Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An expat's view of cycling in Singapore

I was sharing my experience of promoting the use of folding bike at work. One of my expat colleague share with me his perspective of cycling in Singapore.
I don't agree with everything he said, but some of his views based on his experience in Japan, Holland and now Singapore is indeed refreshing:

"I was reflecting on cultures that have higher usage of cycles and ahead of Singapore in the affluence wave – Japan and Holland (China is losing its cycling culture in its burgeoning affluence). On the weather I think there are different conditions for cycling for fun and cycling for transport. Whilst Singapore might be more suited to casual cycling it’s less suited to transport cycling as you would need to shower at your destination to be appropriate. Whilst there are a number of weather factors in Singapore that generally appear more welcoming to cycling it would seem that the self-consciousness of Singaporeans is likely not to change any time soon. Also the city’s lack of flexibility toward community changes and thus any change in the number of cyclists is unlikely to change the design of urban corridors and public transport infrastructure in favour of cycles whilst there is a substantial government reliance on oil-based taxes and investment in said industry infrastructure. Something about Japan and Holland is that cycles are accommodated at all manner of destinations and by dedicated paths/lanes or under law (in Japan cyclists have right of way on larger vehicles). Whilst the two cultures have a very different attitude to theft that doesn’t impede on the viability of such transport.

Also the very real lack of care shown by Singaporean drivers and bystanders means that the cost of accident or collision is far greater than one would experience elsewhere. When I have seen cyclists hit in Australia and Japan, people rush to their aid, here people stand by and watch. Also if you’re lucky enough to end up at hospital the first thing you meet is a cashier not a nurse. I’m only beginning to understand this but Singapore’s cultural selfishness in both self-preservation and self-defense means there are a number of industries and pastimes like cycling that have a slim adoption.

I think that the folding option is a decent workaround for the lack of affordance offered to cyclists in Singapore yet it’s not a mass adoption candidate. If say even 10% of people were to take up such a cycle then there would be a noticeable negative difference in the space on the train and whilst shopping in malls.

I’m not trying to be a sour sport but if there was any country in the world that could make an concerted push toward everyone cycling and also switching the entire country to electric vehicles it would be Singapore but it seems that people’s desire for money and status here is too strong for that to change in the short term.

Ok that’s my take at the moment, it might change with time but I do think it’s pretty cool that you’ve got such a tight and viable business happening. I hope it grows too because we need more people exercising!"

Well, wouldn't it be wonderful that the folding bike creates a congestion problem in the MRT?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

LTA extends trial to allow folding bikes on MRT and Buses

I was delighted to be amongst the first to learn that the "folding bike trial on MRT/Bus" will be extended beyond the original deadline of 24 Nov 2008 — this was revealed during a meeting organized by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in which sought feedback directly from foldable bike users for their experience on public transport. Together with Vivian and Steven from Diginexx (distributors of Strida and Carryme), the views of some 600 folding bike users in Singapore were represensative.

In the past, most users do not bring their folding bike onto public transport, and they cite the non-peak hour limitation and road danger as the two main reasons.

However, thanks to this LTA trial, foladable bike users experimented with bringing their bikes onto the MRT and buses were pleasantly surprised: "Bus drivers and MRT personnel are pleasant toward folding bike users," said Sun, a foldable bike user. "On the roads, I can see SMRT drivers are more cautious toward cyclists," she said.

Even riders who do not use public transport regularly find it very handy when it rains — they skip riding and take refuge in the comfort of the MRT or public buses, or engage in the more pricy option - taxis.

However, there still are shortcomings. The obvious one is the time restriction to off-peak hour as well as road dangers. A typical problem is the difficulty of getting onto a crowded bus - foldable bike users have to squeeze through the narrow passage of the bus aisle to reach the open space allocated to wheelchair use, at the rear of the bus. The obvious solution? Allow foldable bike users to board from the rear of the bus, so that fewer people will be inconvenienced.

A less common problem is that off-peak hours are no longer peaceful these days — the MRT trains can be very crowded even then, mainly due to increased ridership and the longer intervals between trains during such times. However, foldable bike users who do not want to be a nuisance to fellow-MRT passengers are hardly able to find a less empty cariage! I have waved off two trains on occasion, until a third, less crowded, train arived. But mostly I find I am able to get on the first time — I suppose not all sections and stops are the same,

JZ88 users suggested that a suitable space be created inside specific MRT cabins—in the meantime, a couple of seats in a designated cabin can be removed and the space labelled "For folding bicycles and bulky objects". This arrangement is not too difficult but can circumvent potential conflict before folding bikes get more popular.

In Europe and Taiwan, folding bikes play an important and complimentary role to mass public transport. One can travel a long distance on public tansport and then cycle to one's destination. This convenience is a money-saving combination which does not produce any pollution, requires very little road space yet is a healthier option for the rider.

A pro-folding bike and bicyle policy can help LTA to achieve the goal of increase the ridership of public transport and ultimately reduce private car use. Compared to shuttle buses for short distances, the bicycle has the avantage of being a personal and door-to-door solution. You can reach destinations within two kilometres in just 7 minutes, and eliminates the need to wait for transport and the need to walk to a station.

Incorporating bicyle use in our transport strategy can immediately increase the "catchment zone" of a transport hub by 20~25 times! This is because cycling is about 4 to 5 times faster than walking. This is a better solution thatn solely relying on a shuttle bus system and can help to relief the pressure along some bus routes.

In order to get a balanced view LTA indicated that they need to take into consideration the needs of all stakeholders. This is why they have extended the "folding bike trial on MRT/Bus" untill all feedback are heard.

I was impressed that LTA members were interested in my suggestion to calm the traffic and create a "safety zone" near schools and MRT stations. Their attitude indicates that they are working genuinely towards a total solution rather than pushing the ball around.

Moving forward, I am optimistic that LTA is planning ahead for the increased use of folding bike in public transport. Let's keep our fingers crossed. Next February at the very latest, an official announcement will be made by LTA about their position regarding foldable bicycles on public transport.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Road Witch Trial: Traffic calming in British neighbourhoods

Brandon Seah, a friend of mine, highlighted this link on Facebook. Road Witch points out the often-forgotten consideration that neighbourhood roads should not facilitate hurtling metal vehicles through at high speeds but that these are community spaces and need to be managed as such.

Ted Dewan of www.roadwitch.org.uk writes:

The original Road-Witch was an early experiment in 'folk' traffic calming. A Roadwitch is just a dummy, made with old clothes stuffed with leaves, newspapers, or rags. The crucial difference is that the 'head' is a road cone. When laying on the street, they form an effective means of slowing down traffic.

If you live in Britain or the USA, it’s generally the case that your local authority has failed to adequately protect you from people who forget they're operating lethal machinery in public. Setting up your own Roadwitch could be your first step in redressing the balance between motorists and 'unenhanced' humans who also use the roads.

Currently the resource site has information about all sorts of news from various places, photos of campaigns and traffic calming artwork. When I visited, Ted had highlighted this DIY traffic calming effort - "someone in the neighbourhood has had enough and has put in place a creative traffic calming system. It consists of two thick lengths of rope spread across the road. Surprisingly, traffic approaching these almost always slow to a crawl while crossing them."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Awesone Bike To Work

Super photographs and well written text.
From page 18 is the section "No excuse", includes:
- Cycling is dangerous
- My bike will get stolen
- I don't have the time
- Rain! I hate getting wet
- My coworker will laugh at me
- I'll semll
- It cost the Earth to buy a bike
- I've got kids to drop of at school before work, I need an SUV
- Only expensive bikes are good
- I'll get a flat
- I'm too out of shape
- It's too dark when I go home
- You can't carry much on a bike
- I can't I have to wear a suit!
- I travel long distance, too far to cycle
- I want to get fit, but I don't want to get thunder thighs
- Biking will be bad for my sex life
- I have to take clients out to lunch and I need to drive
- I don't know of any bike routes to work
- Bike don't have aircon, I don't want to breathe in city fumes
- I would cycle, but my town is really hilly
- Bikes are oily
- I can't cycle, I lug a laptop
- cycling require too much special clothing and gears

Wow, quite a list. Are you one of them?

