Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Will LTA ... come up with a coordinated national plan?" (Parliament)

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Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong: "To ask the Minister for Transport given that cyclists are banned from riding on footways, except in Tampines, whether the Land Transport Authority will work with the Police and other relevant agencies to promote safety for cyclists on roads and come up with a coordinated national plan for improving the infrastructure and regulatory framework for cycling as a mode of transport. "

Response from Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Teo Ser Luck

  1. Mr Speaker Sir, the Land Transport Authority, together with other relevant agencies, has been working to creating a safer riding environment for cyclists.
  2. Given Singapore’s land constraints, our policy is to optimise our available road and pedestrian space, to meet the diverse needs of pedestrians, motorists, cyclists as well as other groups of commuters and road users. To do this, we have to balance the needs of the rising number of cyclists against that of other road users and pedestrians, while cyclists, drivers and pedestrians have to exercise mutual accommodation and due consideration for each other.
  3. One key aspect to promote safety of cyclists on roads is public education. Having recognised the vulnerability of cyclists on the roads, Traffic Police (TP) as well as several agencies, community and grassroot leaders and also the Safe Cycling Task Force have been conducting road safety talks and exhibitions in schools, workplaces and neighbourhoods to promote safe cycling habits. Also, based on the observation that many foreign workers had opted for cycling as a preferred mode of transport, Traffic Police has since been working closely with various foreign dormitories, corporate partners and organisations that employ a large number of foreign workers to promote safe cycling among their workers.
  4. With regards to infrastructure, LTA is currently working with community stakeholders and the Traffic Police to roll out a $43 million programme to design and construct dedicated cycling paths in 5 selected HDB Towns as part of a pilot scheme, namely Tampines, Pasir Ris, Taman Jurong, Sembawang and Yishun. These towns were selected as they had favourable local characteristics - a relatively compact geography, suitable infrastructure and land available for the cycling tracks, and also strong support for cycling. LTA is also working with the Safe Cycling Task Force (SCTF) to identify frequently used cycling routes outside of these 5 towns. Signs alerting motorists of the presence of cyclists have been installed along these routes and the signs have been found to be useful. LTA will continue to work with the SCTF to identify the need for similar signs at other locations.
  5. To better coordinate these plans, and to allow each community to learn from the experience of others, the Ministry of Transport set up a Cycling Facilitation Committee (CFC) in June 2009 for which I am the Chairman. The aim of the CFC is to establish a common, community-led approach to tackle the “soft” issues related to the implementation of dedicated cycling paths in these 5 towns, as well as best practices to facilitate cycling for intra-town trips. Currently, Grassroot leaders from these 5 towns are represented on the CFC. Other relevant governmental and non-governmental agencies such as LTA, NParks, HDB, Police and Safe Cycling Task Force are also represented. The committee is working to establish a common code of practice for safe cycling, public education efforts and enforcement against reckless cycling behaviour in towns that want to facilitate cycling. We should see the efforts in these 5 cycling towns as piloting new ideas and approaches from which we can gain useful experience and lessons for possible wider implementation as we evolve our plans to facilitate cycling.
  6. The safety of all road users, whether they are drivers, cyclists or pedestrians, is a shared responsibility. All road users will have to play their part by following the traffic rules and regulations, and exercise mutual accommodation and due consideration for each other."

Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong:
"Sir, can I urge the Senior Parliamentary Secretary not to look at the five demonstration cycling towns as models for the rest of the island but rather to look at the congested cities in the world, such as Paris, London, Geneva, Chicago, Edinburgh, who have managed to incorporate cycling into their urban transport systems with bike lanes on roads, with clear signs that indicate that cyclists have a right to be on the roads? Sir, I feel that the emphasis on Tampines or the other towns in Singapore is a red herring and might lead us in the wrong direction because what we need is a clear national policy.

On the other question of education, can I ask the Senior Parliamentary Secretary if he could work with the Traffic Police to ensure that the message is also targeted at motorists and not only at cyclists? For safe cycling to take place on roads, we need motorists to look out for them and are conditioned to look out for them."

Mr Teo Ser Luck:
"Sir, we have also studied the cities that the Member has mentioned, whether it is Paris or London. On trips that MOT have made, we have looked at the different road infrastructure and how they facilitate cycling. The cities face similar situations and they also have made their own trade-offs. To accommodate dedicated cycling tracks or lanes on the road, you would have to give up a certain space for other motorists and other usage.

We will continue to look at other possible ways – whether to put up more effective signs or whether to locate the space for cycling on the road or on a track. Although conditions could be different from city to city, we will look at what can be customised for Singapore's environment.

At this point in time, we do not just look at the five cycling towns and experiment with these. What we try to do with the five cycling towns is to look at the "soft" issues, which are education and the clinics that we are conducting across the different towns as well as certain codes of practice that the community leaders can provide us with.

So we take a multi-pronged approach – we will look at not just the infrastructure in the different cities that the Member has mentioned but also the education programmes and how we actually enforce it. In Tampines, for example, with the bye-laws, they were able to enforce it at a reasonable level on the ground through the Town Councils. We have to look at whether that model of operations can actually be implemented in the other areas. It is the same for education, and infrastructure, in terms of building dedicated tracks.

As far as education for motorists is concerned, I agree with the Member that it is not just focused on our cyclists and making sure that they behave but also whether the motorists can accommodate and co-exist with cyclists. I think for this, we will work with the Traffic Police and look at the other different ways that we can educate the public – whether to have more safety awareness campaigns to alert the motorists about cyclists on the road. We will do the best we can in terms of putting up signs."

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1 comment:

Ponder Stibbons said...

" To accommodate dedicated cycling tracks or lanes on the road, you would have to give up a certain space for other motorists and other usage."

I might be nitpicking on this quote but to me it suggests a certain framing of the issue. It seems to implicitly assume that cyclists and 'other motorists' are fixed, disjoint sets. But don't some motorists also cycle sometimes? And shouldn't a large part of promoting cycling be about encouraging motorists to become cyclists? It's simply not true that ithas to be a trade-off. It's not obvious that having bike lanes will, for example, increase congestion. To see why it might not, think about how making cycling safer will encourage some motorists to become cyclists. This might alleviate rather than increase congestion. Then again, it might not. It depends on how many motorists are incentivised to become cyclists this way, compared to the space given up on the roads. But Teo seems to think it's obviously the case that more road space for cyclists = less road space per motorist. He doesn't seem to be taking into account at all the effects of making cycling safer on reducing demand for motor transport.

So it seems to me that MoT is more concerned with increasing safety for current cyclists, rather than making cycling a more popular mode of transport. But if they really believe on all that rhetoric about land scarcity and so on, MoT should be looking at increasing cycling share instead of just accommodating existing cyclists. Paris, London, NYC and other large cities are encouraging cycling precisely because of land scarcity issues---bike lanes can transport far more people per unit area than car lanes can.