Licensing, theory tests: Expert panel to review rules on cycling on the road

The expert panel will look into the pros and cons of licensing cyclists and study the experiences of other countries, said Mr Chee Hong Tat.
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

SINGAPORE - An expert panel will review existing regulations governing cyclists on the roads, and study whether theory tests and licenses should be required for riding on roads.

Announcing this on Monday (April 12), Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said the Active Mobility Advisory Panel will take several months to conduct this review, and seek feedback from the public.

A video posted on April 1 of a group of cyclists disregarding traffic rules prompted calls to register all bicycles.

Mr Chee said the Government is aware of concerns from both motorists and cyclists about cycling on the roads. The panel will look into the pros and cons of licensing cyclists, he said, and study the experiences of other countries.

He noted that countries which have many cyclists - like the Netherlands - do not require bicycles to be registered or cyclists to be licensed.

"But it is a proposal that the panel can look at... while we do (the review), it's important that we do so in a balanced and fair manner, because we don't want to inadvertently end up discouraging cycling," he told reporters after meeting some members of the panel.


Mr Chee emphasised that cycling remains an important part of Singapore's overall green plan for transportation.

While it is a good thing that more people are taking up cycling, this should be done in a safe manner, he noted.

Asked about Singapore's strategy for reducing accidents involving cyclists on the roads, Mr Chee said expanding the cycling path network is a key measure.

Public education and promoting road etiquette are also crucial, he added.

"We will have to step up enforcement to take action against the small number of egregious cyclists and motorists who don't comply with rules," he said.

The review, he said, is not to just deal with current concerns but ensure safety for all road users as more people take up cycling.

The expert panel, which comprises representatives from relevant groups such as seniors, youth, cyclists and motorists, was set up in 2015 to study and discuss regulations in Singapore relating to walking, cycling and the use of active mobility devices.

It had previously recommended legalising cycling on footpaths, and registering electric bicycles and personal mobility devices, among other proposals.

Mr Steven Lim, president of the Safe Cycling Task Force and a member of the panel, described the issue of errant road cyclists as a behavioural one, and not due to inadequate infrastructure or rules. 

Mr Lim, who attended Monday's meeting with Mr Chee, also questioned whether the licensing of cyclists would be effective. 

He said: "Look at how many drivers went through the stringent course and licensing, but we still see errant drivers."

A review should study the issue from different perspectives and to come up with something that is suitable in Singapore's context, he said. 

Separately, Traffic Police commander Gerald Lim, who also attended the meeting on Monday, urged all road users to be "more tolerant and gracious to one another, and practise good sense". 


The perennial conflict between cyclists and motorists came to the fore again when actor Tay Ping Hui shared the video of a group of road cyclists disregarding traffic rules. He said it was an issue he had experienced for the "umpteenth time", and suggested that all bicycles could be registered.

Temasek chief executive Ho Ching, referencing Mr Tay's Facebook post, then called for all bicycles and personal mobility devices to be registered a day later, and be required to have third-party insurance.

The Land Transport Authority had previously studied bicycle licensing, and said it would not be practical to implement it.

In a letter to The Straits Times Forum page in 2016, the authority said it would be resource-intensive to implement and police a system to license bicycles or cyclists that is up to date.

More importantly, a licensing system would make owning and using a bicycle too onerous, and would discourage people from cycling, it noted then, highlighting the need to strengthen public education instead.

Rules on bicycle registration in other places

The rules governing cyclists who ride on the roads will be reviewed, amid increasing concerns on the issue.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said on Monday that an expert panel will look at whether a licensing or registration regime might be needed for riding on roads. But he noted that many countries where cycling is popular do not have such measures. If there is registration, it is usually to deter theft.

Here is a look at how some other places handle cycling on roads.

The Netherlands

- No mandatory bicycle registration or licensing regime.

- Has segregated cycling paths and safe junction designs.

- Includes road safety education programme in primary school curriculum.


- No mandatory registration or licensing regime, but bicycle frames each have a unique code to guard against theft, as well as for insurance reasons.

- Has segregated cycling lanes and traffic priority schemes for cyclists.

- Includes cycling programme in school curriculum.


- Has mandatory bicycle registration to deter theft and help recover stolen bicycles.

- Registration is done at the bicycle retailer for about $6; transfer of ownership will have to be done at a police station.


- Licence required for children aged 10 to 12 to ride alone on roads. These children will have to take a theory test, as well as a practical test conducted by the police.

Cities that have repealed bicycle registration laws

- Toronto (1957)

- Seattle (1978)

- Singapore (1982)

- Beijing (2004)

- Switzerland (2010)

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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