SPOTLIGHT: BICYCLES IN SINGAPORE MUST NOT BE WIDER THAN 700MM!
HOW DO THE MAJORITY OF MOUNTAIN MOUNTAIN BIKERS AND DIRT JUMPERS CARRY ON FROM HERE?
It had became somewhat an international joke within the cycling fraternity. Global Mountain Bike Network (GMBN) had a brief laugh with this new ruling. "It is illegal to run bars wider than 700mm in Singapore". While it may sound like just another joke to mountain bikers outside of Singapore, it is a very grave issue to local cyclists. It's time we understand and attempt to resolve this deep cycling issue that could change the cycling landscape here. Read on for our suggestion.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN?
Obviously, this "plot-twist" didn't happen overnight. This is the result of a good number of years of efforts to develop our island into a bicycle and Personal Mobility Device (PMD) friendly city. With the increase in rideable distance on shared roadside pavements, Park Connector Networks (PCN) and bike lanes, the population for bicycles and PMDs rose exponentially over the past few years. There is a need to revise the legislation. And on 1st May 2018, the Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) Road Traffic (Bicycles – Construction and use) Rules 2018 was announced.
What followed were a chain of events that shocked the cycling community in Singapore. First, the almost sudden harsh enforcement from Land Transport Authority (LTA) officers on cyclists who ride mountain bikes with handlebars longer than 700 mm. One case which received much publicity was posted in local mountain bike Facebook group I Love Mountain Biking (MTB-Singapore) by a Mr Aloysius Teo. The rider got his bike impounded.
(Incident happened to Mr Aloysius Teo on 29th June 2018)
The drama didn't end there. On 27th July 2018, this unique 700mm bar rule was mentioned in Episode 177 of Global Mountain Bike Network's (GMBN) Dirt Shed Show.
(Fast Forward to 14:00 for the punch!)
Or, here's the screen shot, with auto-generated subtitles.
(Screen shot from Episode 177 of Global Mountain Bike Network's (GMBN) Dirt Shed Show)
IT'S THE LAW NOW … SO WHAT'S NEXT?
The 700 mm handle bar length (bicyce width) rule is a law now – Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) Road Traffic (Bicycles – Construction and use) Rules 2018. And along with it, a whole host of advisories from various authorities. Here's are some that are circulated now.
And under the smiley poster lies the hard facts that mountain bikers and dirt jumpers need to face should they decide to ride their bike to the trail heads. Here's the summary.
And retailers are also tasked to inform their customers about the updated ruling.
IS THIS A DEAD END?
At first glance, the infographics above does indeed looked like the authorities had forgetten about riders who ride big burly bikes for both sports and commuting to their sport destinations (mountain bike trail heads – Bukit Timah MTB Trail, Chestnut MTB Trails, Ketam MTB Trail, Kent Ridge MTB Trail).
With bigger, longer travel bikes, it is logical to expect handlebars to be wider to allow for better control and manuverability of the bike. This is especially crucial when the said bikes are put through punishing chores inside the trail or downhill track. Using handlebars that are shorter than 700mm could mean poor rider-to-bike fitting and may increase risk of injuries for riders when they ride under extreme conditions. (LTA, if you are reading this please consider this very valid point)
The above paragraph somewhat sums up what mountain bikers and dirt jumpers would say. That's the perspective from the sportsmen and individuals within a niche community. For lack of a better metaphor, it's like a skier questioning why he should not wear his skis into a restaurant. The general public would simply tell us that it is not their perogative to emphatize with us.
And this is where sparks fly in the mountain biker/dirt jumper camp.
Chill. Let's take a step back and look at the whole spectrum of cycling. We summarize it in simple points for your easy understanding.
- Cycling refers to all sports and commuter activities on a bicycle
- Mountain biking and dirt jumping are sports that use bicycles
- Mountain biking and dirt jumping made up only a small percentage of the overall cycling population
- The Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) Road Traffic (Bicycles – Construction and use) Rules 2018 was established to regulate cycling as a mode of transport for everybody in Singapore
- Currently, most roadside pavements, Park Connector Network (PCN) paths and bike lanes are approximately 1.5 m wide (some being wider to accomodate for more walking pedestrains)
- This would mean a maximum of 2 bicycles with (max) 700 mm wide handlebars could ride side by side with an allowance of 100 mm between the handlebars.
- This is a straight-laced logical calculation for the general public assuming they are cyclists of average skills and of a wide age range.
