Monday, September 06, 2004

Cycle to work in Singapore?

I used to cycle a lot when I was working in Holland. However after I moved to Singapore in 1996, I realized that this city was not really friendly toward cyclists. I gave up cycling and start driving a car.

Two years ago, I started to experience frequent dizziness after squatting for just a few minutes or when I walked up stairs quickly. Then, while working on a research project last year, I was shocked to discover that physical inactivity, like smoking, is now one of the three main causes of unnatural death[1]. I learnt that regular moderate exercise is the best solution. So I began to to look for a form of exercise that I could perform regularly. I tried going to a gym, but that only lasted for a couple of weeks. I am, like most people, quite hopeless when it comes to self-motivated exercise!


I started to reflect on my experience in Holland. Cycling to work there was a form of regular exercise that was naturally integrated into my life. It is easy for the Dutch people to cycle; in fact cycling is often the fastest way to get around in town! Compared to Singapore, I noticed that in urban area of Holland, cars are fewer and slower, the air is cleaner, there is much less traffic noise, and overall it is a peaceful yet vibrant living area. No wonder Dutch are so healthy, I thought. No wonder the cost of medical insurance could be so low and their old folks were still pursuing an active life. A pro-bicycle policy has triggered a positive chain reaction leading to improved public health, a lower medical burden, better environment and better quality of life for everyone.

However, in Singapore, as soon as I wake up in the morning, I would literally be sitting down the entire day! When I go to work in the morning, I sit in my car. When I reach the office, I sit in front of my computer or in a meeting room all day long. Well, except for lunch break which involves a five minute walk to a nearby food center. After work, back at home, I sit in my sofa, in front of the TV, to "relax". Physical activity had been effectively engineered out of my life!

I started to see a connection between a number of issues in Singapore:
- High population of diabetics, now starting at younger age.
- Increase rate of obesity, also in young children.
- High medical cost, especially for the elderly.
- Stress and air pollution due to increased traffic.
- Faster traffic and lower road safety.
- Cyclists getting killed on the road.
- Parents afraid to allow their children to cycle.
- Streets are not safe for children to play (another reason a maid is needed).
- Hard to motivate kids to exercise.
- An issue of drunk drivers.
- Feeder buses in areas of low density living.
- Insufficient passengers in certain MRT stations to justify it's operation.

From a cyclist's perspective, all of this seems to be connected to the anti-bicycle environment in Singapore. This is not to suggest that a pro-bicycle policy will solve all the difficult issues immediately, but certainly, it will contribute in multiple and connected ways, towards a more positive situation.

The problem of riding a bicycle in Singapore

I wanted to pick up cycling again, for my own benefit and to inspire others. Cycling from home to work was not an option initially. I was too intimidated by the dangerous roads. However, cycling to the nearby MRT station was acceptable. So I rode to the MRT station near my house, locked my bicycle there and took the MRT to the station near my office. There, I had another bicycle locked and waiting for me to ride to work!

Unfortunately, both bikes were stolen after a few months!

Inspiration, experiment and innovation

After that painful experience, I read an article on a web page[2], which illustrated how folding bicycles are used to extend trips by trains in Europe. It was not only convenient but was also a healthy means of commuting. I was intrigued and wondered if I could take a folding bike into Singapore's MRT. To my delight, SMRT does allow folding bikes (when folded) on board the trains!

This can be a wonderful way to travel in Singapore, since it complements our present MRT system, eliminating the need to wait for a bus or walking a long distance, and is totally theft proof! I tried a few folding bikes including famous brands like Brompton[3] and a few Dahon[4]. Now I am using a new JZ88 foldable bike[5]. This bike is apparently designed specifically for Asian living in a compact urban environment. It is a lightweight, compact folding bicycle; is quick to fold and can be converted into a shopping trolley.

Initially I had doubts if this tiny bicycle could support my 175cm body height. However, thanks to its ultra-light structure and responsive ride, I now enjoy cycling so much that I cycle the entire 8.5km from home to work every morning! I am, however, extremely careful on the road, and will use the pavement if the road is too busy. I can bring it into any MRT station wherever I am and need not worry about bicycle theft again - I bring it into the office and keep it under my desk.

