Monday, April 28, 2008

LTA's Latest Transport Survey: Will it consider the cyclist?

I wonder if the latest National Transport Survey will consider the Singapore cyclist as a road user and the Bicycle as a realistic and practical mode of transport.
The travel patterns gathered from the survey will surely assist in formulating policies and infrastructure planning.
I hope that a bird's eye view of the transport network can be looked into, including questions that consider cycling. Otherwise the survey - to me - will not achieve a proper feel of the real transport situation, and how planners and policy makers can move ahead in a 'world-class transport system'.
Would anyone be able to 'intervene' if the survey is not Bicycle-friendly?


Paul Barter said...

Very good point.

If I am not mistaken, previous travel surveys by LTA have failed to even ask about bicycle trips. I hope this will not be the case with this forthcoming survey.

Even if bicycle trips are included, they are often undercounted in conventional travel surveys. This can happen if very short trips are not counted (or not counted adequately) and if feeder modes are not explicitly counted.

"Travel" does include short trips, walking trips, trips feeding motorised modes, and trips by bicycle (even if they are very short). The survey should be designed to capture such trips, not just longer public transport and private motorised trips.

I hope the consultants involved are instructed to use the latest best-practice that can capture non-motorised transport properly in these surveys.

ky said...

Let's be realistic, who cycles to work in Spore? How many such people? Where are those work area destinations? And from which residential areas? Until we have the real figures, it all seems a very theoretical effort to get LTA to do this and that, provide this and that.

The weather in Spore is not conducive for cycle-to-work for the majority. Medium income people will never change over to C-T-W so providing infrastructure everywhere will be a waste of money and space eg Shenton Way types whatever their income levels will N-E-V-E-R do it. Only the low income nay only the VERY low income AND low salaried new migrants will C-T-W. And hence infra provision should seriously bear this in mind.

Besides C-T-W by low income workers and I feel most infra would hence be required in the high density housing estates, there is also the "temp" cyclist who makes short trips to the convenience store, coffee shop, hawker centre or such. Again, the majority are low income, and some medium income workers. The latter cycling only outside their working hours, as their use are more of the run an errand sort. And again, these are high density estate residents.

Other than these cyclists whose usage relates to work and errands, there is a last group of cyclists ie those who cycle for recreational pleasure and/or for exercise. These usually are well heeled to drive to the parks and rent a bike or cart their own along. They should be happy with the cycle tracks in parks and the PCN. If they are medium income and live in or near high den resi areas, they will also enjoy errand-cycling.

Pity LTA having to come up with a solution to satisfy all categories. Especially since those most vociferous are those who need the facilities least. Those who most need recognition and facilities are the least vocal. They just get on with life; with or without whatever.

One last thing to be said : there is no point having cycling recognition, facilities, etc if there is no improvement in civic mindedness in the shared use of these facilities. There can only be "common user paths or tracks" as that's the most logical facility considering space constraints. But these will be a total waste if there is no civic mindedness and courtesy by both cyclists and pedesrians. Which makes the subject of CYCLISTS a lot BIGGER as it has to embrace the "footies" ie pedestrians and joggers. And then, how about senior citizens and motorised carts users?

So whatever LTA does, or whatever cyclists press LTA for, the whole thing has to INCLUDE education. Min of Education must bear responsibility for what we now lack ie the cyclists' plight, and must be included to right the situation to teach the kids on how to use footpaths, cycle tracks, pavements etc. Town Councils, Grassroots Orgs, Building Mgmt Committees. Community Centres, etc. They must all be in whatever that's planned by LTA.

Then only will it be worthwhile having facilities and laws etc about cycling, cycle tracks, etc.

Paul Barter said...

KY, Thanks for commenting!

Most of your points seem to be great arguments to SUPPORT the need for data. Such data could easily be obtained by including bicycle use in the Survey that LTA is planning. If we knew who uses bicycles, when, where and why then it would be easier to prioritise what should be done and avoid wasting money. I agree that any spending on this issue should focus initially where need is greatest. The best way to find out is for LTA to ask in their survey, just like they ask about car trips and bus trips.

By the way, I agree that the biggest group of people using bicycles is probably the folks using them for quite short-distance trips inside the HDB towns.

But don't you contradict yourself? First you imply cycling is so trivial that LTA does not need to pay it any attention. Then you say that the problems with cycling in high-density areas are a big issue. I agree that HDB "basic" bicycle use is a big issue. There is so much cycling (despite the weather!) in places like Bedok, Pasir Ris and Tampines, that the conflicts have become a problem. Suggesting that the LTA keeps ignoring bicycles doesn't sound like a great solution.

I agree with you that there should be more bicycle-related education. But again, it will be impossible to get the priorities right on that without data on where most people are cycling.

Thanks again for participating at our little blog KY.

Sivasothi said...

Yes, getting the real figures is what the post is all about. And its not enough to have one year's data but to observe change over a couple of years.

