The COE system is now hurting motorcyclists too

This letter was published in Today, 22 Mar 2014. Note that the COE increase for motorcycles was 240%, but was mistakenly edited to 140% in the printed letter.
This letter was published in Today, 22 Mar 2014. Note that the COE increase for motorcycles was 240%, but was somehow edited to 140% in the printed letter.

Most people may not know that between 2003 and 2013, the car population jumped from 405,328 vehicles to 621,345 vehicles, a staggering 53% increase, according to official Land Transport Authority data.

In the same period, the motorcycle population only increased from 134,767 vehicles to 144,307 vehicles, a 7% increase.

Private cars now form 64% of the total vehicle population, while motorcycles make up 15%.

A 125cc scooter like this Yamaha Zuma may soon be an endangered species on our expensive Singapore roads.
An affordable and efficient 125cc scooter like this Yamaha Zuma may soon be an endangered species on our expensive Singapore roads.

Despite the minimal impact of motorcycles on road congestion and pollution, in the past four months, the Certificate of Entitlement premium for two-wheelers has increased 240% to $4,289 as the LTA has applied its one-size-fits-all formula to capping vehicle population growth in Singapore.

While the LTA is doing the right thing in correcting the over-supply of COE in the past decade, it may not realize how its myopic approach in severely restricting the release of motorcycle COEs  is hurting the motorcycling population and intensifying a growing social equity problem.

In a country where the wage gap issue looms over many heartland discussions, the high cost of the motorcycle COE today hits even harder on the lower income folks.

The majority of motorcycles (73%) in Singapore are small capacity bikes under 200cc (Class 2B) and many of these riders tend to be low-income earners who cannot afford a car.

For those who work as dispatch riders or have to travel to industrial areas poorly served by public transport, their two wheels are an essential part of their daily workflow.

The current quota premium for motorcycles is almost the cost of a new Class 2B motorcycle, and now many low-income earners are now being priced out of the market. It is a preposterous but increasingly real situation that very soon, only the rich can own either cars and motorcycles in Singapore.

In the case of cars, the debate has been hot and furious over the price of car COEs.

Yet you don’t hear the same outcry over motorcycles in the public sphere because the riding community does not have a strong voice.

Singapore’s small size is a perennial problem and motorcycles have been the highly efficient transport solution for years. And they are much greener when compared to cars – motorcycles often enjoy low fuel consumption, cleaner emissions and take up less parking space.

The LTA needs to re-examine how its current policies are hurting citizens who have not contributed to the country’s road congestion problem, but are now being made to pay a high price, literally and figuratively.

(Image of Zuma 125cc scooter from Yamaha website)

32 Replies to “The COE system is now hurting motorcyclists too”

  1. Thanks for penning down our grievances. Its really hit the lower income group. LTA is a bitch.

  2. Please take note that coz of this.. these lower income dispatch riders are being replaced by FT.. look at macdonals.. their riders are now malaysians, riding their bikes thats is much cheaper..

    1. And it is actually illegal to use foreign vehicles for despatch in Singapore.

      The end of affordable fast food delivery is near.

  3. Only way to question their policies is to have more opposition so that they do not have the two thirds majority to pass any bill without objection. Vote for the opposition if you want a more democratic country your your concerns and voice is heard.

    1. FYI, only constitutional amendments require 2/3 majority. All other policy bills require only a simple majority.

  4. It doesnt stop there as i can say it shud be arnd 5% of the motorcyclist and around 10-15% of cars bought are used by our neighbour country juz travelling to n fro for their daily travelling needs juz to avoid the vep daily of which this pool is inside the lta data but doesnt seem to even exist on singapore roads. But to the locals here they take the coe toll and parking charges cause the data seemed to be fooled by this pool of ppl who juz used it to avoid the VEP(vehicle entry permit)cars @ $25 per day except weekends n motorcycles $2 per day…imagine juz a bike $2 a day n roughly put 300 days a year = $600 n in 4-5yrs dwn the rd they can even buy a bike in sgp of which they can enter sgp for free till 10yrs dats y lta thought no of motorists have increased… Duh….i dun think lta is even taking these pool in consideration… They juz take the no of ppl owning a vehicle but whether the owners are residing here or across the causeway i dun think they are even bothered to knw… In the end , the locals n lower wage ppl trying to survive in the world most expensive country are even more squeezed n indirectly forced to move into the neighbouring country due to these so called affordable country to live in…sigh… We citizens are suppose to gain n not to be squeezed… So r the gov nw even helping their ppl or juz helping the economic figures?zzzz

  5. We really shouldn’t encourage bikes in Singapore. Have you been to Taiwan or Thailand? The traffic there is a mess because of too many motorcycles and scooters. We really don’t want that for Singapore. Besides, bikes are dangerous, noisy, and not environmental friendly. Lower income individuals should switch to public transport. I support the reduction of all private vehicles on our roads, including bikes.

