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?