Download this electronic "Bike to Work" book free

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Pedal power is the way to go in Singapore" - ST 25 Nov 2008

"Pedal power is the way to go in Singapore,"
by Goh Sui Noi, Straits Times 25 Nov 2008.

IF YOU think cycling is a slowpoke's way of getting around, think again.

Company director Lee Eng Hwee, 48, shaved several minutes off his usual travelling time by car when he cycled to work. Enough time for him to take a shower before getting behind his desk at the same time as if he had driven to work. Not only did he beat the peak-hour jams, but he also saved $500 a month in petrol during the year that he cycled to work.

As for systems analyst Subbusamy Sivakumar, 34, cycling to work is more convenient than taking the bus.

'If I take the bus, I have to wait 10 minutes, and then the journey is another 10 minutes,' he explained. If he cycles, it takes just 10 minutes to get from his Tampines flat to his place of work, the Changi General Hospital in Simei.

The clammy weather does not bother him because the trees along the way provide shade. His only concession to the heat is removing his tie for the journey.

Many Singapore residents are taking to the bicycle as a mode of transport for various reasons, not least to save money, particularly during these lean times.

For Mr Louis Wee, 39, who owns a bicycle shop in the East Coast area, delivering goods on his bicycle to nearby places helps him to cut costs.

For housewife Ong Siew Lian, 52, it's the freedom of movement that she enjoys on her second-hand bicycle, the exercise she gets and the time she saves that motivate her to cycle everywhere within her Tampines estate. She also has better control of her time, she said, as taking the bus can mean a wait of five to 15 minutes.

And for retiree Sia Teck Cheng, 67, of Sembawang, it's simply a matter of dollars and cents. 'I have no money to take the bus,' he told The Straits Times.

Then there is Mr John Teo, 36, an IT manager who cycles from his Bedok home to his office in Marina Square during the school holidays when he does not need to take his two boys to school. He cycles to beat the traffic jams, but also 'to do my part for the environment', he said.

The Government has recognised the growing popularity of cycling as a mode of transport. The Land Transport Masterplan states that the Government will facilitate cycling as a transport option to 'bring commuters to major transport nodes'. This includes providing better bicycle parking facilities around MRT stations and bus interchanges; allowing foldable bicycles onto buses and trains on a trial basis; close short gaps between park connectors and transport nodes; and installing appropriate road signs to alert motorists to the presence of cyclists.

But the Government has no plans to encourage cycling for transport in a big way. Asked why by the Straits Times, the Land Transport Authority's replied:

'Singapore aims to have a land transport system that can move people, goods and services seamlessly and efficiently.

'Public transport (buses and trains) is a more efficient mode of transport in moving large masses of people, relative to cycling.'

One argument offered by government officials is that Singapore's hot and humid climate is not conducive to cycling. Even with facilities such as bicycle lanes, Singaporeans will not take to it. Moreover, bicycle lanes in land-scarce Singapore is not cost-effective. It is physically not feasible to set aside dedicated road space for bicycles.

Yet bicycle paths will make it so much safer for the many cyclists already on the road. Chinese national Zhang Chengquan, 38, a shipyard worker who cycles to work every day, finds going on the road unsafe but going on the footpath an inconvenience to pedestrians.

In Tampines, cyclists have welcomed the 3km of cycle tracks built by NParks as part of its project to link up its parks. 'I don't have to worry about colliding with pedestrians,' said Madam Ong.

She usually cycles on footpaths for safety reasons. 'I'm afraid to go on the road,' she said.

Cycling on footpaths is an offence punishable by composition fines of $20. But it appears the traffic police have closed an eye to this widespread practice in housing estates.

In Tampines, there is a trial to allow cyclists to go on footpaths. 'The trial...is to make sure that those using footways will cycle safely and responsibly so as not to endanger pedestrians,' said Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng.

However, pedestrians are unhappy with sharing footpaths with cyclists. A Tampines resident, in a letter to the ST online forum, called for 'no cycling' zones in heavy pedestrian traffic areas like wet markets.

Ms Ng noted that her town council has embarked on a project to provide 2.3km of cycle paths and that it is working with the Land Transport Authority to provide another 7km of such paths.

Another option would be to widen the innermost lanes of roads so cyclists are not squeezed off the road, especially by lorries. Cyclists note that traffic lanes here are too narrow to allow big vehicles to pass cyclists safely.

Education of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists is another way to make cycling safe. Legislation to put the onus on motorists to look out for and give way to slower traffic - that is, pedestrians and cyclists - will make for safer roads.

Another issue for cyclists is theft of bicycles which, they say, happens frequently. Sembawang resident Azmi Buang, 44, has had three bicycles stolen in seven years. He will not leave his bicycle at MRT station cycle parks for several hours on end as part of a commute.

Mr Sivakumar, who has had a bicycle stolen from the void deck, suggested that closed-circuit TV cameras be installed at void deck bicycle park areas to deter theft. Mr Wee suggested that enclosed bicycle parks with security guards be set up, with cyclists paying a small fee for their use.

The Government has reacted passively to such demands for facilities by cyclists.

Yet, with the issue of global warming and climate change gaining urgency, actively encouraging pedal power may be the way to go in Singapore. The island is small and compact enough, and flat enough, for cycling to be a viable mode of transport.

Thoughtful urban planning so that work, school and play are localised and travel distances shortened would be one way to encourage cycling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OCBC Cycle Singapore - a costly mass ride

OCBC Cycle Singapore calls this the first mass participation cycling event catering to every cyclists from beginner to pofessional.

CNA's abbreviated headline (see below), however, ends up making an incorrect claim. This is NOT Singapore's first mass cycling event on public roads. In the 1990's DuPont sponsored Singapore Sports Council's mass leisure ride series called the National Leisure Cycle.

Anyway, this was exciting, to see news of OCBC Cycle Singapore. But then I saw the cost - its prohibitive. To ride the 40km challenge, you have to pay between between $58 - $93 (cheaper to register before mid-December and with an OCBC Credit Card). The 20km community ride would cost between $34 - $63. I suppose there is a cost to organising a ride through the city and an income to be generated so that its sustainable.

However, if you settle for the much better scenery of the Changi to ECP park connector, the two way trip will see you clock about 25km and it will cost you $10 for bike rental. Save the cash for the delectable food at either end for a net increase in calories!

Still, I am sure there are enough who will like the event jersey (40km & 50km rides) or t-shirt, the thrill of a ride through the city that they would not tackle on their own and most importantly, the pageantry and camaraderie of a mass participatory event.

I'm obviously not one of them and am probably too sold on the NTU Round Island Ride. However, the idea of this many Singaporeans venturing out on bicycles is an attractive idea and at the very least, I'm likely to cycle down to some sweet spot to take photos.

"Singapore's first mass cycling event aims to attract 5,000 participants," by Cheah Yean Ti. Channel NewsAsia, 18 Nov 2008.

First it was the Formula One. Now, another sport looks set to capitalise on Singapore's cityscape.

On February 22 next year, Singapore's first mass cycling event on public roads aims to attract 5,000 participants.

Called OCBC Cycle Singapore, participants will have full use of closed roads stretching from the bayside Formula One pit building to as far away as Changi in the east.

It will also be the first time an event will include both amateur and elite cyclists.

For recreational cyclists, routes will range from five to 40 kilometres.

While serious cyclists can sign up for a 50 kilometre challenge, subject to qualification, or even more rigorous racing events which are subject to time trials.

Organisers also plan to bring in 50 professional cyclists from around the world to compete in a special category with a prize purse of S$100,000.