    1. Hi macbeth,

      I’m a biker and a driver, so obviously I have a different perspective from you. Yes, I’ve been to Taiwan and Thailand, and if you think the bikers are messy there, you should try Vietnam. But the bikers there are not treated with prejudice like they are in SG, from either the authorities or non-bikers. And generally the drivers and bikers in those countries get along fine because they are much more skilful on the road than our locals.

      Be clear too that I’m not encouraging more people to take up motorcycling in Singapore because I know there are many folks who are always ready to paint it as “dangerous, noisy and not environmentally friendly” with a broad stroke. I’m encouraging a relook at policies at penalize an existing group of road users who did not contribute to the congestion we have today.

      If you say bikes are dangerous – yes, they are high-risk machines for the riders, but they do not kill people like cars can. Most people are mowed down by cars, not bikes. Noisy and environmentally unfriendly? Please let LTA know since they put a tremendous amount of effort into inspecting our bikes annually to make sure they don’t bust the decibel limits or emission standards, and we’re penalized heavily if we install non-LTA-approved exhaust systems.

      I agree with you that we should reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. But read my article again – motorcycles do not contribute to congestion. The reason why our roads are often jammed today is because of utter mismanagement of the COE quota for cars, while the population of motorcycles has changed insignificantly.

      Finally, let me ask what about the lower-income people who need their motorcycles to do work that our society requires? Shall we do away with all dispatch and delivery riders? Or ask NSmen who ride to far-away camps to just suck it in and take a 1.5hr bus ride? Our public transport system is a work-in-progress, if you haven’t noticed.

      1. Obviously I’m preaching to the wrong choir here.

        You are incorrect that motorcycles do not contribute to congestion. Motorcycles take up one lane space like any other vehicles — if you’ve ever driven behind a motorbike you’d know what I mean. Lane splitting is only legal when overtaking stopped cars. Please check your facts and/or logic. You don’t have to go far to see a long motorcycle jam — check out the causeway on a Friday night or Monday morning and you’ll see what I mean.

        Also, the argument about dispatch riders is plain disingenuous. We’re not banning motorcycles altogether. If bikes are the best form of commute for your business, so be it. But I believe the majority of bikers are not in that category. On the other hand, it might be a good idea to introduce a separate COE category for commercial motorcycles.

        The crux of the matter is that motorcycles are dangerous — not only to the riders but also to other road users. In my opinion, that alone is sufficient reason to enact measures to control its population. A Government who does nothing is irresponsible and not looking out for its citizens.

        Bikers like their freedom. I get it. But freedom comes at a price.

        If we calculate by engine size, the COE for a motorcycle should be about 1/10 of the Cat A/B COE, i.e. approximately $8K for the prevailing price. So you guys are already having it cheap.

        1. macbeth, at this point I shall twist my throttle and ride away from this thread 🙂 I’ll just leave with a few links for you to read to share our choir’s perspective but feel free to reject those views. It’ll also be cool to know what car you drive so I can wave hello when I’m splitting lanes next to you during the next traffic jam we get into. I ride a red Ducati Monster and it’s legally not loud enough.

          http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmtran/872/872we33.htm
          http://www.gizmag.com/motorcycles-reduce-congestion/21420/
          http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-27/motorcycle-lane-filtering-to-be-legal-in-nsw/5287440
          http://www.acem.eu/index.php/media-corner/press-releases/80-more-powered-two-wheelers-would-ease-congestion

        2. The Causeway is not a good example to use unless you use it often enough, say, at least twice a day. Even then, motorcycles have their own lanes at the Causeway, so they do not really affect the queue for car lanes.

          Moreover, a bike takes up a lot less space than a car- in the same distance of road that cars wait in queue, you can fit 4-6 times as many bikes. Yet the car population outnumber the motorcycle population 4.3 : 1. Your argument is losing steam already.

          Motorcycles contribute to congestion in the same way a roaming toddler is a distraction to adults waiting in line at the cashier. You’re not going anywhere fast anyway, yet the bikes just keep going. So how can motorcycles be adding to congestion woes?

