be more than 6,500 miles from the UK, but the general gist of the letter will be familiar to cyclists everywhere; we take up too much space that would be better used by cars and should not be on the road.
That’s one of the issues debated in 29 pages of comments that the letter has so far generated on the Strait Times website, and along with last week’s events in Brazil when a driver ploughed into a critical mass ride using his car in effect as a weapon plus ongoing arguments over issues such as cycle lanes in New York City and countless UK stories we have reported shows that tension between cyclists and motorists is a global phenomenon.
In his letter, published last Tuesday, Dr Terence Teoh – it’s unclear whether he is a practising doctor of medicine – says: “The explosion in the number of adults taking up recreational cycling on public roads, who are also usually well-educated, has swayed public opinion.
“Recreational cyclists have managed to paint other road users, particularly motorists, as irresponsible, especially in according cyclists the right to use public roads.
“Yet almost every morning, scores of cyclists occupy a full lane along Upper Thomson Road and other roads.
“It takes only a single cyclist with his "reasonable" appeal for a 1.5m safe distance from a motorist to disrupt optimum usage of a public stretch for other users.
“It does not make sense to encourage recreational cycling on public roads.
“I can sympathise with the poor blue-collar worker cycling to work but not a recreational cyclist. To those who still insist on cycling, kindly use your stationary bike in your home or gym.
“It is safer and in the best interest of the public,” he concluded.
The website iPayRoadTax, which alerted us to the letter, manages to effectively punch a few holes in Dr Teoh’s argument, which seems mainly aimed against organised chain gangs of mainly expatriate workers who get together in the early morning and tend to ride more than two abreast, contrary to local law, partly for their own safety.
The Straits Times has used Dr Teoh’s letter as the starting point for a wider discussion on “What more can be done to make roads safer for both cyclists and motorists?” and whittled down the 150 suggestions received to a poll of 10 questions that garnered more than 2,000 votes.
The most popular response, gaining more than a quarter of the votes cast, was “"Designated cycling lanes. Or better yet, allow cyclists to share bus lanes that are already delineated,” while second was the cyclist-friendly “"Promote bike commuting. It is green, reduces car population and usually involves lone cyclists travelling at a slow safe speed."
However, support for some of the other proposals, such as banning cyclists at certain times or simply outright, demonstrates a strong anti-cycling sentiment held by a significant proportion of respondents.
The questions voted on, and level of response they got from the 2,205 votes cast, are, in descending order:
- "Designated cycling lanes. Or better yet, allow cyclists to share bus lanes that are already delineated." 26.53% (585 votes)
- "Promote bike commuting. It is green, reduces car population and usually involves lone cyclists travelling at a slow safe speed." 20.91% (461 votes)
- "Fund and create a culture for all cyclists to develop a self-governance system, whereby all cyclists will understand the need to ride safely." 11.75% (259 votes)
- "On roads where there are more than 2 lanes on each side, one lane should be set aside for cyclists in the early hours of the morning (maybe before 6am)." 7.44% (164 votes)
- "Make cyclists pay road tax and create a narrow lane dedicated to cyclists." 6.44% (142 votes)
- "Make the left-most lane 1.5m wider and add a divider where there is no bus stop. Start a COE system for bicycles to get the funds to do this." 5.8% (128 votes)
- "Ban cycling in large groups of more than 3 cyclists as such groups hog road lanes and make it difficult for other road users. Permits should be made mandatory for group cycling." 5.03% (111 votes)
- "Have a system of signal lights to tell all road users when cycling is not allowed, eg. during restricted hours, heavy congestion, etc." 4.67% (103 votes)
- "A direct ban of bicycles on roads meant for motorised vehicles will solve all problems and safety issues." 4.63% (102 votes)
- "Cyclists should be allowed on the road at stipulated times - from 1.30pm to 3pm and from 9pm to 5am." 2.77% (61 votes)
- Other: 4.04% (89 votes)
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.