Mr Teo Ser Luck, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, said: "I can almost imagine everybody, young and old, cycling together. Then you have the elite cyclists on another circuit. I think this has the potential to grow into a regional event."

Organisers are looking to bring in professional cyclists who will be in the region for the Tour de Langkawi, which will be held a week before OCBC Cycle Singapore.

Visit www.ocbc.cyclesingapore.com.sg for more information or to sign up. - CNA/de

OCBC Cycle Singapore 2009

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Upside down design of Dutch cities

You will be watching some of the strange phenomenon that make transport planning in Holland looks like upside down:

- bicycle goes faster than car from A to B
- cars are afraid of cyclists
- car always follows bicycle in mix roads
- special under-pass for bicycle in heavy junction
- bike friendly/ car slowing humps
and last but not listed
- 90% of kids cycle to school

This would seem impossible in Singapore. However, some Dutch people living here feel Singapore is an ideal place to implement similar bike-friendly infrastructure. They see the opportunity because they had experienced how it work. Nothing that works there can not be done here.

Technically, I would argue Singapore is not legging behind. I think what is lacking is the awareness of the enormous opportunity of the benefits to each individual and to the society as a whole.

The benefits goes way beyond transportation and includes more active and healthy people, faster and smooth commuting, more fresh air, less traffic noise and less road kills, as well as more friendly communities. The total benefit is difficult to quantify. However just the potential reduction of cardiovascular diseases alone would account for the saving of thousands of good quality lives and hundred millions of dollars in treatment cost each year.

An earlier post by Paul (Resources on Dutch Bicycle Planning) link to a solid reference for Dutch bicycle planning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

LTA considering bicycle park/rental kiosks at MRT stations

"Bicycle kiosks at MRT stations," by Yeo Ghim Lay. The Strait Times, 04 Nov 2008.

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) is considering building bicycle kiosks at MRT stations to encourage more people to cycle before making the rest of the journey by public transport.

LTA chief executive Yam Ah Mee on Tuesday said the LTA is studying the idea, and hopes to partner private vendors to provide the kiosks.

These kiosks might provide bicycle rental and bicycle washing services, besides giving cyclists a space to park their bicycles before they hop on a bus or train.

'Cyclists can be assured that their bikes are well taken of while they are away,' Mr Yam told reporters on the sidelines of the World Urban Transport Leaders Summit.

The inaugural three-day conference was officially opened by Transport Minister Raymond Lim on Tuesday morning. About 100 delegates, who include transport policy makers and academics from various countries, are attending.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bicycle lane is the way to go?

120 out of the 675 public feedback received by the Sustainable Singapore are related to bicycling.
This is an impressive figure because the invitation for feedback was wide ranged including:
  • The way we work
  • The way we commute and
  • The way we live and play
Out of this 120 feedback an even more impression 75% suggested we should have bicycle lane to protect the cyclists from motorized transport.
It is very clear that there are many potential cyclists out there, but they are too intimidated by the danger on our roads. Without a safe environment cycling on the smoothly paved Singapore road remain only as a dream for most people.
No one is prepare to risk his life to become more green.

The heated debate over the trial on "Share pavement for pedestrain and cyclist" in Tampines is a clear signal that cyclists need their own space.
There will be less car if we built less road, there will be less people walking if there is no safe pavement. Similarly there are not many cyclists because there is hardly any safety facilities cater for this group of road users.
Judging from the public response, now may be the best time ever for the government to push for some bicycle lanes in Singapore.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Auto sales plunge to near 25-year lows

US auto sales
General Motors - down 45%
Toyota - down 29% 
Honda - down 25%
Nissan - down 33%

European auto sales 
Spain - down 40% 
Italy - down 19%

GM said this is the industry's worst month since the end of World War II.

I think this is a piece of good news for cyclist if it indicates a begining of a trend towards "less car".  I don't know about the auto sales in Singapore but would expect it is similar to US and Europe. 
Forced by the economic woe, people will start to question the basics such as the necessity of owning and driving a car; is there a better way? If you are one of the unfortunetely affected, let me encurage you to give cycling a try. I can assure you will be presently surprised (read the comments):
  • Instead of hardwork, cycling is energizing
  • Rather than slow, it is much faster than you think
  • No where to park? Cycling is a door to door solution
  • Weather is too hot? Not when you ride to work in the morning or back home in the evening.
  • It is not safe? Not as dangerous as you think, but there is room for big improvement- let's work on this.
I belive more and more people will be "forced" to be nicely surprised- when they start to test ride their bicycle for daily needs. It is not as difficult as they thought and the whole perception of driving everywhere is "convinient" will be changed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Better bicycle parking at MRT stations

MRT stations in Singapore's three main 'bicycle towns' should soon get bicycle parking better than this

The LTA has announced a pilot project to improve bicycle parking at three MRT stations by the 3rd quarter of 2009.

The new parking places will have basic weather protection and will NOT be the current 'wheel-bender' racks. Hooray!

Or maybe I should wait to see the design details before 'hooraying'? The LTA press release is not specific about the precise design of the new parking spots unfortunately. Does anyone know more?

A pilot project will be launched at Pasir Ris, Tampines and Yishun to build additional bicycle parking facilities that have an improved design. These new facilities will be located along the MRT viaducts near the MRT stations in these towns. The new facilities will allow cyclists the flexibility to lock their bicycles either at the frame or at the wheels, compared to the existing design which can be locked only at the wheels. They will also have basic shelters to protect against weather.

By the way, I noticed this item via the LTA's new Public Transport @ SG portal which is well worth a little look.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Try cycling and be pleasantly surprised

A new post over at One Less Car (another local Singapore pro-bicycle commuting blog) makes a great point.

It refers to a study from the Netherlands which investigated drivers who were forced to use a bicycle when their car was being repaired. Most found cycling a lot better than they had expected: less effort, weather not as bad, faster door-to-door, etc.

One Less Car has a nice graphic and a link to the report where he got it.

Here in Singapore people usually ask me about the heat and rain and are amazed to find that a gentle 15 minute ride on flat ground hardly raises a sweat.

One Less Car also highlights the other big one - door-to-door speed - which is a lot faster than non-cyclists imagine. Almost always faster than bus. Sometimes faster than car if car parking is difficult.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Resources on Dutch Bicycle Planning

If Singapore's transport planners ever decide that they really do want to take bicycles seriously as a form of transport then they will need to take a look at the Dutch experience.

Transport planners in the Netherlands know how to safely fit bicycle use into tight spaces. The country is one the most densely settled in the world, with compact cities and many older areas with narrow streets. They also have much higher car ownership than Singapore. It would be hard to argue that the Netherlands' cities have more space for bicycle facilities than we do in Singapore.

If you want to know the Dutch "secret" for a great bicycling environment then an excellent start would be the visually stunning, Cycling in the Netherlands (pdf), put out by the Dutch equivalent of the LTA.

One of its key points is that "bicycle policy works"!
... a consistent approach by Dutch policy makers to the bicycle has had a demonstrable effect. Municipalities which have had a focused bicycle policy for some time have a higher bicycle share than other cities. Traffic safety has also benefited from the bicycle policy. (p.19)

There is safety in numbers for bicycle users as this figure from page 13 shows. The more bicycle use there is in a city, the safer it is per km.

Page 64 of Cycling in the Netherlands also kindly lists further English-language resources on Dutch bicycle policy:
CROW, Sign up for the bike: Design manual for a bicycle-friendly infrastructure, 1996. This manual can still be supplied. See www.crow.nl. An English translation of the revised Ontwerpwijze Fietsverkeer (Cycle Traffic Design Method) may appear in 2007.