We still hear the same old objections although many things have changes in Singapore. E.g. outdoor visits to nature areas were too hot and too far away in the 80's and 90's. Now parks are getting overcrowded.

With facilities, there will be response. the clearly marked, well connected and and safe park connector between Changi and East Coast (only the coastal bit) are increasingly well used. But you have to get to them first.

LTA need not be pitied. Urban transport planning science has evolved and Singapore will adapt like we do with everything else. Transport solutions that solely favour speeding traffic along are blind alleys; the one track perspectives have outgrown their use and are hitting bottlenecks rapidly. There are other needs that even the government recognises now - enhancing a feeling of space, supporting community spaces and figuring out how to share that significant area occupied by roads.

Yes MOE has to be roped in in an integrated manner. In heartland areas with high student cyclist populations, for example, a course for road use that includes practical sessions outside the school is definitely desirable. There are Dutch schools that practise this. Some Singapore schools have considered this.

We have to recognise that things are changing and adapt early. LTA isn;t clueless, they would have seen many examples of good practises overseas. It's always been a matter of timing and I do feel its the right time NOW to include cyclists in the LTA Transport Survey. Then we stay ahead of the inevitable trend.

dclh said...

I think ky's comments show a typical impression Singaporeans have about C-T-W, or the use of bicycle as a mode of transport: this belongs to the poor people's choice.

I said this based on my ten over years of C-T-W, and C-T-E (E for everywhere). Whenever a fellow Singaporean learns that I ride bicycle, I can sense such kind of look saying "you must be poor." (I am not saying that I am rich.) On the other hand, almost all non-locals, such as Chinese, Malaysians, Indians, Europeans, etc. don't have any sign of such type of "face".

I wonder if this is one of the uniqueness of Singapore[ans]?

The hot weather may actually make it quite conducive for intra-town cycling as it is more cooling than walking. I can sweat while waiting at the bus stop.

ky said...

Hi, Paul,

Re your para 3, sorry if I wasn’t clear.

My view is that cycling infrastructure is not necc everywhere; while I want LTA to recognise that this is a transport mode, I do not support willy-nilly requests/demands for and provision of facilities all over the country. Like there is negligible need in landed property areas in Districts 9, 10, 11 and 21 for example, but great need in HDB estates. Supply should be to meet real demand, even anticipated future real demand. But not simply for THIS area just because THOSE areas have facilities. I don’t think I suggested or implied that LTA disregard cyclists.

I believe LTA feels that it has to come up with a solution to fit all situations. Which it is unable to because of the differing needs and demands of different areas, besides the lack of space in many situations. Hence my sympathy for the Authority. And hence perhaps it came up with the 12-month Tampines ‘shared path’ study.

Fortunately enough, it is in the heartlands that there is ‘extra space’ for converting footpaths into shared paths. There is no such ‘expansion width’ on the other hand in places like Orchard Road or Robinson Road. Fortunately too high population and high bicycle usage exist in the heartlands. And so the Tampines study. Why such a long study period? I think it is a ‘back to school’ period for every category user to teach themselves, and to learn how to live and let live on the paths.

So what next after the Tampines study? You can safely bet that ‘shared paths’ will be the policy in all HDB estates. Cyclists elsewhere will have to wait. The practice and policies in Edinburgh, Perth, etc will be found unsuitable for the Singapore context. We all will have to live with that. And the survey will be constructed to arrive at this result.

Sivasothi said...

Agreed cycling infrastructure is not needed or cannot be applied evenly everywhere. In some areas pedestrian footpaths are too narrow, foot traffic too high or the elderly demographic significantly too high to allow a "one solution fits all" policy.

LTA has at least acknowledged that Tampines is unique, in one of their recent statements.

The Tampines trial seems more than a study, since it has incorporated elements of a campaign. Whatever emerges, it looks like it will certainly be well scrutinised!

ky said...

Aiyah! here we go again; have to repeat that I did not say this or that, and wonder how dchl can say that I look down my nose at those who cycle to work? This Blog's owners wouldn't have cleared my post if I were that uppity, I'm sure.

On the subject of CTW cyclists, included in 'those who do' without mentioning 'who' as I might be shot again by another class defendant, are some crazy foreigners, 'recently returned grads from the west', and guys with access to office showers.

C'ingTW (using short forms is weird, sometimes) is not the No. 1 choice because it's not safe, esply during rush hours. It's also not safe for your bicycle as you risk it being stolen from where you lock it streetside (that's why there's a huge business in sale of second hand bicycles). Then, there're arguements of getting dirty, and of course, the weather .. too hot, humid or wet. Even if you PAID people to cycle to work, you'll still not be able to pursuade almost half the working popultation to do so - the women will laugh at you as they prep their hair before going to the MRT station.

We all make our choices. One of those I support is the provision for cycling as a mode of public transport. Nothing to do with being rich or poor.