- To expect all infrastructures to be widened to accomodate for wider handlebars for a small niche group (mountain bikers and dirt jumpers) is obviously illogical
- Thus, based on the safety of the general public this revised Road Traffic Act rule is sound
- The future for mountain biking and its related disciplines seem bleak
- BUT, there is still hope!
THE UNIQUENESS OF MOUNTAIN BIKES
As mentioned above, mountain bikes (along with all its different categories) are purpose-built machines that are versatile enough to be ridden on and off roads. Due to its more burly build, it is more effective and safer to control the bike using handlebars that fit the rider's physique and height. And they are usually above 700 mm. It is almost impossible to find a long travel mountain bike fitted with handlebars shorter than 700 mm. In fact, bike manufacturers and bike brands would usually spec a complete build kit with handlebars longer than 700 mm.
A quick Youtube search would show many old videos of downhill riders using narrow handlebars (700mm or shorter) and having the worst bailouts.
Still on the topic of bike and rider fitting, it is therefore perfectly logical for mountain bikes to have handle bars longer than 700 mm.
The big ISSUE from mountain bikers and dirt jumper could be summed up as such: Since many mountain bikers do not drive (or own cars) and would need to commute to the trail heads with their burly bikes, this revised rule would discouraged them from riding their bikes ANYWHERE lest they get impounded. It is then also logical to say that THE SPORT ITSELF WOULD BE AFFECTED .
Is mountin biking a less-emphasized riding discipline in the eye iof the authorities? While we have our reasons for asking this, we would leave this part of the discussion for another day.
(Ed: At this juncture, we would also wish to add this: No, we will NOT consider fitting the bike with a shorter bar only to have to change it at the trail head before we ride the trails. This is simply too cumbersome and not a permenant solution. So, please, do not offer such a solution to us.)
THE CURRENT SOLUTION
There is a solution that may solve our current plight.
Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) Road Traffic (Bicycles – Construction and use) Rules 2018 states in Paragraph 5.(2) that
The Registrar or an authorised officer may, in any particular case, upon the application of any person, waive the operation of any provisions in these Rules in relation to that person or a bicycle that is the subject of that application, subject to such conditions as the Registrar or the authorised officer may impose.
In view of promoting mountain biking – a healthy and wholesome sport – and an effective avenue for keeping the nation physically fit, may we suggest that a granting of waiver/exemption on their slightly longer handlebars on roads to be a solution for the folks to continue to enjoy the sport.
With this said, we suggest to all those who are in need of help to resolve the 700 mm handlebar issue with valid reasons (eg riding their mountain bikes to trail heads) to send in their appeals.
Appeals should be made to Land Transport Authority's Feedback section. (Category: All Other Matters, Sub-Category: Others, Subject: Bicycle Handle bar width more than 700 mm)
Disclaimer: Bikezilla does not guarantee the success of any appeal made by any cyclist to Land Transport Authority with regard to the 700 mm handlebar issue or any other issues. We are merely suggesting a probable solution to the current seemingly dead end situation for mountain bikers and dirt jumpers where commuting to the sport destination is concerned. We are not in contact or discussion with any LTA officer. We sent in our appeals too.
WHY DO YOU NEED TO APPEAL FOR A WAIVER?
To put it objectively, mountain biking is a sport. It is not (in general cases) a necessity. As such, we are a niche group that does not represent the majority of the population. The law is established for the welfare and benefit of the general public.
Should we need a waiver/exemption from some part of it due to valid reasons, we should highlight our reasons to the authorities. In this case, LTA.
From a mountain biker's point of view, we do not like this too. Not a single bit. But as citizens, we would think for the greater good of the general public. This, in essence is "Strength in Unity" to us. Let's do it guys. Visit the LTA feedback page and appeal for your waiver/exemption. Just don't stop riding!
Photos by Bikezilla
Infographics and posters by LTA
Video by GMBN
Incident report by Mr Aloysius Teo
SOME USEFUL LINKS
Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP): https://www.lta.gov.sg/data/apps/news/press/2016/20160317_AMAPPanelReport(final).pdf
Land Transport Authority: https://www.lta.gov.sg
Land Transport Authority Feedback: https://www.lta.gov.sg/feedback
Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) Road Traffic (Bicycles – Construction and use) Rules 2018: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/SL/RTA1961-s255-2018?DocDate=20180430