The SWOV organisation for traffic safety research also has an extensive website in English, containing considerable information about bicycle use and bicycle safety: www.swov.nl

The research unit of the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, AVV, has a
large number of reports on traffic in the Netherlands in the English section of its website, including ‘passenger transport’ and various publications relevant to bicycle policy: www.rws-avv.nl

The Fietsberaad, or bicycle consultancy, recently issued an English-language publication outlining bicycle policy in a number of cycling cities: Continous and integral: The cycling policies of Groningen and other European cycling cities (Fietsberaad-publication no. 7, April 2006). This publication contains a number of accounts on the traffic policy of several cities characterised by a relatively high degree of bicycle use, extending over a prolonged period. Each account gives a specific picture of the ‘course of development’ of bicycle use in a municipality and the relationship between bicycle use and local policy. It covers five cities in the Netherlands known as ‘cycling cities’: Groningen, Amsterdam, Enschede, Zwolle and Veenendaal. This is augmented by a selection of five cities from other neighbouring countries also featuring a reasonable level of bicycle use: M√ľnster and Freiburg in Germany, Copenhagen and Odense in Denmark and Ghent in Belgium. The publication can be downloaded from www.fietsberaad.nl, via ‘rapporten’.

To these sources I would add the Interface for Cycling Expertise (I-ce), which is devoted to sharing Dutch bicycle planning expertise worldwide.

[Update: I wrote a follow-up to this post over at the Reinventing Urban Transport blog.]

Thanks to Cor-Henk for the link to the Cycling in the Netherlands document.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Awareness Test - Road Safety Video

At first this might not seem like a road safety message but it is. In fact, it is a bicycle safety message aimed at motorists.

It is just one-minute long and is from Transport for London. It is worth thousands of 'be careful' messages or posters.

Every over-confident Singapore motorist should see this.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Letter - "Here's how to make cycling safe for all"

Today, 15 Sep 2008
Letter from Harold Tay

I REFER to "A cycle of change" (Sept 13). The writer has overestimated the importance of integrating bicycles on buses. This distracts from more important issues such as road safety. The most important thing that can be done to encourage cycling is to make it safer for cyclists on our roads. To this end, the Traffic Police is to be commended on their recent campaign targeting motorists, "Be safe, save lives".

The writer seems to feel that there is great contention between buses and cyclists. This was true in the past and is still true in the case of private buses, but for public buses, the situation has improved immensely.

The situation near bus stops requires only cyclist education: Cyclists need to take the whole lane at junctions where there may be contention.

Public bus drivers understand this.

Let me list some factors we should not be tempted by, at least not yet:
  • Cycle lanes. Recognise that the danger arises at junctions, which cycle lanes do not address.

  • Cycle paths. Not cost effective and they will be automatically repurposed for recreation, making them less useful for commuting.

  • Bicycle-mass transit integration. Our transport operators aren't interested in this and the number of commuters interested in this option is also quite low. Commuters are locking up their bikes at MRT stations and bus stops: This is a big hint.

We should instead be concentrating on these:

  • Improving driver safety education. The curriculum in driving schools should include training on sharing the road with cyclists.

  • Bring back the policemen on bicycles. Nothing lends more legitimacy to cycling than this act.

  • Increase the penalties for motorist traffic infractions that endanger lives. Motorists typically do not gauge properly the danger they impose.

  • Permit non-motorised bicycle use on pedestrian pavements everywhere but enforce a rule that a bicycle may not overtake a pedestrian. Pedestrians hate being overtaken and this rule makes infraction detection easy. A cyclist wanting to go faster should be on the road.

  • Bring some order to the use of motor-assisted bicycles. A simple rule to use is, if such a bicycle is seen going uphill or starting off without the cyclist expending any effort, then the cyclist should be charged with operating an unlicenced motorcycle.

  • Cyclist training. Target the single largest cycling group for education: Foreign workers. Training this single group will have a knock-on effect.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bicycle article at the Online Citizen

The Online Citizen site is having a "Public Transport Week".

One of the articles is on bicycles in Singapore's land transport system.

See "Bicycles: the Missing Link?" by guest writer, John Ang. It is generating an interesting stream of comments.

Monday, September 08, 2008

LTA: Foldable bike trial aboard buses extended to 24 Nov 2008; now includes weekday off-peak hours

LT released a press release today that announced the extension of the foldable bike trial aboard buses to 24 Nov 2008.

On 24 May 2008, the foldable bike trial aboard buses and MRT/LRT was launched to assess whether foldable bicycles could be brought onto buses and trains without affecting normal operations or inconveniencing other commuters. In this announcement, the trial aboard buses was restricted to all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays only and promised a review after three months.

Three months later now and LTA says feedback of cyclists, bus commuters, bus drivers and bus operators was not adverse nor were injuries reported. In fact most commuters were accommodative.

The trial on buses is now extended until 24 November 2008 and this time includes weekday off-peak hours, i. e. the timings for bus access is the same as MRT / LRT, with effect from 15 September 2008.

Summary: foldable bicycles are allowed on buses as well as MRT / LRT at these times:
  • Mon – Fri: 9.30am – 4.30pm, 7.30 pm to end of revenue service
  • All day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.

The trial on both buses and trains will end on the 24 November 2008. LTA will continue to take in feedback from both cyclists and commuters by contacting LTA via 1800 2255-582 (1800 Call-LTA), feedback@lta.gov.sg or SMS 77582 "77LTA".

Source: Fold It And Ride It. LTA press release, 08 Sep 2008Extension of Foldable Bicycles Trial for Buses, includes Annex A.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Documents on 'Bicycles as Transport' in Singapore

Even slow cycling is well-suited to compact, flat new towns, such as Tampines.

This post links to two pdf documents on Bicycles as urban transport in Singapore.

1. On 8 June 2008 I gave a presentation on ‘Taking Bicycles Seriously as Transport’ at the 'Tampines Town Hall Forum: Cycling the Way Forward?' which was held at the Tampines East Community Centre. Here is a pdf of the presentation.

This talk was reported in some media outlets for its call on the LTA to appoint a "Mr or Ms Bicycle" (in other words, I called on the LTA to have a small bicycle unit, possibly starting with just one person.)

2. In recent months I also prepared a report: 'The Status of Bicycles in Singapore’. Here is a pdf of the draft paper. I hope there are no glaring errors. Any comments and corrections would be very welcome.
This report was for the ‘Position paper on cycling in Asia’ project coordinated by the Interface for Cycling Expertise (I-CE) and the Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Program (TRIPP), IIT, Delhi under the aegis of the Bicycle Partnership Program of I-CE and the Sustainable Urban Mobility in Asia (SUMA) project led by Clean Air Initiative (CAI), Asia.

Here is my conclusion (which includes some 'opining' on bicycle policy):

Conclusion: Untapped Bicycle Policy Opportunities

We have seen that there has been relatively little official encouragement of bicycle use in Singapore. Nevertheless, practical bicycle use for transport purposes in Singapore is not negligible and may even be increasing after a long decline.

There appears to be a core niche role for bicycles in Singapore’s urban fabric. Most practical cycling appears to be at low speed, for short trips (well under 4 km), using cheap bicycles, but by quite a wide cross section of society. Only about one third of Singapore’s households own a car and in the state-managed housing estates (built and run by the Housing Development Board, HDB) that house about 80% of Singapore’s residents, the rates of car ownership are a little lower still. HDB estates are also compact and densely built up. In this context, a large proportion of non-work trips (and a good proportion even of work trips) must be short and within easy cycling distance, even at a very gentle pace. For someone without a car or motorcycle, a bicycle is often the fastest and most convenient mode for trips of between 1 and 4 kilometres. A significant number of people in the flatter parts of Singapore have apparently discovered this bicycle niche.

However, official transport policy has tended to focus on the mass movement of people during the busiest times and over longer distances. It has therefore tended to miss the potential importance of bicycles and their potential strength in serving this niche of trips. The exception is the recent increase in effort to exploit bicycles as a feeder-mode to public transport.

