Some drivers think cyclists should not be allowed on roads, roads which they mistakenly believe were designed and built for cars. Some drivers have a ‘Get orff moy laaaaand’ mentality because they feel they’ve paid for use of the roads through ‘road tax’ (they should apply for a rebate, backdated to 1937).
This feeling of ‘ownership’ is a global phenomenon. Many motorists believe only motorised vehicles should be on roads. In the US recently, this woman driving her kids to school ran over four school-children because they were walking on the street (a street with no sidewalks) and wouldn’t get out of her way. Infamously, Ricardo Neis, the 47 year-old driver of VW Golf that drove through a group of cyclists on a Critical Mass ride in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre last week, clearly felt his rights as a motorist trumped the rights of cyclists when on public roads.
In Singapore, where driving is massively expensive and hence the feeling of ‘road ownership’ is also sky-high, a doctor has caused a huge fuss by demanding, in a letter to the Straits Times, that cyclists should be shunted off public roads. Dr Terence Teoh doesn’t mind the odd “poor blue-collar worker cycling to work” but objects to “well-educated recreational cyclists.”
Lycra-clad cyclists should stay clear of public roads: “To those who still insist on cycling, kindly use your stationary bike in your home or gym.”
Dr Teoh’s ire seems to be aimed at packs of roadies who take to the streets in the early mornings to escape heat and humidity, and unfriendly motorists. Organised chain-gangs – such as the ‘JoyRiders’ – go out at 6.40am and, in Dr Teoh’s words “occupy a full lane along Upper Thomson Road and other roads.”
This is a multi-lane highway. According to Singapore highway law (the pic above was taken from a Singapore Land Authority poster), cyclists shouldn’t ride more than two abreast, but they clearly do so when riding in the road gangs, partly as a safety measure.
Dr Teoh said: “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.”
For other users read cars.
“It does not make sense to encourage recreational cycling on public roads,” said Dr Teoh. “It is safer and in the best interest of the public.”
In a follow up article, the Straits Times had a poll based on suggestions left by readers. Cyclists banded together to vote for the most cycle-friendly suggestion but the other ideas are chilling and also received lots of votes.
The ideas included:
“Cyclists should be allowed on the road at stipulated times – from 1.30pm to 3pm and from 9pm to 5am.”
“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.”
“A direct ban of bicycles on roads meant for motorised vehicles will solve all problems and safety issues.”
“Have a system of signal lights to tell all road users when cycling is not allowed, eg. during restricted hours, heavy congestion, etc.”
Receiving most votes – phew! – was this one:
“Promote bike commuting. It is green, reduces car population and usually involves lone cyclists travelling at a slow safe speed.”
On a Singapore-based Yahoo forum, ‘MLNW Murli’ said: “The bicycle was invented before the motorcar and cyclists were on the roads before drivers…[but] the roads are public property and no one person has any larger claim on them than any other.”
This is true for Singapore, and true for the UK, too.
Motorists – the Johnny-come-latelies of public highway users – do not have more rights than other road users, except on motorways. Nor are motorists traffic. According to the Highways Act 1980, traffic also includes pedestrians and animals…and cyclists.
iPayRoadTax.com is an ironically-named campaign supporting the road rights of cyclists. The message that cyclists have equal rights on the roads is carried on iPayRoadTax t-shirts and jerseys.