Singapore

Cyclists riding on pavements could face jail if...

Pedestrians and road-users welcome first-ever sentence for errant cyclist

It was a benchmark case in more ways than one.

Lim Choon Teck, 35, was the first cyclist to be taken to court for riding on a pavement meant for pedestrians after he knocked down and injured an elderly woman.

His victim, Madam Chng Kian, 69, ended up with fractures on her right arm. Despite her distress, Lim sped away without bothering to help her.

When a District Judge jailed him for eight weeks on Sept 7 after he pleaded guilty to committing a rash act that endangered the safety of others, it produced another first.

The prosecution, which had recommended a two-week jail sentence, appealed to the High Court for the sentence to be reduced, something it had never done before.

Yesterday, Justice Chan Seng Onn allowed the appeal, cutting Lim's jail time to three weeks. (See report at right.)

Notwithstanding the twists and turns of this case, the signal to cyclists was clear: Those who ride on pavements meant for pedestrians and end up hurting others can end up in jail.

In a statement yesterday, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said this was the first prosecution of a cyclist using a pavement meant for pedestrians and that a firm stance would be taken against those who use personal mobility devices on pavements.

It said: "Cyclists and others who use mechanical or motorised means of transport on pavements ought to appreciate that if they cause injury and damage, they could be prosecuted. In appropriate cases, custodial sentences will be sought."

In the Sept 7 hearing, the prosecution cited several aggravating factors in seeking a jail term for Lim.

Lawyer Luke Lee said the case was an indication that the authorities are taking such offences very seriously.

"It is a clear signal that road safety is a priority and that those who break the rules will bear the full brunt of the law," he added.

"The fact that the AGC appealed is also a nod to the fact that the current Attorney-General used to be a sentencing judge at the appellate level, so he has a clear idea of what sort of sentences should be handed down.

"Sentences are not written in stone and the facts of the case need to be taken into consideration."

WELCOME ACTION

Road-users contacted by The New Paper were happy that the authorities are taking a strong stance against errant road-users.

Miss Shirley Ke, 33, who was hit by a cyclist at a bus stop at Hougang Avenue 6 on Aug 13, said: "At first I thought there was nothing, then I felt pain in my back. The uncle in his 60s just stared at me and made a sound that indicated his annoyance."

Miss Ke, who works in administration and still suffers from occasional back pains, added: "He didn't apologise, and he waited for me to move. I think he was annoyed because I obstructed his path. I was stunned."

Another pedestrian, who wanted to be known only as Madam Siti, said she had a close shave with a speeding cyclist while walking on a pavement with her three-year-old grandson in Tampines last year.

The 68-year-old retiree said: "My grandson and I could have been injured if we had been hit. He is young and I'm not strong. I'm glad that the authorities are taking this problem seriously."

Cyclists are also happy that the authorities are acting against errant cyclists.

Recreational cyclist Edwin Loh, who works in the oil and gas industry, said some black sheep have given cyclists a bad name.

The 27-year-old, who rides a road bike, added that enforcement and education have to go hand in hand.

"With space constraints, future development must take into account transport options such as bicycles. There is progress, such as the implementation of cycling networks, but it has been slow.

"When paths are more clearly demarcated, it helps all road-users to be more aware of their surroundings," he said.

On Wednesday, the Singapore Road Safety Council advertised in The Straits Times to invite tenders for a Cyclist Education Programme.

The council's chairman, Mr Bernard Tay, said the increase in road-users, Lim's case and the stance taken by the authorities have sent a clear signal to all road-users that safety is of paramount importance.

"It serves as a warning to cyclists to be extremely careful as injury to pedestrians may land them in jail," he said, calling it a "wake-up call".


He is young and I'm not strong. I'm glad that the authorities are taking this problem seriously.

- A pedestrian, Madam Siti, who said she had a close shave with a speeding cyclist while walking on a pavement in Tampines with her three-year-old grandson


Cyclists and others who use mechanical or motorised means of transport on pavements ought to appreciate that if they cause injury and damage, they could be prosecuted. In appropriate cases, custodial sentences will be sought.

- Attorney-General's Chambers


By the numbers 1,455

Number of summonses issued to cyclists for various offences, including riding on footpaths in 2013, up from 1,238 in 2011 and 1,290 in 2012. In March, Parliament was told that over the last five years, the Traffic Police issued around 3,500 summonses against cyclists for riding on footpaths using either conventional or motorised bicycles.

High Court cuts it to three weeks

THE NEW PAPER,YESTERDAY

It was the first time that the prosecution had filed such an unusual appeal - seeking to reduce an offender's sentence that it deemed to be "manifestly excessive".

Cyclist Lim Choon Teck, 35, who was not represented by a lawyer, had pleaded guilty on Sept 7 to one count of committing a rash act that endangered the safety of others.

The judge then jailed him for eight weeks despite the prosecution recommending a two-week jail sentence.

His sentence was slashed to three weeks yesterday after Justice Chan Seng Onn allowed the prosecution's appeal.

The case was the first prosecution of a cyclist who had ridden on a pavement meant for pedestrians.

At around 7.20pm on May 17, Lim was cycling on the pavement at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 when he knocked down Madam Chng Kian, 69.

She landed on her right arm, which resulted in fractures.

DISAGREEMENT

On Sept 7, the prosecution called for District Judge Lee Poh Choo to jail Lim for two weeks, citing that he had cycled on the pavement at an unsafe speed, caused grievous hurt to Madam Chng and left the scene instead of helping her.

Judge Lee disagreed with the recommendation and sentenced Lim to jail for eight weeks instead, saying that Lim had chosen to act in a "selfish, cowardly and irresponsible manner" by fleeing despite seeing that his victim was in distress.

She also felt that Lim's offence was "akin to a hit-and-run road traffic accident".

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Prem Raj Prabakaran told Justice Chan that this comparison was flawed.

He said: "(Lim) was a cyclist on a pavement, not the driver of a motor vehicle on a road."

In her sentencing consideration, Judge Lee also said: "(Lim) callously sped off to avoid the consequences of his rash act and abandoned the elderly and vulnerable couple at night to cope with the aftermath of his rash act."

In his appeal, DPP Prem told Justice Chan that after the accident, Lim had given his identity card to Madam Chng's husband, Mr Ng Seok Choon, 74, who was with her.

He said: "However, Lim took back his identity card and sped off on his bicycle before the victim's husband could record all of Lim's particulars.

"(Judge Lee), however, appeared to think that Lim had not given any of his particulars to the victim's husband."

The statement of facts in the Sept 7 hearing stated: "Ng demanded the accused's particulars and the latter handed over his identity card. However, before Ng could take down the details, the accused took back his identity card and sped off."

DPP Prem said Lim was traced "quite quickly and with minimal effort" through his identity card number which Mr Ng managed to note down.

He also said that Judge Lee had erred in relying on specific deterrence as a sentencing consideration, placing excessive weight on Lim's lack of remorse, and relying on entirely irrelevant considerations.

The DPP cited a case in which the driver of a car was sentenced to six weeks' jail on Oct 24 last year for rash driving, which caused the death of a motorcyclist who had right of way.

"A comparison... will show that Lim's sentence of eight weeks' imprisonment is manifestly excessive," said DPP Prem.

After yesterday's appeal, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said in a media statement that it is in the public interest to ensure that Lim is fairly punished.

Attorney-General V.K. Rajah said: "It is a crucial aspect of the administration of criminal justice in Singapore that all offenders are appropriately punished - neither in a manifestly inadequate nor in a manifestly excessive manner - to ensure justice is done."

For committing a rash act, Lim could have been jailed up to six months and fined up to $2,500.

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