E-bike in accident was so fast that 'I thought it was a motorcycle'

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The arrow to turn right had flashed green, so he drove off.

Before he knew it, a motorised bicycle shot out from the traffic junction.

There was a bang and the two teenage boys on the bicycle crashed and landed on the windscreen of his car.

They then rolled on the car’s bonnet before sliding onto the road.

The driver, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chiang, said: “For a split second, I thought I had killed someone.”

“I did not notice them, I realised only a second before they crashed into my car,” he explained.

Fortunately, the boys, later confirmed to be aged 16 and 18, sustained only minor injuries and were taken to hospital.

A 44-second video from Mr Chiang’s in-car camera unit captured the accident, which happened at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6 and 9 on Feb 27 at about 3.20pm.

The video, which was uploaded on Singapore Reckless Drivers Facebook page by a friend of Mr Chiang, has had more than 8,600 shares.

The boys, one cycling and the other riding pillion, are believed to have tried to beat a red light.

Experts who saw the clip said their bicycle was likely to have been illegally modified for it to be able to travel at the high speed they were captured at.

Motorised bicycles are only allowed to travel at speeds below 25kmh in Singapore.

Recounting the incident, Mr Chiang, 27, who works in a logistics company, said he was on his way home after lunch.

He said the cyclists had shot out from the side of a lorry, which had stopped at the junction across from where his car was.

“I stepped on the brakes as fast as I could because the last thing I wanted was the boys ending up under my carriage,” he said.

STAGGERING

Worried for their condition, he got out of his car and ushered the boys, who were staggering to pick up their belongings, to the side of the road.

“I was in shock but they must have felt worse. The side of my car was badly damaged but it doesn’t matter as long as no life was lost,” he said.

A witness, Mr Zahrin Ali, 25, who was on his motorcycle at the same junction, said he initially thought a motorcycle had hit the car because of the speed it was travelling at.

“But when I approached the scene to help, it turned out to be a motorised bicycle,” the civil servant said.

“I didn’t even see them until the accident happened,” said Mr Zahrin.

Asked why he put up the video, Mr Chiang said: “This issue needs to be highlighted. I’ve seen too many errant cyclists being negligent of their own safety as well as (that of) other road users.”

Mr Chiang uses the road every day when he drives to and from work, and has seen his fair share of errant cyclists in his neighbourhood.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said an ambulance was dispatched to the scene. The boys were taken conscious to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Police investigations are ongoing.

Mr Chiang also shared his concern about the damage that his car had sustained and its insurance coverage.

“Now I have to bear the cost of the damage myself. I can’t claim from their insurance since they were riding a motorised bicycle,” he said.

Lawyer: Drivers can sue riders of e-bikes

Lawyer Raphael Louis of Ray Louis Law Corporation, who has experience in motor insurance and accident claims, said the driver could choose to sue the motorised bicycle rider for damage to his vehicle.

But to recover the legal cost, the driver must consider some factors.

He said: “Firstly, the driver must wait for the police to complete their investigation, and the rider could either be issued a warning or charged in court. The driver also has to consider if the rider has the means to pay for the damage.”

Alternatively, the driver can also claim against his own insurance if it covers his own damage claims.

He said: “Subrogation – where the insurance company can sue the rider on the claimant’s behalf – may take place, depending on the clauses of the driver’s insurance policy.”

Mr Ronald Tay, a dealer of kick scooters and electric bicycles at Scootersg.com, feels strongly about mandatory insurance and thinks that enforcement should be stepped up to deter errant users of motorised vehicles.

He said: “They are much heavier and can travel at much higher speeds than bicycles. If they crash into a vehicle, they could cause serious damage and if they crash into someone, it could be fatal.”

Mr Louis also thinks that e-bikes should be covered by insurance.

“They travel on the main roads and fall into the legal definition of a motor vehicle – mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads.”

Mr Denis Koh, chairman of Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, a community of electric scooter enthusiasts, said: “As I represent personal mobility devices (PMD) and power-assisted bicycles (PAB) on the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, I have looked into and arranged for PMDs’ insurance.

MANDATORY

“But like the insurance for bicycles, making it mandatory would bring up a lot of mixed reactions.

“If a user commutes frequently using their PMD or PAB, it would be wise to have some form of coverage against accidents covering third-party liabilities, medical and legal claims.”

In a written reply on March 1 by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan to a Parliamentary question on cycling offences, he said that government agencies received about 600 complaints about errant cyclists in 2014 and 800 complaints in 2015.

About 1,300 writs of summons were issued in 2014 and a similar number in 2015.

In another question about the recourse that those injured by cyclists can take, he said in a written reply: “Those injured by cyclists can seek compensation from the cyclists through civil action in court or private settlement, similar to victims of motoring accidents.”

Modified e-bikes can hit 70kmh

The first question potential buyers of electric scooters usually ask is how fast it can go, said Mr Ronald Tay, a dealer of kick scooters and electric bicycles at Scootersg.com.

He believes that modification of electric scooters is rampant.

“The most common modification is to add a throttle and changing the motors to a higher wattage to increase its power. Such vehicles can go up to 50 to 70 kmh.”

Judging from its speed and how the e-bike in the accident was moving despite the cyclist not pedalling, it was likely that it had been illegally modified, said Mr Denis Koh, chairman of Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, a community of electric scooter enthusiasts.

“Under the regulations, the motor power must be cut off when the user stops pedalling and the speed cannot exceed 25kmh,” he added.

Mr Francis Chu, founder of cycling group LoveCyclingSg, said: “In the video, the e-bike rider seems to want to catch the tail-end of the green light and dash across, while the car driver was speeding up at the right-turn, assuming no one was crossing.

“In this case, clearly the e-bike rider was wrong, but the driver should have proceeded more carefully when he was making the turn as he has time.”

Mr Koh said that such errant cyclists are casting the personal mobility device (PMD) and cycling community in a bad light.

“Speeding e-bikes are a danger to other road users as they are less visible and it’s difficult to anticipate their speed and direction. Their recklessness not only endangers themselves but also poses a threat to motorists,” he said.

Mr Chu does not think that e-bikes should be banned just because of a few black sheep.

“Many well-behaved people need the help of e-bikes to help their daily commute, such as the elderly and people with weak legs.”

But Mr Tay thinks that there should be harsher penalties for errant cyclists and increased checks for illegally-modified e-bikes.

tnp@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 4, 2016.
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