The officially-stated belief is that a network of routes for bicycles cannot be developed because of land scarcity and because bicycles must not be allowed to interfere with the central priority of providing for mass movement in space-efficient public transport. However, it is not clear if there has ever been any systematic investigation of the truth of this belief or the assumptions behind it. Such claims have been made many times but, to my knowledge, never with any clear evidence to justify them. This view will certainly strike international bicycle infrastructure experts as odd, since the space-efficiency of providing for bicycle transport, relative to provision for cars, is usually seen as a positive.

Bicycles, with their high space-efficiency relative to cars, could be seen as potentially most appropriate in serving short trips in a space-constrained context like Singapore’s. Furthermore, bicycles are usually seen as serving a set of trips that complement public transport and which are not easily served by buses or trains.

Arguably, space constraints provide arguments for, not against, stronger efforts to include bicycles in the transport network. Despite Singapore’s anti-car reputation, the lion’s share of road space is devoted to high-speed mixed traffic dominated by private cars. It is therefore plausible that a safer network for cycling could be provided in Singapore, through space reallocation, speed management, and shared-space techniques, without expanding road rights-of-way and with either no change or even a net gain to the overall carrying capacity of each corridor.

Urban transport policy in Singapore has generally not taken bicycles very seriously. However, despite this neglect, cycling has not died out. In fact, it appears now to be growing in importance again. However, a lack of appropriate policy settings makes such an increase problematic for everyone, since the system as it is currently designed cannot easily accommodate increasing numbers of bicycles. There would appear to be a strong case for the land transport authorities in Singapore to take the potential role of bicycles more seriously, in order to transport them from a problem into an opportunity.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Battling peak hour fumes...

During the last Cycling in Singapore meetup in May, Chu Wa passed me his 'designed and made in Singapore' totobobo mask to try out while cycling.

In early July, I finally had the occasion to use it when I headed down for a gathering in Sengkang immediately after work. The totobobo mask is soft, light, has mainly reuseable parts, covers a variety of face-sizes and can be modified to custom-fit a person's face. Also cheap!

But is it meant for use while cycling? Chu Wa suggested I try it out to see for myself if was viable. Since my ride to Sengkang was a peak-hour ride, this was the time to see if the mask would make a difference.

Read "Filtering peak hour air (on a bicycle) (Otterman speaks, 04 Aug 2008) to find out how it turned out.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The African Cyclist

Read abut The African Cyclist - Zakayo Nderi and Samwel Mwangi have won the Alpe d'Huez.


Thanks to Marcus Ng for the alert - he highlights the project of two very special Singaporean film makers in his post, "Born to Cycle."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"...re-looking the humble bicycle as something for everyone." - Transport Minister Raymond Lim

"Sustainable if costs don’t tip the scales." Today Online, 29 Jul 2008. [WS Link]

"IN A picture-perfect Singapore, environmentally speaking, people would cycle not just to the nearest MRT station but between towns; all homes would use energy-saving appliances; buildings would be "green" and solar panels would power our lives.

...what kind of green initiatives would be worth going the distance for?

This is what the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development wants Singaporeans to think about and give their views on, with its launch of www.sustainablesingapore.gov.sg yesterday.

Sustainable Singapore

"One achievable goal, said Mr Lim, is re-looking the humble bicycle as something for everyone. To promote bicycles as a mode of transport between towns, more parking facilities could be added at MRT stations. “It’s a shift in the way we look at cycling,” he said."

See also: "Wanted: Public's ideas for a greener Singapore," by Tania Tan. The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2008.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Enjoying Pulau Ubin on a bicycle"

Pedal Ubin Guides N. Sivasothi and Tan Kai-Xin have posted a simple webpage about preparing for a leisure cycling trip at Pulau Ubin. It's work in progress but answers basic queries like "where to go?" "what to see" and "how long will it take?"

See snipurl.com/rideubin

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Park Connector Networks - Singeo provides Google Maps/Earth derivations

In my last post highlighting NParks new page for the Park Connector Networks, most savvy-users would have realised the lack of ability to manipulate manipulation teh maps significantly nor any linkage to Google Maps and the litany of advantages that provides including the ability to download data to Google Earth.

So I asked for help and SinGeo poked around and found the coordinates for the entire in the page source. Its something I have been using for park locations (see Habitatnews). In this case he grabbed the polylines and plotted them on both Google Maps and Google Earth - go fetch like I did. It will help with your own maps.

Do note that these park connector polylines were not new plots but a downlaod from NParks. This means its approximate for the most part. Do help to refine them if you can.

http___www.singeo.com.sg_singeo_kmz_pcn.kml - Google Maps

Friday, July 04, 2008

Park Connector Network - NParks webpage

The NParks webpage was revamped recently and the park connectors are found under the Visitor's Guide here.

It lacks a satellite view but at least its up there as a reference. In January, Singeo provided NParks map overlays on Google Earth which you can download. So who's is going to do the honours of plotting them all on Google Earth proper? Let me know!

Letter to Today: "what are we waiting for?"

Pedal Power

Letter from Kelvin Kwan Chee Hong. Today, 04 Jul 2008.

"NO ONE can dispute that the humble bicycle has a role in our transport system, both now and in the future. Thus, I would like to appeal to the Land Transport Authority and the Traffic Police to come up with clear strategies and rules to support this form of transportation, considering the energy crisis and the go-green movement.

For a start, a code for all cyclists using our roads should be immediately made available in booklet form and on the Internet. This would help everyone understand what is required and the penalties they would face, should they flout the laws of the road. Police officers should be seen actively enforcing the rules to inculcate discipline, and over time, achieve high conformance and order.

Surely it goes against existing traffic rules for cyclists to ride on pedestrian paths, but I have noticed that the police generally close one eye where these offenders are concerned. This only emboldens the cyclists, lulling them into believing that they have the right of way. As a result, they speed, ring their bells impatiently at senior citizens and brush against mothers with babies, or pedestrians carrying heavy bags. To make matters worse, these cyclists come from all directions, disregarding basic courtesy.

More and safer parking facilities for bicycles should be provided to stop indiscriminate parking and theft of parts. Where possible, bicycle lanes should be provided and schools should conduct cycling classes to promote good riding habits.

So, what are we waiting for?"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Today: "Cycling on footpaths: Tampines extends trial"

"Cycling on footpaths: Tampines extends trial," by Neo Chai Chin. Today, 02 Jul 2008. Efforts to be stepped up to educate foreign workers, students on safe cycling.

THEY ride their bicycles at high speeds on footpaths, endangering and annoying the pedestrians in Tampines.

For this and other unsavoury cycling habits, foreign workers and schoolchildren are two groups that the town's cycling wardens will be focusing on in their safety education programme over the coming months.

Tampines' Cycling on Footways year-long trial, which ended on May 31, will be restarted for another six months — from Aug 1 to Jan 31 next year, Mr Mah Bow Tan, adviser to Tampines GrassrootsOrganisations (TGO), said yesterday.

While education efforts for the general public will be stepped up during the extension of the trial, the committee received "more feedback, more complaints about the two groups", said Mr Mah, who is also Minister for National Development.

Road safety videos will be produced in English, Bengali, Thai and Mandarin for the foreign workers to be distributed to their dormitories. The videos will be screened during the workers' rest and meal times, said Superintendent Lee Chee Chiew, deputy commander of the Traffic Police.

For the students, exhibitions and talks will be held at all primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Tampines.

The videos and talks will emphasise safe cycling habits.

Mr Mah stressed the need to have proper facilities, public education aswell as enforcement in order for cyclingon footpaths to be feasible.

To cater to the growing number of cyclists, tenders have been issued for the construction of 2.3km of bicycle tracks and $1 million has been set aside for this pilot phase of the project, said Tampines Member of Parliament Ong Kian Min. Some footpaths will also be widened so that they can accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists.