So who says you can't cycle to work in Singapore?


[1] WHO report indicated physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and tobacco use are the 3 main causes of unnatural death.

Ed's note - The World Health Organisation published the "The World Health Report 2002 - Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life" which included in its cconclusions that "... in the developed countries of North America, Europe and the Asian Pacific, at least one-third of all disease burden is attributable to these five risk factors: tobacco, alcohol, blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity. The tobacco epidemic alone kills about 2.4 million people every year in industrialized countries. In addition, suboptimal levels of blood pressure and cholesterol each cause millions of deaths annually, and increasing levels of overweight are leading to epidemics of obesity and diabetes."

[2] Folding Bikes: Real Utility Vehicles / By Jack Oortwijn & Otto Beaujon

[3] Brompton folding bicycle home page

[4] Dahon folding bike home page

[5] JZ88 folding bike home page

Ref: Foldable bikes without protruding parts are allowed on Singapore's MRT. [link]


Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about getting a foldable bicycle for commuting (with MRT). Your story give me a lot of confident, thanks! -Theo

Anonymous said...

can you get enough exercise by cycling to MRT alone? for convinient, may be. for fitness, i don't think so.

a2zee said...

good idea.
im one of those who has trouble with self motivation to exercise. that's not the least of my problems, i'm quite close to obese as well. i dont have to go out to work since i work at home so the concept wont work for me. but it's always good to hear bout these positive stories. so thanks. cheers to getting fit!-- slowly (in my case) ;p

Chu Wa said...

thank aznet and others, it's nice to know that there are real people spend time to read my post :-)

ahkl77 said...

Thanks man for your recommendation. Have been looking around for a train friendly folding bike.

Had my bad experience where I wanted to cycle tour Melbourne but her only city rental kiosk was closed because the person was 'sick' (more like Sunday too lazy to work...).

Now back in Sg, it seems the JZ88 foldable bike you recommended seems the perfect one, I've looked around and thought that the A-bike [] was the one worth getting, but was told that it'd only be available in mid 2005, by then i'll be back in Oz.

The comparison chart in JZ88 also made it easier to decide! But the price is abit steep. It'll be good if it's kept at SGD500 range.

Chu Wa said...

Thanks Andy, I'm glad that you find it useful. I'm curious in the A-Bike too. It's nice to be so light (5.5kg) I will certainly try it when it is available, although I'm not certain it can handle the real road situation very well (I guess similar to Zerobike?) I hope you'll enjoy cycling in Singapore, most of the area is actually very pleasant.

Just be very careful on the road, some drivers here are not sensitive to cyclists, and it only take one careless driver to make a disaster. Don't try to hop on pedestrian curbs higher then 10 cm, the wheels of JZ88 are smaller then normal so it is not easy to roll over higher curbs.

Anonymous said...

I was told by a friend to check your blog, it is very interesting and inspiring. I want to pick up cycling agian, to go to school, but was always afraid of because I can not find a safe route from home all the way to school. With your suggestion of a foldable bike, it seems using cycling can be a practical way to get around in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

you guys ever heard of park connector? I was very excited, when I saw it on the internet. "ulu pandan park connector" should be the best cycle track from my place to office. But seems like what National Parks Broad posted on the internet was not really actual. The cycle track just discontinues at many points. I'm now quite disapointed as this still take time (2010) to complete the whole tracks. :(
But 'foldable bike',hmm.. is it still convenient to ride for long journey, say 15 - 20 km?? please share some experience with me.

Anonymous said...

I realize I'm joining this very late - trust someone will still respond. Returning from Brussels very soon & am considering bringing home a foldable bike but the Dahon (beautiful but heavy at 11 Kg)costs S$1000. The small wheels of the lighter models put me off. Someone mentioned S$500 being expensive? Are there cheaper foldable bikes in S'pore?? I won't bother buying here in Brussels then!!

Anonymous said...

you guys ever heard of park connector?

half of my daily route use park connector; it's beautiful in the morning to cycle along the rivers.

But 'foldable bike',hmm.. is it still convenient to ride for long journey, say 15 - 20 km??

