Monday, February 06, 2006

GOOD things about Singapore for cycling?

The other day as I cycled home from work (and was enjoying it) I started a mental list of some of the GOOD things for bicycle users about Singapore and its road system.

Maybe a list of problems springs more easily to mind? People who don't even cycle all seem to have a long list! The heat, humidity, the danger from those 'crazy Singapore drivers', the rain, etc. Did I mention the heat?

Even we cyclists are sometimes not the best ambassadors for our favourite mode of transport. It doesn't take much to trigger from the average commuter cyclist a rant about high speed traffic, inconsiderate motorists or bus drivers, parallel drainage grates, the high density of heavy vehicles, the dangers of multiple left-turn lanes, those crazy (other) cyclists who give us all a bad name, etc etc etc.

But here I want to be POSITIVE for a few minutes. What ARE the strengths here that maybe we could build on if we hope to make cycling in Singapore a safer and more enjoyable and popular experience?

So here is my start on a "The Good Things about Singapore for Bicycle Users". I hope you will add to or improve on this.

* Kerbside parking is rare here. Singapore's bicycle users may not realise how nice this is. Where I come from, there are cars parked along almost every road and street, which takes a lot of skill to handle. Believe me, the relative lack of on-street here is great!

* Smooth road surfaces: we have a high quality road network with very few potholes, repairs made quickly, and a generally pretty high standard for the smoothness of repairs after the roads get dug up

* The weather! Yes, the weather. No I am not delusional. Let me explain. It could really be a lot worse. Try telling northern Europeans that they have the perfect climate for cycling.

OK it rains here but where doesn't it rain? At least the rain here is usually brief. And it is lovely and warm even if you do sometimes get soaked.

And the heat? Well, most of my riding to and from work is in the morning and evening when it is amazingly cool. Even when I ride at midday I find that it is pretty comfortable, at least while I am moving along, with the breeze blowing over me. Walking any distance (eg to and from the bus stop) is just as hot. Worse actually, because then I am usually wearing office clothes. Cycling activists in places like Canada that face some extremes of weather say there is no such thing as bad weather for cycling, just inappropriate clothing and lack of facilities. [entering whistful dream mode... If only Singapore had a lot more showers in workplaces ... ]

I nearly forgot to mention the wind. It is windy right now and usually is in late January and early February but Singapore is usually not a windy place. Having cycled a lot in Perth, Western Australia, I know that the wind can be very discouraging.

* Short distances. OK, this depends where you are and where you want to go of course. But generally, from almost anywhere in Singapore you have a large number of useful destinations within 6 kilometres which is no more than a 25 minute ride at a pretty easy pace.

* The public transport system. Why is this relevant? Yes, maybe you are scared of those huge double-decker buses and the long bendy buses but my point here is that a good public transport system, especially the MRT, is a perfect complement to a bicycle. Thousands of Singapore residents have already realised this fact, judging from the number of bicycles parked at MRT stations and bus interchanges, especially in the east and north of the island. And with a folding bicycle (go Chuwa!!) bike-MRT-bike trips become attractive. Getting to the nearest MRT station is almost always faster on a bicycle than by a feeder bus. [If only we could take full size bikes on the MRT ... at least in off-peak times, sigh...]

* The cheap taxis. When some of them are not menacing us on the road, they come in very handy to get us home after a late night, a puncture, or if you are just too exhausted to face the ride back again. Not many rich cities have such affordable taxis. And most taxi drivers seem happy to toss a bicycle in the boot when necessary.

* The Park Connectors and the bikeways in parks like East Coast Park. Some of these have some problems (eg missing links and some poor design in places) but could be considered to be a very nice start on an islandwide network of safe cycling routes...

* The informal (pedestrian) shortcuts scattered everywhere. Singapore has fewer quiet backstreets than some other places I have lived in but it has more informal shortcuts. With a bit of effort I have found that I can find low-stress routes for many of my favourite destinations, with the help of short pedestrian short cuts here and there. If I ever get my act together I might even start trying to map these again some day.

* Few bicycle thieves. This is relative of course, and I hear that this is a bit of a problem in Tampines and Pasir Ris. But compared with rampant bike theft in many countries we have it pretty lucky here.

* More? It is over to you ... comments?


Anonymous said...

gd choice for folding bikes

Unknown said...

Love the public transport - just about all the buses I come across go out of their way to avoid me. Taking the bus lanes around the central area also makes darting out the central city area a bit less stressful. Even the taxis tend to be pretty nice about slowing down behind you, or waiting for you to cross an intersection even if you are slower than everybody else.

Chu Wa said...

Most people in Singapore may be too focus on the negative aspect of cycling and forget about the really wonderful environment we are living in.
Good one, Paul.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to booming automobile industry you have a petrol station EVERYWHERE in sg even at jalan buroh. This makes for easy planning of pit stops or emergency air pumps along a route. Not to mention you can get ice cold drinks without putting a ice cold camelbak on ur back(which heats up soon enough anyway)

Anonymous said...

Lack of curbside parking is great. After commuting in Chicago for two years I haven't been "doored" yet but I've had many near misses.

Agree about the weather too. I've had bike withdrawal symptoms in winter because it's way too cold and windy to be able to enjoy cycling. Plus falling on ice is not fun at all...

Not being able to bring bikes on public transport is a huge annoyance though.

baru said...

Strida has come to Singapore: My hubby and I cycle from home to office on our Stridas and bring our Stridas on MRT and the bus. Actually pavement cycling should be legalised so we are treated like pariahs on and off the roads!