Tampines' chief cycling warden and grassroots leader Steven Yeo said he hoped to recruit 90 more volunteers to add to the current group of 190 wardens to help spread the message of safe cycling.

On the enforcement front, Supt Lee said cyclists who ride in a disorderly manner can be fined $20 under Rule 10 of the Road Traffic (Bicycles) Rule, while those who ride in a rash or negligent manner endangering human life or causing injury can be jailed up to a year and/or fined$5,000 under the Penal Code.

The Cycling on Footways trial is a tripartite effort by the TGO, Singapore Police Force and the Land Transport Authority to study whether it is feasible for cyclists to share footpaths with pedestrians.

In a survey of 565 residents conducted by TSM consultancy from May to November last year, 57 per cent of non-cyclists and 73 per cent of cyclists supported the continuation of the scheme.

With fuel prices soaring, many Tampines residents welcomed the trial extension, saying that cycling would be a cheap mode of transport.

"Of course, it would be better if we could have more cycling tracks. They could even be used by people with baby prams," said Tampines Street 22 resident Mr Rahim, 44, who cycles to the market and hawker centre twice a week.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Straits Times: "Sembawang, Woodlands to get cycling paths"

"Sembawang, Woodlands to get cycling paths," by He Zongying and Daryl Tan. The Straits Times, 25 Jun 2008. 7.4km of tracks will run alongside existing footpaths and cost $2.8m.

Cyclists and pedestrians in Sembawang and Woodlands will each get their own space from May next year.

These two estates will be provided with 7.4km of cycling tracks. They will run parallel to the existing footpaths linking residential areas to the Sembawang and Admiralty MRT stations.

The cycling tracks will be between 1.5m and 2m wide and cost $2.8 million.

Keeping cyclists on a separate path is a step up from what the Land Transport Authority, the Traffic Police and the Tampines grassroots organisations have been contemplating in the past year.

A trial letting cyclists and pedestrians share footpath space in Tampines has recently ended and a decision on whether separate cycle paths should be built in the estate is expected soon.

Surveys have indicated that both cyclists and pedestrians there seemed generally in favour of the idea of sharing the footpaths in order to get cyclists off the busy roads.

The initiative in Sembawang and Woodlands was the result of feedback from residents, who wanted to minimise accidents and conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.

Mr Hawazi Daipi, an MP for Sembawang GRC, said that the two estates were going ahead with building the cycling tracks because a 'considerable' number of their residents got around the neighbourhood on bicycles. This includes foreign workers living in the dormitories there.

Three in four cyclists killed on the roads in the first three months of this year were foreigners. The Traffic Police have stepped up a safety education programme targeting them.

The committee coordinating the facilities in Sembawang, Woodlands and Yishun has lined up talks and seminars for residents and foreign workers on the responsible use of the cycling tracks.

Signs and speed-regulating strips will also be installed.

Besides those who commute on wheels, recreational cyclists will also be provided for. A park connector running along Sembawang Way will be built by 2010.

Thanks to WildSingapore.

See also this comment.

The Northside goes One Up against the Eastside

With all the recent hooha about whether each township should install bicycle-friendly facilities for the residents, the Northside consisting of Sembawang and Woodlands have forged ahead with plans for cycling paths. Meanwhile, the eastern town of Tampines is still being cautious about implementing shared footpaths for pedestrians and bicycle users.

Both town councils have a very pragmatic approach to making their townships liveable and 'green', and I'm sure it bodes well in terms of setting a standard for other townships to follow. This is a necessary step to ensure harmony by indirectly promoting graciousness between all transport users. I know it sounds kinda utopian, but isn't it better than not having such facilities?

My only hope is that the cycling paths are planned according to international standards so we all start right from the beginning.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bikely.com for cycling routes

I reflect on our route mapping endeavours in 2004 during which we wanted to create cycling maps with annotations and indications of safety for cyclists. The methods at the time were time-consuming or copyright restrictions were inclear so we sat back and let technology catch up. Eventually Google Earth/Google Maps and Bikely.com has come to the rescue for most of our needs. I thought I should add this note to explain our per-bikely map trail on the internet!

"The Bicycle Route Mapping Project" (2004)

In 2004, Paul Barter discussed a Bicycle Route Mapping Project with the rest of us in this "Cycling in Singapore" blog.

The project intended to assist cyclists in choosing safe routes to commute using a colour coded overlay on a map which indicated the relative safety of roads. Cyclists could eyeball a safe route to cycle to work or simply to enjoy a safe leisure ride.

We discussed many methods but none were easy for a layman to use. In the end, tracing, xeroxing and colouring the maps by hand and subsequently scanning them seemed to be the fastest way to put them up on the web! Paul did as much and produced Cycle SG Maps ver 1.0 (note you can click for the larger, original images). I used iView Media Pro (now Microsoft Expression Engine) to create the album. These are useful maps to examine for the first timer or for the veteran to reflect on. Considerable thought and discussion went into it. But it was a stop-gap measure at the time which provided, amongst other things, a one-glance assessment of cycling friendliness of an area.

Cycle SG maps ver 1.0 [pbarter-26oct2004] - 3/8

"Cycling Routes to Live By" (2004)

I had long been interested in provising a detailed, graphical breakdown of some of my cycling routes. These defied a simple written description for they made use of the bike's urban versatility to include detours to wide, low pedestrian-traffic pavements, residential areas and an underpass or two. All of this was an effort to avoid the busiest or most dangerous roads.

Virtual Map's Singapore Street Directory was then available online. After a series of screen grabs with SnapNDrag and edits with Graphic Converter, I used Claris Home Page to put up a webpage that cyclists could use. The route? My time-tested Serangoon Gardens to NUS cycling route which I had used for about a decade then.

Serangoon Gardens - NUS

That webpage was meant to be the first of a planned series called "Cycling routes to live by". Before working on the maps further, I sought permission from Virtual Maps. I wanted to annotate the maps directly with Graphic Converter and include route highlights. Virtual Map had no objection to this non-profit exercise, but we were supposed to meet for me to finalise the matter. But they were busy and eventually because I was too, the project faded.

But this was a laborious method. Also, I was very familiar with this particular route and had introduced many friends to it. So I could detail it relatively easily and quickly. The other routes would take more work.

The promise of Google Earth (2005)

In 2005, Google Earth was released and increasingly available. By late 2005 I was using the beta for the Mac OS X which went official in January 2006. In May 2006, the mashup, Bikely.com was launched. By August, route editing and commenting was provided. But only satellite views were available for Singapore then. In December 2006, however, singeo was able to say "thank you Santa" - Singapore street maps had became available in Google Maps! Bikely was successful and in June 2007, bikely subscribers were informed that the baton had been passed to Future Publishing. All in less than a year.

There are now 197 Singapore cycling routes in Bikely. I added my Serangoon Gardens to NUS cycling route last night and it is now at www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Serangoon-Gardens-to-NUS-Kent-Ridge-Campus. The route is mirrored on bikeradar.com. It took me just five minutes to map that route. I'll add annotations next. It's all unbelievably simple and quick!

Bikely - Serangoon Gardens to NUS

Bikely has not yet provided everything we need, but it is likely that will come. We can happily plot our routes for the moment, knowing that the information we provide can be integrated with future tools.

So add your routes and annotate them well so that locals and visitors alike can make sense of it. Remember you can download the KMZ files into Google Earth, so have fun with that too.

Happy trails!

See routes submitted by Chu Wa and Paul Barter.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

LTA Foldable bicycle user survey

LTA would like to gather feedback from cyclists who own foldable bicycles about the trial to allow foldable bicycles onboard trains and buses, which commenced on 24 May 08. Cyclists may return the survey form to Terence Koah at terence_koah@lta.gov.sg by 12 Jun 08.