That depends on you. The longest I've done on my JZ88 folding bike is 150km in an evening group ride (Bishan- Marina south- East Coast Park- Changi Airport- Changi Village- Bishan) The stretch along Changi Coast Road was the toughest, but everyone (road bike or MTB) was very impressed that I actually made it all the way to Changi Village!

Anonymous said...

hey im a 17 yr old who loves cycling. have been cycling -night cycling- around singapore on a mountain bike since 2 years ago and was considering going into the sport. i too realise the problem of the traffic congestion due to spatial problems.however, you might consider cycling as a sport at less habitated locations.

the sale of road bikes in singapore are limited in terms of both the range of price and the variety of choices. i was wondering if you could find some websites on import of good road bikes for me and send them to my hotmail account at thanks, the effort would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

hi chuwasg, we are students from raffles junior college and we are currently working on a project concerning cycling in singapore, drawing comparisons with the system in holland. We hope that you would grant us the permission to interview you as we feel that your opinions would be invaluable. If u are agreeable, you can contact us at and we can fix a time and place. Hope to hear from you.

mis_nomer said...

heya, I cycle to work occasionally and agree with you on what Singapore can do to make it easier for cyclists on the road. Great posts! I think that if the government were to promote cycling, it will take care of two national concerns -- encourage a healthy lifestyle and perhaps alleviate the jams in the morning.

Chu Wa said...

coffeeshot, sure, cleaner air and less road kill as well.

Now government is promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. These require skills in path-finding and courage. For their future, I love to let my kids cycle to school. It helps to develop their courage and entrepreneurship through exploring the neighborhoods and finding their own way.

But right now the roads are just too dangerous. People even get killed on pedestrian crossing! The penalties for offending drivers are not heavy enough. If law maker see car as a potential lethal weapon, the control and penalties should be very different and the behavior of the few dangerous drivers will be improved.

Anonymous said...

I am here working for two weeks. Thanks for the inspiration, I wasn't sure that I would be able to bike commute, but after seeing your web page I decided to bring my bike over with me. 3 days in and the commuting has been great, it only takes about a half hour to get to work from my hotel, and traffic is not as scary as I expected.

Chu Wa said...

Glad to know one more person is encouraged to cycle in Singapore.
I agree that sometime the road danger in Singapore has been exaggerated. But do take it in the light that the intention is not to stop people from cycling, but rather take special care of yourself if you do make this choice (commute by bicycle). It's always better to be late than sorry :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
Nice website you have here, keep it up. Do you know any place where I can buy cheap bikes in Sg, not mountain bike type, just old school type, bikes that we often see in japan, europe, china, etc, I don't mind used ones. I want to ride a bike but cheap one, I bought mine for US$30 when I was in U.S. I think Sg drivers sucks, no signalinng, no blind spot checking, crazy! no wonder many ppl get killed every year!

Anonymous said...

Could you tell me where to get the jz88 folding bike and how much does it cost?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see this.

would u like to share your story in

Chu Wa said...

Anonymous said...
Could you tell me where to get the jz88 folding bike ...
here is a map of the shop

and how much does it cost?
price of the bike and accessories here..

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see this.

would u like to share your story in

Oh, certainly!

Anonymous said...

hi there, i recently found a bike shop that offers a service called "Bike Lodging". interesting as it sounds, people who cycle to work can park their bicycles there, take a shower, leave their "dirt laundry there and head off to work... come back and pick up their stuff and bike after work and head home. you can check out their website:

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I own a $4500 bike but singapore is too unfriendly to cyclists. I take my bike out to cycle only every sunday along eastcoast park, sembawang, westcoast park but the trouble is actually getting there in one piece.

Anonymous said...

Riding in this urban city, i thought riding an unicycle is even a better solution. It can be brought up the bus and MRT. Just that it is slower and funny. Quite portable and convenient. Afterall is also a form of exercise.
--unicyclist :)

Anonymous said...

Why do you feel that the jz88 is preferred over the brompton or dahon in the MRT. I thought that the brompton is one of the best folders.

Anonymous said...

