Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cycling in Singapore is evolving, so expect joy and expect growing pains!

I looked back to a blog post from ten years ago and it is a fascinating read - "Thoughts about cycling in Singapore".

The important issue though is, how much has changed since?

Well in the past year, so many things have happened in the cycling scene in Singapore and the number of announcements, news items and discussions have far outpaced my ability to keep this ten-year old blog updated!

Stakeholders have been meeting with URA and LTA, sounding out suggestions, consulting on routes and even going on bicycle rides! In a very short time, advocates for cycling as an integral part of city life have become a united group, whether in government or from the ground.

The mission? Introduce, change and improve infrastructure, culture, mindset about cycling as a way of life and be a natural evolution from modern Singapore's foundation as a garden city. Also, we need to teach a lost generation how to ride a bicycle!

Suddenly, many things seem possible. And the people involved are not idealistic, some changes we will happily see now, others we know will only happen in a very distant future - so much so one person hoped he could enjoy some of that change before dying!

Many stakeholders have been advocates for a couple of decades, from their far-seeing conviction of what could be possible in Singapore. Some have been fuelled by their experiences overseas, themselves the fruit of a long, arduous journey involving many groups.

The hurry to appreciate better cycling possibilities hit a hard wall for a long time, with arguments dismissed with the suggestion it was too sweaty to cycle to work. Many believed the dismissal, not having tried mounting a saddle to appreciate the freedom it offered, or discovered the possibilities and joy of cycling to work.

As we grew more urbanised, as foldable bikes flooded the island, as some part of the island were liberated, as we discovered safe short routes at our doorstep, and as people travelled to other cities and experienced the fruits of their efforts and thought about the sort of city we were becoming, as we yearned for ways to liberate our minds from the intensity of city living as all this and more happened, the inevitable happened. The nonsensical suggestions of the past became serious considerations and efforts behind the scenes have begun to be expressed.

At a meeting at the Urban Redevelopment Authority between staff from URA, LTA and stakeholders, some had expected an angry conversation. Instead it was simply fruitful.

Participants found themselves in a conversation with government officers who were familiar with the fundamentals. The group recognised and appreciated experienced suggestions and technical ideas. The focus was very quickly orientated towards the challenges of our inherited infrastructure, attitudes honed by our history and expectations (or lack of) and then on to practical solutions for the short and long-term.

This is the way change often takes place, gradually, over more than a decade!

And this will not be fast enough for some. And there will be growing pains.

The old debates will the resuscitated repeatedly and discussed, often without inheriting the wisdom of the past. Self-serving perspectives will surface noisily - these motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians will argue from a lack of holistic vision or sadly, just selfishness. But I am convinced from public engagements that these are NOT the views of the majority.

I have also been fortunate to experience those who have a vision of a city with considerateness for all users, and these will move the debate towards holistic solutions.

These people inspire, encourage and motivate, and they include folk from all walks of life, civil servants, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. They give me hope for any and all of the challenges we will face in Singapore.

1 comment:

Ivan Chew said...

A nice "look-back" post, Siva.