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%.
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)