Singaporeans are by and large a materialistic lot. Although our society has progressed beyond the 5Cs, it is still an unfortunate reality that economic might makes right in Singapore. And in this class-conscious country of ours, where motorcycles are associated with deliverymen, hooligans and the less affluent, it is unsurprising to note that motorcyclists do not have much of a say in the Singaporean public sphere.
Let me cite two prime examples, starting with the COE. Up until May 2017, Category D COEs, meant exclusively for motorcycles, were made to contribute part of their quota to Category E COEs, an open category which tends to be priced similarly to car COEs. The relatively exorbitant price of Category E COEs meant that less than 0.1% of them were used to register motorcycles, the vast majority being used to register other vehicle types. As a result, the supply of motorcycle COEs dwindled from a quota of 12,149 in 2013 to 9,137 in 2016. Over the same period, the price of motorcycle COEs ballooned from an average of S$1,757 to S$6,368. This resulted in a decline in the motorcycle population until the issue was rectified.
Another way in which motorcyclists face difficulties is the lack of available parking in many areas frequented by the public. Many shopping malls, from Paragon to The Cathay, do not allow motorcycles to park there. In fact, Singapore’s very own State of Fun, Sentosa, does not even allow motorcycles to enter.
In this age of Covid-19, where a large segment of the population relies on deliverymen riding motorcycles to deliver food safely to their doorstep, deliverymen are often forced to park illegally in order to make a living. Imagine the hoo-ha that would result if certain types of cars were not allowed parking in certain establishments.
My take is that laws and policies concerning motorcycles have been drafted without adequate input from motorcyclists themselves, unlike for car drivers. To put it pointedly, how many MPs and elite government servants drive a car? In contrast, how many of them ride a motorcycle? Is it then surprising that nothing has been done even though car COEs cost just a fraction of the vehicle price, but motorcycle COEs can cost more than the motorcycle itself?
It’s already 2020. If Singapore is to be more inclusive going forward, we should let our motorcyclists have their say.
Author’s Note: I tried submitting this to the Straits Times Forum, but they rejected the contribution. No prizes for guessing why 🙂