Hi, your blog inspired me! I was reading your story and realizing that it could be something that I wrote... Idea of cycling came to me recently when I realized that I am lacking of self discipline and making my self exercise - go gym or swimming pool is something that I can't do regulary... At the same time riding bicycle is something unique - riding to work - is a "2 stone 1 bird" kind of thing... but riding all over the island, enjoying sceneries, parks, is something relaxing, exciting, good for health and even educative! Truly one of the solution to health problems - should be promoted and supported by government. Anyway I am still very new and would like to have your advice very much! Please, if you could contact me and provide some advice, may be resources or how to become part of the existing community. :) Thank you for inspiration! :)

Anonymous said...

Starting cycling to and back from work after mid-September'06. Its freshening whole day, no after-lunch drowsiness, no hunger, good sleep every night, almost clear urine, no constipation, no tired legs from standing around, bike investment breakeven within 4 months, cheap sunday joyrides (can go round Singapore in a Sunday?).

"Bad news" my road bike not suitable for footpaths, non-bike-friendly road encounters (roads and users), motor vehicle fumes, regular D-I-Y maintenance for my routes and usage.

Look forward to racer (lighter bike for safer speed, and weather-risks)

harish said...

Hey you all there.
Its great a thing to see so many people respond to a pretty trivial yet amazing result yielding act in everyday life. I moved in to Spore a year back and I can see my health go down the less-healthy kinds. I am a frequent trekker and fun freak. Cycling in Spore is surely not all that enjoyable as Az' quotes. But it is one of the best acts to get the body and mind in great springy health. I have begun to cycle now. My body walks the walk with no dip in energy and my perk is - I came to my neighborhood much faster in a much exciting way than the boring MRT and taxi ride. I was just thinking if all cycling enthus could get together for a long jolly ride, a Cylcothon probably :) !! What say guys ??

Anonymous said...

Every since I've bought my CarryMe bicycle. I've have not been using my motorcycle as my main transport for quite sometime. In fact, i've been using train and buses and the CarryMe to connect the rest of the way to my destination. It is folded to such compact size that I can even get onto crowded buses. It has a been great fun to cycle on such small wheels.

Anonymous said...

I work at Raffles but I live at the opposite side of Singapore -- East Coast. And I only get to bike during the weekends. Your blog is very inspiring. I feel more confident now taking a foldable bike to the trains... thanks. I hope more people in singapore would do the same.

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring and informative blog! I've just picked up cycling in Perth although I've been cycling all my life. When I get back to Singapore, hope to meet all enthusiast on the road.. cycling of course!

Anonymous said...

I thought of getting a bike and cycle to work to Raffles area from my residential place in Toa Payoh but I am not familiar with the path that a cyclist can use. Can I cycle to work via the CTE? I am pretty new here in Singapore, would appreciate some advice.

Anonymous said...


I just got a bike in Singapore and I have a pressing question.

Here is Singapore, I prefer to bike on weekends where I am not in such a hurry to get to work etc. I would like to do groceries, get to the florist, meet friends for coffee or to the bookstore etc.

My concern is parking and I keep hearing about bike thefts.

Last week my Dutch partner and I went to UE Square to do a 20 mins quick shopping trip at the Cold Storage in there, we just chained our bikes to one of the pillars. We got scolded TWICE by two different guards when trying to leave.

Where on earth do people park? For example today I need to run errands at Taka and meet a girlfriend for lunch. Where is the safest place to park?

Btw, I used to live in NYC and parking was not an issue - bike racks, light poles, pillars, fences etc. Then again, I had a bike which cost nothing.

Unfortunately here, my partner splurged on me with a beautiful woman's mtn bike and so I would simply hate for it to be stolen.

This parking issue is really hampering my weekend biking activities.

Any suggestions please?


Sivasothi said...

Hi B, yes you're not in NYC anymore!

Unfortunately there is generally very poor tolerance for bikes here by building and estate managers (in addition to litter and stray cats and dogs) who direct their security accordingly.

In fact security once tried to chase off a group of cyclists in the early morning before a charity cycling event was about to take place outside at a fitness club that was hosting the event!

So save that battle for special events and look for a non-prominent place to chain up your bike. If you go to UE often, look for a little secret place. For a permanent solution, write to management and demand a space.

I have used an underground/multi-storey carpark if one is available.

Some places are less aggressive about bicycles - you can tell from the sight of other bicycles parked there.

