Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Thoughts about cycling in Singapore

I was part of a URA Subject Group to provide feedback to URA/NParks about the Parks & Waterbodies and Rustic Coast Draft Concept Plan. This was fed into the Master Plan 2003 subsequently. I spoke up for cyclists/skaters where relevant. No one was against sensible suggestions in this objective group but they were active citizenry, not government.

Suggestions ultimately have to be implemented and if attention is drawn to it, it gets some priority, especially by multi-tasking departments.

I have been mulling over some ideas, and here they are off the top of my head:

  • Leisure cyclists do not have a coherent voice, but I see now gradual changes in SACA; SMURFS and Togoparts are a very good development.

  • There are not enough events for regular folk. We have a few mass cycling but none on ride safety for HDB town riders. Groups like BOAC bikers contribute a lot and are very important. We need more to pop up. I know there are a few out there, I met them during some public rides.

  • Thanks to the internet and sites like togoparts, there is already a lot of basic information about bike shops etc. All this helps.

  • We must harness our voices with others who share common desires, e.g. Other park connector users: joggers, walkers, nature lovers, students. Mountain bikers should see how they can integrate their desires with naturalists. Park Watch groups have been formed to take a social role in their parks. We can contribute in some, e.g. in East Coast Park this has begun.

  • By not having a significant profile and reach amongst citizenry and their leaders, not enough people are speaking up at opportune moments ≠ squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  • Park connectors make up some 40km. Another 120km by 2015- not promised but it will be "a challenge" to realise this. We have to ensure the public enjoys the rewards of a park connector ≠ fresh air, less dust, a place of serenity, more plant and animal life nature, impression of space in a small country, connectivity between neighbourhoods. NParks has been on their own so fasr. E.g. there are RC leaders who believe park connectors should be provided with the connectivity despite the expense. I had balked at the cost of an underpass inane discussion, but he said it was a matter of priority, which merely depends on outlook.

  • The current state of park connectors has issues - they are blocked at a whim in some parts, they are not connected when they could be - we need to examine these and begin to take action in a small way.

  • There are mature plans overseas which have considered some of these ideas (urbanised cities have the same space issues) and I am looking for such information for ideas when I can.

  • I am not the idealist or visionary to think of inserting cycling lanes on Singapore roads. But how about cycling lanes in the very wide and frequently used roads for cycling such as Changi Coastal Road or Thomson Road, that is not too demanding? Are there not accidents at Changi Coastal Road?

  • Use such a proposal to find out who can and will do things, or who won't. Personal networking is very important. To get hints about timing to pitch, people to avoid and others to hunt down!

  • The cyclistĎ€s image is bad in places like pavements in Punggol; mountain biking in some parts - exclusive or inconsiderate. Embrace a code of conduct. E.g. On pavements, park connectors, anywhere, the cyclists should give way to the pedestrian - and this also means not alarming them by loud warnings from behind. Race management must be done effectively yet politely so we do not antagonise others. Bikers should be more considerate when they go offroad. I see some sensible suggestions on Togoparts recently about riding safely.

  • We need bike clinics about traffic riding. That SMURFS group did a great job for introductory mountain biking. We need one for riding with traffic, as opposed to mountain biking, road riding and urban cycling. These are terms I use to differentiate the classes of cycling because they require different approaches and techniques; there may be proper names for these. For traffic riding, I still profit from my compulsory motorbike lessons for Class 2B and Highway Code taken some 16 years ago! You need to adapt those for bicycling. Even so-called experienced riders can profit from this from my observations.

  • If we don't care about others, should they care about us? It is easy to dismiss the needs of an unpopular group. How many are even thankful for mass rides organised for them like Leisure Cycling and Runway Cycling! A code of conduct might serve to build up an awareness of what is "not cool" to do. The inconsiderate cyclist is bringing disrepute to every other cyclist and closing the minds of the necessary people. Not everyone is objective enough to see past an unpleasant incident.

  • Cycling must have a more mainstream image than it has now. I seem to feel (but am not sure) this happening. Alvin was apparently working to get cycling recognised in NTU. We need more like him. I have friends in SACA who are trying with schools.

  • NTU's Round Island Cycling is the sort of event that we need to see more of. It was a hospitable environment in which beginners at long distance can safely tackle a round island ride. What you might expect from a national organiser level, but they did it. Kudos to the NTU students. I went up to them and thanked them and also emailed them my thanks again later. I wonder how many did. Some of friends did make the effort but our culture for acknowledgement is poor, although it can significantly motivate.

  • If any of us have a strategy or set of ideas which are coherent and practical get input from friends and send it the papers, SACA and the relevant government department. Then follow up on it. Individual action is also helpful.

  • Share thoughts with the cycling community, who must come to be socially conscious enough to understand such approaches. We must be able to talk about it to friends and colleagues. If it is non-confrontational, embracing of other communities (naturalists, joggers, walkers, etc) needs, sensible, practical and not too demanding, it has a good chance of even recruiting advocates.

  • It means compromise: you cannot sprint on a park connector filled with people. How many riders grumble abut how slow cycling is on East Coast park? There are good bits with the bad.

  • In Togoparts I see some young ones who appear to understand this already. It's a good sign. They are getting familiar with the methods. They'd better, this is their fight too.

  • Some nature conservation results were 15-years in the making. I feel the environment is now more hospitable to such a social process. What took a decade may now take half the time. Of course good timing helps. Will cyclists stand up and make a difference for themselves? There will always be drunk drivers.

Ride safe all.


First posted in Otterman speaks.

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