Sivasothi said...

Hi dclh and ky - dclh's comment appeared late although he posted earlier as it was caught in the spam filter. So do adjust for that, sorry, thanks.

onelesscar said...

I strongly object to KY's fatalistic view about promoting cycling to work. Of course, *right now* there are few people who cycle to work (as opposed to simply around their neighborhood), and *right now* it's rather dangerous to cycle on many roads. But a major reason that few people cycle to work is that it's dangerous. So we are in a chicken-and-egg situation, where the authorities refuse to build certain facilities because they claim there is no demand for it, yet there is no demand for them because the lack of facilities creates a prevailing situation where the product offered (bike commuting) is perceived as inferior. The economic concept of induced demand is relevant here --- it's basically the same mechanism that explains why adding lanes to expressways doesn't relieve congestion (the initially faster traffic induces more people to use the expressway, eventually bringing traffic back to pre-expansion congestion levels).

People tend to naively think that bike-friendly cities in the West arose because the transport authorities spotted a significant existing demand for bikes and hence built bike-friendly infrastructure. In fact, the real situation is more complicated. Typically, it's the efforts of a minority of cycling enthusiasts that push the authorities into bike-friendly measures. One bike lane at a time. But with each bike lane laid down, the mass of cyclists grows, as cycling becomes a more attractive option. As they grow, it gets progressively easier to make their case for more bike-friendly infrastructure. And so on. But at the start, there will be a 'bootstrapping' stage where a minority has to make the case for facilities for which the demand hasn't 'matured'. It's a pretty commonsense notion really. Build the lanes, and the cyclists will appear.

Finally, I think it is incredibly short-sighted to claim that only low-income workers and crazy Westerners or Western-influenced Singaporeans will cycle to work. I think it's pretty evident to everyone that oil prices, and hence the price of motorized transport, are going to increase steadily. It's also notable that even in a society as car-crazy as America, bike commuting has been steadily increasing. This is not some kind of one-off cultural phenomenon. It is a signal of deep, albeit long-term, economic forces at work. If we choose to ignore it and plan only for short-term accommodation rather than long-term structural change, we will pay the price eventually.

It's funny that KY rants about how people would not cycle to work if they were paid to. Well I think at some point in the not too distant future cyclists will effectively be paid to cycle to work --- simply by virtue of the price differential between cycling and other transport options. And making cycling to work safer and more comfortable is also a way of 'paying' cyclists to do so, just not in monetary terms.

There is an insidious, self-defeating assumption here that Singaporean culture and Singaporeans' attitudes towards cycling will never change --- that women will always view it as the equivalent of menial labour fit only for construction workers, etc. Well of course if you go around saying that all the time and using that as an excuse for not pushing hard for cycling as a major mode of transport, then of course your predictions will come true. No change is going to happen when people go around saying that change is impossible. This comes back to the point that cycling-friendly cities (in the States especially) did not arise because there were already a bike-loving populations slavering for bike lanes. Rather, such cities became bike friendly because the starting minority of bike enthusiasts managed to get their ideas out and change the mindsets of people around them. The pre-existing culture was and is being changed in those places. To assume from the start that S'porean mindsets cannot be similarly changed is to make a self-fulfilling prophecy. Only people who believe things can change can change things.

ky said...

The other day I went to have a look at the NTUC ‘s Town Bike at the Bt Batok MRT station. From the looks of only one docking station, it seems that the venture was a bummer. It’s quite abandoned, with its bikes’ tyres deflated, and generally dirty and damaged. Residents are using the system to park their own bikes! The revenue-generating advertisement panels are empty.

What happened? Quite obvious that CTW doesn’t have that much of a following as it’s made out to be!

Cart before horse or chicken-egg situation: many many years ago, bicycle paths WERE provided on some roads in Singapore. One such road was Guillemard Road. All the way via Nicoll Highway to the city. For white-collar workers to CTW. Then the BP’s were removed. There must have been a good reason!

Honestly, I’d like to see the day when there are bike paths in the city and elsewhere so people can CTW and WILL CTW, especially the latter. But I’m willing to bet that it’ll be money wasted and those future BP’s will be removed in the future future, just like those from Guillemard Road. It’s sad to waste good public funds.

onelesscar said...


It is absurd to bring up the bike lane situation 'many many years ago'. For one, petrol is much more expensive now. For another, population density is much higher now. Lastly, traffic congestion is much worse now. So, even if you are right that bike lanes 'many many years ago' were scrapped because of a lack of demand, that doesn't mean there isn't a demand now. What is it that's so special about Singapore's situation that will make us immune to the increase in bike commuting that is occurring in practically all developed countries? You think Americans don't enjoy their air-con in summer or their heated car in winter? Or they don't like driving? Or that they, of the fattest country in the world, somehow enjoy physical exertion more than Singaporeans do?