Theft is always a possibility with expensive-looking bikes, so do not risk your precious bike to a cheap lock. My bike is at relatively low risk but has sentimental value so I have two strong, large locks for parking in the city when I have to.

Chu Wa said...

I got my first rejection in years today at the NLB. I was prepared and fold my bike to the smallest possible size. But as soon as I walk into the building the security was there ready to welcome me. A clear NO on her face, she kindly suggested I should lock my folded metal together with others outside at a bike park(?) To be honest I was a bit unprepared for it. First, I have been bringing my folding bike everywhere and never have any problem; restaurants, cinema, 5* hotels, MRTs, you name it. Second, due to the first reason, I never carry a lock! Very rarely I was rejected out right like that. However, the lady security was careful enough to check with her manager. While she was calling, I present a large plastic bag and explained I can put the bike into the bag if needed. I think that make the rejection a little pointless, since all other were allowed to carry bags and mine is just a bit bulky and tacky. Fortunately her manager was open minded enough to let my bike to take a rest behind the receptionist desk- a first class treatment in my opinion. (Woohoo!)

Ivan Chew said...

Hi Chuwasg, I was alerted to your comment by Siva. Will forward to relevant NLB colleague to let them know their discretion has managed to keep everyone happy (disclosure: I work for NLB, but I post this in my personal capacity). Incidentally, I found your post insightful and has made me seriously think about getting a foldable bike. Not to cycle to work but for the brief jaunt near my home. Issue of space and storage stopped me from getting one. But now I'm seeing possibilities with a foldable bike (would need to find out more, like costs, maintenance, and whether it can take my 1.83cm frame). Anyway, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have wanting to cycle to work. I am currently residing in Woodlands, but my work location happened to be at Somerset. Wow, 30 minutes trip by MRT. And my new residential location came to be Bukit Gombak, oh My, 50 minute journey MRT. But I never wanna give up on cycling, where ever safe and easy to cycle I cycle and the rest I use the MRT. at the same time, I have a question. The folding I have right now is a second hand one and the handle connector verticle bar seems to be shaking a little more than usual. It's a bit dangerous when I cycle now. So If I want to shop for a new good folding cycle, I really need some good tips from you all. Thanks :)

Adiaz - I was a foreign student here.

Chu Wa said...

this chart may be a good start:

more folding bike available in Singapore:

From Bukit Gombak, you may consider cycle to Jurong East, skip waiting for the connection train and get some exercise. On the other end, get off Tiong Bahru, unfold the bike and ride to Somerset. Like this, the train time will be cut dwon to 17 minutes! Even if you spend 15 minutes cycling both end (total journey become 47 min), this is still worth doing because you get your daily workout free of charge.

Anonymous said...

I read this posting with great interest. Thinking of getting a foldable bike myself. However the daunting prospect of losing them to theft is a painful thing to bear. For example, if I want to just ride to the nearest Mall, catch a movie with some friends, I would have to leave the bike outside, right? That is very dangerous. Carrying it around with me in a bag isn't too cool either, no matter how small it can be folded. Any suggestions to deal with theft issue?

Sivasothi said...

I suppose the solution would be to pick seats in advance along the edge of the wider passageways so that you can bring in your foldable. But let's see what Chu Wa says.

Chu Wa said...

Hi Jude, I went to movies several times with my folding bike. I don't have a lock. No way I am going to leave it outside the cinema.
As Siva suggested, I will pick the seat along the aisle to have some space to keep my folded bicycle next to me.
Only one time I was stopped by a staff and he offer to store my bike behind their counter, which was even better for me.
I think when the bike can be folded to a size like a small luggage, many people will become more accommodating because it is not a big trouble for them :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking time to write this blog. I have since bought a folding bike and on some days, I do a 33km commute to and from work. I have seen how cycling has been a viable and healthy transport solution for people in parts of Europe. It's unfortunate how we have to look West to realise the value of some of the practices of the East. The Chinese in recent history have been famous for their bicycle plied streets. Unfortunately, that is changing as well.

Regardless, we need to keep doing this so that we can change attitudes and mindsets!

Ah Chow said...

