Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bicycles in the Land Transport Masterplan 2008

Three cheers for all the bicycle policies in the new transport policy paper?

Hmm... Maybe one-and-a-bit cheers. But with some reasons for optimism.

The good news?

The recently released land transport policy paper, known as the Land Transport Master Plan: A People-Centred Land Transport System", DOES mention bicycles as a legitimate mode of transport!

This is worth a small cheer since neither MOT nor LTA have shown much enthusiasm or leadership on bicycle transport in the past.

The cover logo includes a cycling symbol along with the various other land transport modes. Recognition as a mainstream mode of transport! (By the way, is there symbolism in the location of each mode of transport, with buses and trains at the top and cars and motorcycles at the bottom? And if so, note where the bicycle is.)

The report includes this fairly positive statement:
With its increasing popularity, cycling can be a non-motorised transport option to bring commuters to major transport nodes.

Another positive sign is the branding of the report as being about "ensuring a liveable city". Bicycles could obviously play a big part in a goal like that.

The not-so-good news?

Unfortunately the details on bicycles (reproduced below) seem like a bit of a let-down. [My comments are in brackets]:
  • Provide better bicycle parking facilities around MRT stations and bus interchanges
    [This is nice. SMRT and SBSTransit have been doing this for a long time but the facilities do certainly need to be better. So let's hope this will bring shelter for bicycle parking, better quality parking racks, the option of supervised, secured parking for bicycles, etc.]

  • Allow foldable bicycles onto buses and trains on a trial basis
    [Um. But the MRT system had already been allowing folding bikes! So saying this is to be a trial seems like a step backwards.]

  • Close short gaps between the park connectors and transport nodes to cater to commuters who cycle to the MRT stations or bus interchanges.
    [This is certainly a good idea. But what about the gaps in the PC network itself. And why focus only on gaps between PCs and 'transport nodes'. Why not fill gaps between PCs and important destinations like Town Centres, employment nodes and the City Centre?]

  • Install appropriate road signs to alert motorists to the presence of cyclists along frequently used routes. [Useful. It is good that this acknowledges and affirms that bicycles are legitimate users of the roads. But so much more needs to be done that this seems a little lame.]

What is going on?
I have to admit that I was initially discouraged by the bicycle aspects of the Master Plan.

But on reflection, I do now see some hopeful signs.

I get an impression of the beginnings of a change of attitudes towards bicycles as transport. [Or am I a hopeless optimist?]

I suspect that some key people in MOT and LTA may have realised that bicycle use is not fading away. In fact it is increasing. Perhaps some decision-makers even see some opportunities in the idea of making bicycles a bigger part of our system.

However, I wonder if anyone in LTA has much of a clue how to do better? They may be starting to ask the question. But they don't know the answer. Never mind. This is a start!


Sivasothi said...

They don't commit too much but the door is open. I think its encouraging and now, let's nudge it along!

Anonymous said...

The focus on bringing bicycles to 'transport nodes' worries me to. It suggests that they aren't going to do much to make major roads friendly to cyclists. Rather, the strategy (and this is supported by whatever pro-bike measures have been implemented so far) is to make neighborhood cycling over very short distances (to your nearest bus interchange) safe. Ultimately, the idea is that public transport should still be the main mode of transport, and cycling is only to replace walking over short distances.

Chelonia Munnster said...

I sincerely hope LTA - as THe Authority and authors of the masterplan - put action to what they say. It's good that there's some exposure for cyclists, but I still feel that accountability and ownership should come from LTA. Using the proverbial 'Land is scarce in S'pore' does not cut anymore. Cities around the world have proven that land management is key to providing a comprehensive bicycle network. 'Land scarcity' is a bad excuse and is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's the mother of all dead-end solution to the problem.
So it's time for LTA to quit using that excuse, and get to work!

Chu Wa said...

Paul, you are not a hopeless optimist. I share the same feeling of a change of attitudes within LTA towards bicycle as transport.
For inspiration for moving forward, the "Transport For London" (London's LTA) site is a good place to start.
Over the last 7 years London has been transformed rapidly from "dangerous for cyclist" to "welcome cyclist", and it is still improving infrastructure for cyclist faster then ever. The cycling friendly image doesn't seem to hamper their progressive city image at all. We will be getting somewhere if our own LTA site features cycling as prominent and as informative as the tfl site.