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.