          If you drive, don’t complain about traffic; you ARE traffic. When you are driving and you’re gridlocked, you are merely a stationary obstacle I need to avoid while getting home an hour ahead of you.

          Cigarettes are dangerous too, and so are knives. Yet, there’s no ban on either on the horizon. Motorcycles are as much of a tool for some as they are a toy for others. It depends on how they are used. Knives can be and have been used to kill, yet Eskimo children learn how to use extremely sharp knives at the age of 9. In fact, in the last 50 years, cars have taken more lives than knives. Shouldn’t we ban cars too? Let’s all cycle instead. Slower speeds, longer lives? But I’ve had cycling buddies die from falling off their bicycles, should the government step in and coddle its citizens and ban bicycles as well as anything that may kill us? The government is already doing a fine job at that by the introduction of CPF, because if I didn’t have my money locked up by the government, an adrenaline junkie like me would definitely have splurged every penny I earned on skydiving and basejumping and I most definitely would have killed myself years ago.

          I believe we should be given a choice. We choose to ride because it is cheaper, and more convenient. I do not think that motorcycles should be discouraged or banned on the false pretext that they are dangerous, and certainly not because they ’cause congestion’. Most motorcyclists ride because they cannot afford a car, and do not want to be dependent on an unreliable public transport, which has trains breaking down often, and buses often caught in jams caused by an overpopulation of cars. Soon, I will not be able to afford to keep my car because the cost of renewing the COE is higher than what my car cost 10 years ago, including its COE.

          Like Ian, I would like to wave goodbye to you when I’m lane-splitting and getting home to my family and friends early everyday. Those man-hours wasted while you sit it out for the duration of my shower and dinner, year after year after year. 🙂

        3. Hey macbeth (what a tragedy),

          I guess you’re just being troll-ish because you ignored all the critical research. Plus all the bigotry. Yeah, maybe one valid minor point there, but you’re starting to remind me of that Ancient Aliens meme.

          1. Yeah. Aliens invented motorcycles to screw up the Singapore transport system! Right, macbeth? Right?!

    2. macbeth, the traffic in Taiwan and Thailand would actually be WORSE if not for all those people who wisely chose motorcycles instead of cars. The pain of the commute in some places has more to do with how people behave on the road (driving culture), or the fact that they don’t control supply of vehicles rather than with the fact that they’re on two-wheelers. That’s a pretty bigoted and obtuse statement you’ve made there, macbeth.

      In fact (and I’m going to paint it a little different from Ian here), motorcycles are calculated to cause less than 25% of the congestion caused by cars. An increase in motorcycles and a corresponding reduction of cars resulted in lower total emissions.

      http://www.gizmag.com/motorcycles-reduce-congestion/21420/

      http://the-riotact.com/motorcycle-awareness-improving-traffic-congestion/46343

      Also, the Singapore Police Force reported that motorcyclists were only found to be partially or wholly at fault in 50% of accidents involving motorcycles, which basically means that all other motorists are on average more dangerous than motorcyclists.

      https://www.facebook.com/singaporepoliceforce/photos/a.449307704407.236365.56706929407/10152645700614408/?type=1

      Science says you’re wrong. Stats says that motorcycles are better for the environment, less dangerous than other road users and less noisy than an anti-motorcycle bigot.

    3. How abt professional riders? Those who work with their own bikes for instance despatch riders. Wouldnt that be even more detrimental when their nature of work offers low salary. Think abt it… at least the what the government could do is create a policy whereby every family is entitled to own only one car since they are stressing abt road congestion. Bikes certainly make up a puny amount of the total vehicles in singapore.

    4. Macbeth, I am a motorcyclist and a driver, but most of the time I prefer to ride. I spend quite a lot of time overseas and I do a lot of riding and driving in other countries, so I do not agree with your perspective on Taiwan and Thailand.

      In Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, India, and the Philippines, the motorcycle population is huge because it is a cheap form of private transportation. These people have had decades to practice their art of riding and dodging in busy streets swarming with motorcycles and while it may look messy and chaotic to the uninitiated, there is, in fact, an unspoken system of order that they adhere to. People actually give way to one another. While that may seem like a very obscure idea that most Singaporeans do not understand, that is actually how drivers and motorcyclists in developed countries like Britain, France and Sweden behave too.