SG roads are nicely paved with trimmed grass...etc. Why not just widen the road a bit, enough for 2 bicycles to travel on road (more for over taking purposes )during one of their so-often road works? When I was in Taipei 10 yrs ago, they alrdy have a dedicated lane for motorbikes. If Taipei, which is very cramped and conjested as compared to SG, can dedicate precious road space to 2 wheelers, why not SG? There's no need to make special pavements for cyclist, which might cost more and only certain areas get to enjoy such facilities. Just reduce the grass edge lining the roads and maybe paint red line and prominent 'bicycle' symbol on the road to remind other road users that this lane is meant for bicycles?? Just my 2 cents...

Anonymous said...

Ah Chow:

They are reserving the widening capacity for future car lanes. Already many grass verges have been decimated to make way for more car lanes.

Anonymous said...

i bike to work everyday in CBD area. lucky coz my office has a gym built in for employees and my boss allows me to carry my 'precious' roadie into office.

it is 5km to work for me. after work i go for a 20 km (4 loops) of marina before heading back home.

nice it is..

Anonymous said...

I cycle to work too. One trip to compnay is around 7km. Not very long but I cycle always at my best and sweat like hell. It makes me feel good that I use so much strength / stamina everyday and not to say I can reach my workplace or home faster...

Anonymous said...

I cycle to work too. One trip is only 7km. Not very long and that's why I compensate its short journey by cycling very fast to keep fit and healthy and at same time reach work place and home in shorter time!

Anonymous said...

After reading your post I've bought a bicycle to cycle to school everyday..However the roads aren't friendly to cyclist, and bicycles aren't allowed on pavements :(
But pavements are sure more safe compared to road, just when there are pedestrians nearby I will slow down and even get down and walk..and fortunately the pavements here are wide enough..but will always feel afraid as pavement cycling is not allowed, but many people in my area are actually just cycle on pavements..

Portable Tap Dance Floors said...

Actually, cycling provides a lot of benefits like it lessen the pollution, save money and help you to exercise.

Anonymous said...

yes i like idea of cyclothon, if u guy wanna organice it pls info me......... i currently 3 or 4 time a weeks cycling to work. What a nice excercise.

bebe said...

Considering the risk of bike being stolen, I am planning to get cheap bike under 100 bucks to get me to work (roughtly 5 km journey). Since it's not a foldable bike, where do u think I can park while I'm staying in HDB? I'm new to Singapore and would appreciate if you can share your experience.


Back2Nature said...

I had shared something on how to reduce chances of my bike since 1996 from being stolen. It was bought as a 2nd hand Shimano MTB at S$70 in 1996.

Btw, I think a new bike below S$100 is quite likely to be stolen. However, I think loosing 4 such bikes a year, i.e. < S$400/year for your 5km transport to/fro work is still cheaper than public transport cost & time.

Chu Wa said...

Hi bebe, thanks for your comment. I agree with Back2Nature, an old and dirty bike cost 100 or less is not likely to be stolen. A new one would be ;-) I choose the folding bike option because it give me the option to ride at both end of my MRT trip, and in special cases when I prefer not to ride (e.g. heavy rain, late night) I can bring my bike with me back home. The disadvantage is that I need to carry the bike practically everywhere I go.

Online Tips Guru said...

If you want to cycle to work/study in singapore, get a rental property near an MRT in Singapore for easy commute!

Stephen said...

I am impressed with the Dutch cycling culture when I visited Amsterdam. In Spore, I wish there are more affordable, light, quality bikes available :) Paying more than $1K is not a small sum of money for many people (ok that is relative)

Anonymous said...

Bicycle Lights - is there some code of using the extremely bright and big ones. Like cars, it should not used in the 'high' beam mode. User should angle it so as not to blind the oncoming cyclists.

Anonymous said...

Bike Lights - They are getting brighter and brighter to the point of having a blinding effect to the opposite rider. IF there is an etiquette, this problem can be greatly reduced. Consideration and respect for other bikers can be better felt.

Anonymous said...

HI I JUST CYCLE EVEN ON ROAD OR pavements are sure safe compared to road, just when there are pedestrians nearby ARENT FRIENDLY they were takeing full lane even they seen a bicycle behind or infront of them . this is every sad . cyclist give way to any age pedestrians any how come they r unfriendy to us cyclist .