Current COE system hurts motorcyclists too


Between 2003 and last year, the number of cars in Singapore jumped from 405,300 to 621,300, a 53 per cent increase. In that period, the number of motorcycles rose from 134,800 to 144,300, a 7 per cent increase.

Cars form 64 per cent of the total vehicle population now, and motorcycles, 15 per cent.

Despite the minimal impact of motorcycles on congestion and pollution, the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premium for such vehicles has increased 240 per cent to S$4,300 over the past four months.

While the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is right to correct the over-supply of COEs in the past decade, its one-size-fits-all formula for capping vehicle growth is hurting motorcyclists and industry players.

In a country where the wage gap issue looms over many heartland discussions, the price of motorcycle COEs today hits even harder on lower-income groups.

Nearly 74 per cent of motorcycles here are Class 2B bikes (200cc and below); many of these riders tend to be low-income earners who cannot afford a car. For those who work as despatch riders or have to travel to industrial areas that are poorly served by public transport, their motorcycles are essential.

The current quota premium for motorcycles is almost the cost of a new Class 2B motorcycle, and many low-income earners are being priced out of the market. Soon, it could be a preposterous but increasingly real situation that only the well-off can own cars or motorcycles.

In the case of cars, the debate over COE prices has been hot and furious. One has not heard public outcry over motorcycles because the riding community does not have a strong voice.

Yet, Singapore’s small size is a perennial problem, and motorcycles have been an efficient transport solution for years. They are also greener than cars, often enjoying low fuel consumption and cleaner emissions, and use up less parking space. While some riders have poor road manners and can be a nuisance, most are law-abiding and safe road users.

The LTA should re-examine how its policies are hurting those who have not contributed to Singapore’s road congestion problem but are now paying a high price, literally and figuratively.