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.

1 comment:

Chu Wa said...

Just downloaded up the attached pdf. Wow, what a strong case for LTA to take up the role of "bicycle leadership". I hope they will take your proposal seriously, soon!