Anonymous said...

hi, i just want to ask, where can i buy good quality bicycles for cheap prices i mean less than 60 dollars. is there any? we will move in our new house in tampines so we decided to buy a bicycle to use it every morning from our bus top to tampines mrt.

pls help me thanks.

sKipdaddYg said...

I've been cycling to work on and off for the last 2 years. I just started again and I've been realising what I've been missing. I was born to be on a bike! Haha! Anyways, it's great to see that there are people out there who share my enthusiasim for biking. I sometimes feel like a pariah on the roads - untill I see fellow bikers and the camaraderie sets in. Now that Singapore is rethinking it's public transport system, I think its time we lobby the government to provide more bike friendly lanes and also encourage companies to provide showers, changing and locker facilities as well as rebates for bike purchases by the employees. This is particularly relevant for a small country like Singapore and the times we live in where climate change and environmental protection should be top-most on everyone's agenda. In the future, when carbon points as currency becomes a reality, bikers will be a rich lot! Power to the pedals and keep on biking!

Anonymous said...

Another good point is for all the motorists that beep and abuse, I feel there are an equal amount that there beep is not meant to be unfriendly. Rather they do it just to let you know they are coming along.
Another nice point is all the riders that say hello to each other especially on the sat sun morning rides. Ok it is not like your ever likely to speak to these people, but it is a nice feeling of sharing a common interest and nice to see that sign of mutual respect is strong in Sg. :-)

Anonymous said...

A bad thing for mountain climbing lovers is a good thing for cycling: Singapore is relatively very flat. Some slope I saw in places like Sydney and San Francisco looks too scary to ride on. Even JB is bad enough for me. Although we are not as flat as the Netherlands, but good enough.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your stories and comments about cycling in S'pore.
Where can I rent a bike near Kitchener Road /RoyalParl Hotel for a few days end of December 2009 ?

Thanks in advance


Anonymous said...

I just started cycling recently after a long time break, normally on the bike tracks along Hillview Avenue to Upper Bukit Timah area.

After 2 months doing so, i find eventhough Singapore has a good road to do, it’s not necessarily safer compared to cycling in European countries.

In Singapore, Road bikers risk themselves of getting hit by those complacent and not alert drivers. Generally, i find Singapore car drivers are selfish and less alert on the road.

Cycling on the cycling track posts not less danger as well. There are many people using the cycling track as pedestrian way and evenif you ring them, many times they just ignore it. If you hit them, immediately either they will hit you or report you to the police.

Another danger is from canine pets, especially dogs. For example, on certain hours, either early in the morning or in the evening, you can find people walk their dogs along the Hillview Avenue/Bukit Batok East Avenue 4 area. Some of these dogs are untrained and there were many times the dogs tried to chase and bite the cyclists on the cycling track, which unfortunately happened to me recently where an untrained german shepherd being walked by a caucasian lady stepped on my track and tried to bite me. Tried to avoid the dog but alas, it chased me off the track to a muddy ground on the side and just dropped my self off the bike and for sure, catch some injuries and bruises in the process.

Anonymous said...

As a holidaying UK transport planner I'm both surprised and saddened that so little is done to provide a more convenient, safer cycling environment. By UK standards there are many reasons why cycling should be easier here - topography, high quality surfaces, climate, congestion, polllution issues, etc. By the way, your pedestrians don't get a good deal either - dropped kerbs?, crossings on desire-lines, lack of footway continuity. Singapore does so much so very well, but it's got a lot to do for cyclists and pedestrians. Good luck guys!

Anonymous said...

I think commuting would be much easier if we could bring our full-sized bikes into trains.

Unknown said...

Hello, im here to share a personal take on the increasing number of cyclists on the road. i feel its time the government do something to allow cyclists on the road as well. every day, i see cyclists putting their lives on the line to get to their destination.

Here's the reasons why i feel that we should have bicycle riders included on the roads as well.

1. Cycling is a healthy life-style. Cyclists do have fewer sick days according to a Dutch study.

2. Why, because cycling promotes a more friendler and robust community. by choosing cycling over cars, cyclists are making a conscious impact on economy and of course they feel good about it.

3. Common problem every day knows. Complain weather too hot? Dont blame the weather because we're part of the problem. Car pollution contributes a hefty lot to air pollution and the hot weather is inevitably a consequence of that.

4. Cycling promotes a nation that shows that we're only par excellence in education but also in being a compassionate and caring society that tends to our natural needs. that i feel is a more complete and natural objective then being an obssessively-competitive nation.

5. Cycling can show to tourists especially western vistors that we're truly concerned for our environment. this will do our reputation well as a friendlier nation and thus attract more visitor. It shows that we're not only GREEN on the outside, (have trees for decorative purposes) but our heart is GREEN too!

6. ERP gantries are like working with the problem or through it. It still does not solve the problems. When gantries are up, cars simply avoid taking the path but essentially it does not deter more people from taking up cars. As J muste said there is no way to peace, peace is the way. He referred that to solving violence not through working past it or with it. He suggested promoting the opposite. Because Peace has its own power. Similarly,going green has its own power too. If more people taking up cycling, eventually the Dutch mentality will self-cultivate " "The Dutch philosophy is: Cyclists are not dangerous; cars and car drivers are: so car drivers should take the responsibility for avoiding collisions with cyclists. This implies that car drivers are almost always liable when a collision with a bicycle occurs and should adapt their speed when bicycles share the roads with cyclists."

Lastly , here are my suggestions to improve on the use of cycling.

1. Share left-lanes for bicycles and buses. just like the government chose to mark bus lanes during morning rush hour.

2.create a pavement that links to every part of singapore. better yet, link it to nature. it will improve alot aspects of our life like we'll learn to take things slower, relax easier and have a less stressful life because of the chemicals you generate from exercising!