Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Confused about Two Wheels

Bike PathThe Today paper carried a letter about 2 cyclists being bullied and harassed by a bus and I can imagine it happening. I'm one of a handful of cyclists who actually use the road instead of the pavement (as per the law) but it's no easy choice and the whole thing is full of contradictions.

Legally, bicycles must use the road and must behave like pedestrians in other circumstances, so you should dismount and push the bike when using crossings or pavements. Rule 28 of Road Traffic Rules: "No vehicle, except perambulators, shall be driven, parked or ridden on the footway of a road." These laws are never enforced. My local police station (more of a booth, manned part-time) is next to a big intersection. They are obviously not on any kind of quota system because they could be super-cops in 10mins of traffic enforcement (Road Traffic Act, section 127, point 3 gives them the power to detain on sight).

The authorities know the situation. Anyone who has stood at a main junction sees the whole pantomime playing out. The LTA installed traffic cameras at many intersections. Not huge spy jobs with infra red lamps but those small dome types you see on the ceilings of shops and buildings, so they're unobtrusive but they will give a clear colour image of what everyone is doing, motorists and pedestrians alike. Buses are getting forward-facing cameras to catch cars using bus lanes (like London transport does to issue automatic fines).

The Government ran a trial last year in Tampines (said TAM pea nez) of bicycles using pavements. I did a double-take when I read it. Yes, an actual formal trial with surveys and analysis of results. Since everyone already rides on the pavements and paths, it's unsurprising that the results show a collective shrug with most people either entirely ignorant of the experiment (and hence seeing no change) or accepting the status quo.

Singapore has put quite a bit of effort into creating linear parks, park connectors and cycle paths. It reminds me a bit of Milton Keynes which uses the linear parks along side all the trunk roads to create a vast, connected mesh of pedestrian and cycle paths so you can cycle from one side of the city to another without needing to go onto the roads. Now Singapore is nowhere near that advanced but they are trying to retrofit something similar.

The LTA has a trial permitting fold-up bicycles on buses and trains. There's a boring set of rules to do with times, bike size and covering dirty or pointy parts but the idea is workable when the trains are not at peak occupancy (when it's hard to push onto a train it's so full). [Note, I haven't seen anyone with a bike on a train yet but give it time.]

So the various Government departments are making all the right noises about green, healthy, sustainable, joined-up transport, but it falls flat on its face when you try to actually follow the rules. I've been menaced by a bus (no big deal and not like the above story). I've been hit by bikes while walking along the pavement. There's no incentive or protection for doing the right thing.

Here's a few suggestions in lieu of enforcing the current laws:

  • Create cycle lanes on roads
  • Use the bus' bus-lane enforcement cameras to enforce bullying of bikes by bus drivers
  • Create more cycle racks at stations. Put weather covers and security cameras up.
  • Formally train youngsters in road use and safety.