      Motorcycles are dangerous. But not always due to the manner of its operation. Yes, we do have reckless motorcyclists who endanger their lives on the road, and motorcycle accidents that result in death are high, but what statistics do not reveal is the cause of the accidents. Deteriorating road conditions from poorly resurfaced roads present hazards like sand, gravel, potholes and uneven levels that can cause a motorcyclist to lose control of his vehicle. But the largest cause of accidents is reckless drivers. Based on my own experience and anecdotal evidence from fellow motorcyclists, drivers who drive recklessly and aggressively are the cause of most accidents with motorcyclists. Most of these offending drivers either try to force a motorcyclist out of his lane or are completely oblivious to motorcyclists that they do not even know that they have caused an accident.

      As for noise pollution, unless the government can wean off its greed for fuel taxes and allow us to migrate to electric vehicles, we will always be slaves to internal combustion machines. Unfortunately, all fossil-fuel reliant engines will always generate noise when in operation. However, with most governments tightening their laws on noise emission levels from vehicles, car and motorcycle manufacturers are forced to design better engines that reduce the noise their vehicles generate when in operation.

      Similarly, exhaust emissions are greatly reduced with the tightening of laws governing emission standards. All motorcycles in Singapore are required to have a catalytic converter installed in the exhaust system to reduce the amount of pollutants released during combustion.
      Motorcycles consume a lot less petrol than cars. A small 125cc moped can cover almost 60km with 1 litre of petrol, or uses 1.667 litres for every 100km.

      It won’t be difficult to get dispatch riders and deliverymen to make the switch to public transport, though. That would be a brilliant idea. Instead of risking their lives riding their tiny machines through rush hour traffic in the sun and rain to make multiple deliveries in a day, I’m sure they’d be more than happy to travel on the bus or MRT in comfort, making substantially few deliveries in one day. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind waiting 1.5 hours for your pizza that costs 5 times more to arrive cold and soggy, or 4 hours if there is an MRT breakdown, and with additional ingredients added by fellow commuters who might strip naked and pleasure themselves with the soft cheese. Or how about getting the courier to send your urgent package from within the CBD to a vendor outside of the CBD for $120 instead of $12, and takes twice as long to arrive?

      Lower-income individuals are unable to switch to public transport because if the commute on public transport includes a train ride, then there is a very huge risk of missing an appointment. Public transport is so unreliable and costs more than owning and operating a motorcycle.

      I too, support the reduction of private vehicles on our roads, but with a minor exception to motorcycles.

  6. Hi,…Singapore Policy Makers seem to solve problems, by using pricing mechanism, disguised as “Free Market Forces”. Just as LKY does not compare with other countries’ systems,..we should not also compare other motorcycle country with ours. But the Fact is that continuous traffic flow, IS MUCH more effective, than start-stop traffic here.
    The situation has become soooo logic-distorted, that many Malaysian-registered small mbikes, are being used for deliveries.
    Same can be said, about the Malaysian lorries, too.
    Do whatever You want, but simply, Don’t get Caught.
    Regretfully, the voice for motorcyclists here is not united,…so many smaller, genuinely hard working little bikers, continue to be bullied by all

    1. Suggested Solutions:
      1. Scrap the COE System, Quadtriple the Usage element on the Luxury catagory
      2. Constantly Promote the Lifestyle of “Understated” Living, by leaders leading by example.
      There are too many people here,..driving too many expensive cars that they can ill afford
      Many fail to realize that easy financing,…overtrades,..and all the other crap marketing slogans,..simply increase the total cost – thus puching one further back in the accumulation of financial savings,…
      3. A Leader Spokesperson, must be found, in the motorcycling community.
      4.
      Thanks,
      Ride, Drive, Walk safe, all

      1. Hi Wayne,

        I don’t think it’s easy to find a good leader/spokesperson in the local riding community. What would be more plausible is if more local bikers ride in a responsible and safe manner, and promote that with their friends. This way, more non-riders will respect bikers and over time, change the negative attitudes towards bikers.

  7. COE prices are mainly manipulated by the dealers. Dealers doesn’t have the COE means no sale, no sales means no income.
    Die die must get the COE. For the current high COE are partially due to the new ruling set in OCt 2014. Many dealers have lots of bike under euro 2 emission standard. 1st Oct 2014, only Euro 3 emission standard are allow for new registration.
    Unable to clear by 1 Oct 2014, have to re-export out or scrap. Big lost for dealer! So how? die die must bid high for COE,

  8. Probably when they are saying this kind of comments, all that they are thinking of. Is that we should all get stuck on the road, while they have air-con and music , we will be stuck under the sun. Only then they will say that it’s fair. Some locals just like to see other people suffer.

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