Download the survey (word doc) here.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tampines Town Hall Forum discusses the pavement cycling trial

Reports are out:

  • "Footpath cycling: A happy ending?" By Sheralyn Tay. Today, 09 Jun 2008. (lead story),

  • "Tampines considers extending trial to let cyclists share footpath with pedestrians," by Asha Popatlal. Channel News Asia, 08 Jun 2008 and

  • "Cyclists-on-footpaths trial may be extended," by Melissa Sim. The Straits Times, 09 Jun 2008.(free story) Study shows Tampines residents quite positive to idea of sharing paths.

    A few highlights:

    "THE year-long trial in Tampines to allow cyclists on footpaths might well be extended. Residents will know the decision in two weeks - be it to extend the trial, to allow cyclists on footpaths or to send them back to the roads.

    Speaking at the fourth Tampines Town Hall Forum, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, a Tampines GRC MP, said the Tampines grassroots groups would consult the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Traffic Police, but 'ultimately, whether we proceed or not, depends on the residents'.

    He noted that the response to the trial and figures from an evaluation done by an independent consultancy seem to indicate that Tampines residents were 'moderately positive' about cyclists and pedestrians sharing the footpaths.

    The trial ended on May 30.
    - The Straits Times, 09 Jun 2008.

    "National Development Minister and MP for Tampines GRC, Mah Bow Tan, said, "One day you may be a cyclist, and (on) another (day), you may be pedestrian, so don't think you are in one camp or the other. We are all cyclists or pedestrians at one time or another, and if we all learn to co-exist, we are actually making life more pleasant for ourselves and our families.""
    - Channel News Asia, 08 Jun 2008.

    "One suggestion from Dr Paul Barter, Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, was to have a"bicycle unit" in the LTA, where there should be a "Mr or Ms Bicycle".

    He said in a presentation: "There is no person here to go to in order to get it right." Citing the example of Western Australia, he noted that having a person in charge has improved bicycling habits there.

    "Town Councils may not have the resources to find out what to do, but a bicycle unit within the LTA could coordinate such traffic policies," he said."
    - Today, 09 Jun 2008.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Park 'dis-connectors' are really just jogging or cycling paths: letter

"Park 'dis-connectors' not for jogging or cycling," letter by Liang Wern Kang. The Straits Times forum page, 02 Jun 08.

"I READ with interest about the recent Leisure Plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Under the plan, 260km of park connectors will be added in the next 10 to 15 years.

I have always wondered what a park connector is. Let me recount what I encountered the other day. I was cycling along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector from beneath Commonwealth Avenue West towards the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE).

When I was about 50m from the AYE, the path tapered into a patch of wild grass. A sign read: 'This is the end of park connector. For your own safety, please do not go beyond this point.'

From the NParks website, the Ulu Pandan Park Connector is T-shaped and has three end points: Bukit Batok East Avenue 2 near Bukit Batok Nature Park, the AYE near Pandan Reservoir, and Commonwealth Avenue West near Buona Vista MRT station.

I can see the last stretch of path next to Pandan Gardens that goes towards Pandan Reservoir, and another stretch of path next to the International Business Park that goes towards Bukit Batok. However, they are not 'connected' to the path I was on, separated by the AYE and Pandan River.

So was I cycling in a park or a connector? If it was a park, where is the connector that connects the other two 'parks'? If it was a connector, which parks is it supposed to connect? Pandan Reservoir and Bukit Batok Nature Park?

Park connectors have been around for some time, but jogging and cycling paths remain isolated. My neighbour who works in the International Business Park told me it would take him five minutes to cycle to work if the paths were connected. Instead, he has to drive or take public transport, which takes him 15 to 30 minutes and adds to traffic congestion.

I look forward to when park connectors truly connect, even if it means underground tunnels or wheelchair-friendly bridges, as this will help the environment, our health, traffic and economy in the long run.

If there are no plans to connect all these paths, call them what they really are: jogging or cycling paths."

Two lists by 'cycle to work' regulars

"Things I Learned Riding Every Day to Work for a Year in Singapore," by Lee Kin Mun. mrbrown.com, 28 May 2008.

"Notes from my 10 over years riding in Singapore," by Dennis Cheong. Back to Our Original Nature, 31 May 2008.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

6 month foldable bicycle trail on buses and trains

The Land Transport Authority's media release in full.

LTA Press release, 21 May 2008: Fold It And Ride It - A Six Month Trial To Bring Foldable Bicycles On Trains And Buses

1 The Land Transport Authority (LTA), SMRT and SBST will launch a six-month trial to allow foldable bicycles on board trains and public buses during off-peak hours.

2 During the trial period from 24 May to 24 November 2008, foldable bicycles will be permitted on MRT / LRT trains every weekday during off-peak hours, and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. From 24 May to 24 August 2008, foldable bicycles will also be permitted on SBST and SMRT buses all day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The trial on buses will be reviewed after the first three months. (Please refer to the Annex for the list of guidelines and timing.) [inserted below]

3 This trial is one of the several initiatives announced during the Land Transport Review to meet the transport needs of diverse groups of people. It recognises the increasing trend of people cycling for sports and recreation, cycling around the neighbourhood, or cycling to key transport nodes like MRT stations.

4 Mr Jeremy Yap, LTA's Group Director for Vehicle and Transit Licensing said, "While catering to the needs of cyclists, we also want to ensure the safety and comfort of other commuters. Social graciousness and mutual accommodation play an important part. Cyclists and other commuters are encouraged to be considerate and make way for one another so that more people can use our public transport system to meet their diverse travel needs."

5 "Commuters are already able to take foldable prams on board buses and carry luggage on board trains, such as when travelling to and from Changi Airport. We are trying to see if the same can be done for foldable bicycles. This trial will be able to help us seek the views from all stakeholders - cyclists, commuters, and operators. Due to the space constraints on buses as compared to the train, foldable bicycles will only be allowed on buses over the weekends and public holidays during the first three months. The feasibility to allow foldable bicycles on buses will be reviewed after three months."

6 During the trial, SBST / SMRT station staff and bus drivers can disallow a cyclist to board a bus or enter the RTS system if the cyclist is unable to comply with the guidelines or if the actual situation within an MRT/LRT station, bus interchange/terminal or on board a train/bus does not permit foldable bicycles to be admitted safely and without inconveniencing other commuters.

7 Ms Kang Huey Ling, SMRT's Director, Station Operations, said, "We are happy to work with LTA on this trial. At SMRT, we support cycling as a viable travel option by linking cycling with public transport. We encourage passengers with foldable bikes to be considerate to their fellow passengers so that everyone can enjoy a pleasant travel experience."

8 Mr Gan Juay Kiat, Chief Operating Officer, SBS Transit Ltd, said, "In supporting this trial, we hope to help a new group of commuters to use public transport as they pursue healthy and fun living. It is a move that is in line with SBS Transit's green charter in supporting healthy and green living. We hope that through this trial, all commuters will learn to be more accommodating and share the limited space available on board buses and trains with one another. While we support the trial, we are also mindful of potential implementation problems. For instance, onlstance, only foldable bicycles le bicycles of a certain size are allowed on board our buses and trains. Commuters with bicycles that are larger will not be allowed on board. Cycling enthusiasts may also be turned away when the bus is crowded as bringing a bicycle on board during such instances may pose a safety hazard to all passengers. In cases like these, disagreements may occur and we seek the co-operation and understanding of all passengers so as not to cause unnecessary service delays and inconvenience to others."

9 Ms Lim Kim Kee, an Accounts Assistant, said, "I am happy and welcome the trial with open arms. I use the foldable bicycle to exercise and get to different places of interest. I enjoy going to the East Coast Park during the weekends. As I live in Telok Blangah, I will cycle to the nearest MRT station (Redhill), hop onto a train to Kembangan MRT station and cycle there via the park connector.

10 "I hope to see more commuters welcoming us onto the trains and buses. We will also practise extra care and consideration to other commuters. At the end of the day, we are all happy commuters using the public transport system."

