Thursday, August 09, 2007
If I were the Transport Minister...
I will make Singapore a paradise for cyclist, pedestrian and motorist. But it's impossible, according to the usual logic: when you optimize the roads for cyclist, motorist will suffer. That is, if you allow the number of cars to grow beyond the roads can handle.
I was in Penang recently, judging from the number of cars there, I will assume Penang is now more "prosperous" than Singapore. My sister's 4 members family has 4 cars, because it is a necessity there. Poor public transport, unsafe road condition for cyclist, couple with cheap gasoline and zero down payment for new car purchase are all reasons which create the situation now. Penang is now more polluted, more noisy and the roads are more dangerous than before. Ironically, the traveling is not faster; heavy traffic jam makes travel time unpredictable. Every new car added into the system is making it worst.
To me this is an illustration of how things can go wrong when the transport policy try to satisfy the majority's aspiration of owning a car. Car is not just a transportation tool, it is also a powerful polluter. Even hybrid car can not avoid polluting the environment, it only shift the location from the road to the factory where the fuel is produced. And hybrid car also can kill just like a normal car can.
A better alternative will be to enhance the synergy between cycling and walking with public transports. Good examples like Holland, Denmark and Germany (now Paris) shows that this is desirable. If 30% of car drivers attracted to cycle/walk/bus/MRT, there will be sufficient space to provide beautiful cycling paths all over Singapore. A lot more people will find it attractive to cycle because it is safe, clean, convenient and fun. Roads will become safer, air become cleaner and elderly will be able to do marketing or visit their grand son on the other side of the road safely. When there are fewer cars on the road, the remaining drivers will find driving a lot more relax and enjoyable, only they have to pay the real price, considering the pollution factor.
You can also play the "Transport Minister" game here, make sure you check the "Do You Know?" button during the quiz: