NTU puts speed limits for cyclists to the test

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University are studying if proposed speed limits for bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMDs) are sufficient, even before these rules kick in next year.

The team from the university’s Transport Research Centre is looking at whether the proposed limits give pedestrians enough time to react when a cyclist or PMD user comes their way.

They are also studying whether cyclists and PMD users have enough time to avoid a collision under these limits, which will be set at 15kmh on footpaths and 25kmh on cycling and shared paths.

The two-year, $370,000 study began in July and is supported by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

An expert panel had presented the proposed rules to the Ministry of Transport earlier this year. They are expected to be passed into law next year.

The NTU study is on display at the three-day Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, which started yesterday.

Assistant Professor Xu Hong, one of the researchers, said the team will use a virtual reality (VR) walking simulator where a person wearing a VR headset can react to cyclists or PMD users coming their way at different speeds.

“We can increase the permitted speeds and check what minimum reaction times are needed to avoid a collision,” said Prof Xu.

The team is also studying how different speeds affect how far a pedestrian would be “thrown” in the event of a collision, said Prof Xu.

“The throw distance is very important to decide what kind of injury or how severe the injury will be,” she said, adding that serious injuries were usually caused by “secondary impacts”, for example, when a pedestrian hits the pavement.

The team has just started running simulations, said Prof Xu, adding that the findings would be presented to the LTA. She said the team will also study speed limits for these devices in other cities.

The proposed limits here appear “reasonable”, she added. “Some cities have more space so, in that case, they can increase the speed limit because there are not so many people around. But for us, we have to take the density into account.”

The study comes at a time when e-scooters are in the spotlight. Videos have surfaced of e-scooter riders travelling at reckless speeds along roads and footpaths.

Last month, a 53-year-old housewife underwent brain surgery after she was knocked down by an e-scooter in Pasir Ris.

Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG and a member of the panel that came up with the proposed rules, welcomed the study.

But he added that the first principle for any cyclist or PMD user should be to always give way to pedestrians. “It does not mean that you can ride at the speed limit even if the pavement is narrow or crowded,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline ‘NTU puts speed limits for cyclists to the test’