11 The LTA and operators will monitor the trial closely and take in feedback from commuters during the course of the trial. The trial will help in assessing whether foldable bicycles can be brought onto buses and trains without affecting normal operations or inconveniencing other commuters.


a) Cyclists are responsible for the safe carriage of their foldable bicycles and must stay in the vicinity of their foldable bicycles at all times.

b) Foldable bicycles should be folded at all times in the MRT / LRT stations, bus interchanges / terminals and on trains and buses.

c) Foldable bicycles should not exceed 114 cm by 64 cm by 36 cm when folded.

d) The wheels of the foldable bicycles should be wrapped up if they are dirty or wet.

e) Protruding parts likely to cause injury or dirty/damage property to be covered up.

f) Foldable bicycles should not block the aisles and doors or impede commuter movement at any time.

g) Foldable bicycles should be carried in an upright position.

h) Only two foldable bicycles are allowed on each bus at any one time.

i) When travelling by train, cyclist should use the first or last car, which is less crowded.

j) Cyclists should use the lifts and wide fare gates at MRT / LRT stations where these are available.

k) Foldable bicycles are not allowed on the upper deck of a bus or placed on the staircase leading to the upper deck.

l) From 24 May to 24 August 2008, foldable bicycles are allowed on buses all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. They are not allowed on Mondays to Fridays. This will be reviewed after three months.

m) For the trial on trains, off-peak hours during the six month trial period, 24 May to 24 November, are defined as:
  • Mon – Fri: 9.30am – 4.30pm, 7.30 pm to end of revenue service
  • All day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays

SMRT / SBS Transit station staff and bus drivers may disallow foldable bicycles if the actual situation within an MRT/LRT station, bus interchange/terminal or on board a train/bus does not permit foldable bicycles to be admitted safely and without inconveniencing other commuters.

Cyclists of foldable bicycles may approach SMRT / SBS Transit staff if they require any assistance.

The public can share their views on this trial by contacting LTA via 1800 2255- 582 (1800 Call-LTA), feedback@lta.gov.sg or SMS 77582 "77LTA".

Friday, May 16, 2008

The need for (LTA?) leadership on bicycle policy

The Tampines trial of legalizing cycling on footways will end soon. Whatever the outcome, bicycle dilemmas in the heartlands are not going away.

Before the trial most bicycle riding in Tampines was on footways. During the trial most cycling there is still on footways. After the trial most cyclists will ride on Tampines footpaths, no matter what the outcome is.

Will the law get enforced if the trail says no to pavement cycling? I doubt it. The Traffic Police have better things to do than enforce this rule against pavement cycling.

Is there an opportunity for bicycle policy here?

Personally I am sad about the media and public reaction to the trial. I had hoped that this would be an opportunity to move forward. But today I don't want to focus on the trial itself. Instead I want to look further ahead.

Even if much of the publicity has been negative, the trial has raised bicycle issues higher on the national consciousness. After the trial, bicycles may even be seen as even more of a problem than before. Complaints about conflict with pedestrians will continue. They may even get worse.

Maybe this can focus minds on the need to get serious about including bicycles in transport policy.

Desperately seeking a serious bicycle policy

As we noted before, the Land Transport Master Plan 2008 takes a little more interest in bicycles as transport than we are accustomed to. But you could hardly call it a serious plan for a constructive role for bicycles in the transport system.

How could Singapore do better on bicycles? I am not talking about 'what' can we do, but about HOW we can do it. How can bicycles become an integral part of transport policy and planning here?

One key will be to establish clear lines of responsibility and leadership. The fastest way for bicycle policy to improve will be for a single agency to take primary responsibility for the issue. But which agency?

Best agency to take the lead on bicycle policy? The LTA!

After all, the LTA is the key land transport agency. When bicycles are used as transport, they are land transport, right?

I know that the LTA has not shown much enthusiasm for bicycles in the past. So it might seem odd to ask a reluctant LTA to lead the way.

Let me explain.

A poster in Tokyo highlighting bicycle infrastructure plans
in that extremely crowded city.

Singapore has some good bicycle policy efforts ... but they lack the coordination and expert guidance that they need

Various other agencies have taken significant initiatives for bicycle use in Singapore in recent years. Unfortunately many of these efforts suffer from a lack of coordination and direction. They would greatly benefit from leadership on this issue.

For example, NParks Park Connectors programme, which is wonderful in many ways, has design problems and many gaps.

Certain Town Councils, such as Pasir Ris and Tampines,
have tried to create some off-road bicycle ways (with some built and others in planning). The ones built so far also have significant design problems.

Both the Park Connector programme and any efforts by Town Councils would benefit greatly if they could turn to the LTA (where the transport engineering expertise is) for clear national guidelines on design.

The Traffic Police
took the lead (as I understand it) on the Tampines Footway Cycling Trial. The reported responses have been mostly negative (including even some bicycle enthusiasts, such as MrBrown). But the trial does represent a serious attempt to try something to resolve the squeeze that bicycle users face between the 'devil' of riding illegally on footways as many do, and the 'deep blue sea' of riding on the roads with the high-speed motorised traffic. It recognises the reality that most bicycle users ARE already on footways and that the law against this was not being enforced seriously.

But the need to have this trial highlights the policy vacuum on bicycles generally. The enforcement priorities and educational efforts of the Traffic Police could also benefit from a coherent national bicycle policy - led by LTA.

URA and HDB have created a rather permeable residential environment in many parts of Singapore which makes cycling for short trips quite easy in New Towns (despite the lack of dedicated bicycle facilities). But they could do even better if guided by a clear national policy, or by having someone at LTA to turn to for guidance on bicycle issues.

LTA's own Traffic Engineers also need the benefit of some leadership on bicycle policy! LTA's own road designs and lane-marking policies could easily change in various small ways that could make cycling safer. One example (among many) would be a policy of wider kerbside lanes wherever possible. Improving conditions for bicycle users is not rocket science. But LTA traffic engineers on the ground will not seek the necessary expertise unless they get a signal from above. And the top policy makers may not realise that there are actually many win-win opportunities to do better.

How could the LTA demonstrate leadership on bicycle policy?

How could MOT and LTA build on their recent small steps towards a more positive and comprehensive approach to bicycles as part of the transport system?

I think the key is to make bicycle policy someone's responsibility. Somebody specific. Not just the LTA in general but one little bit of it.

The LTA needs a dedicated Bicycle Transport Unit

This need not be grand or require a big budget. A bicycle unit within the LTA could start modestly - maybe as a single Bicycle Officer. Amazing things can start to happen once even just one person in government has bicycle transport policy as their primary responsibility.

There are precedents around the world for this. One example is BikeWest the bicycle agency in Western Australia. It started small but grew into a significant sub-agency.

Once we get the institutions right for bicycles in the transport system, good bicycle policy is much more likely to follow. Meanwhile, bicycle dilemmas are not going away.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

TOO MANY folding bikes?

Here is a BBC article about the problem of TOO MANY folding bikes fighting the space with other passengers in the London tube: "The bicycle backlash unfolds," by Claire Heald. BBC News (Magazine), 06 May 2008.

"The bicycle. It's the model of green transport and sales of folding ones that fit on trains are stepping up a gear. But as they multiply, so does rush-hour resentment, as commuters and cyclists come to blows."

I do hope the announced trial to allow folding bike in the MRT will be organized such that, while getting more people to Cycle-to-MRT, does not cause inconvenient to other passengers.

Some suggest restrict the folding bikes to off-peak so that they won't affect commuters during the peak hours. But that would drastically reduce the usefulness of a folding bike, being an ideal commuter companion, isn't it?

Anothers idea is to remove the seats in the first or last cart to make more rooms available for folders. In a sense, the cyclist "paying" the space by not having the seats.

What else can we do to make folding bike, and eventually bicycle be part of a seamless MRT+ system?