CYCLING IN SINGPORE....NOT SO EASY!
Singapore has always been perceived as a modern country when it comes to transportation. We have seen various bold decisions taken by the government of Singapore to make the public transportation efficient. Today Singapore runs technologically advanced and efficient public transportation. Majority of Singaporeans are satisfied with their public transportation and people w
ho visit Singapore as tourists also find it easy and economical to use bus or train as mode of transportation. For a technologically advanced and innovative nation, it is surprising to note the way cycling is neglected, more so from the government/policy makers than the citizens.
Cycling is considered as one of the healthiest mode of transportation, healthy for the rider and healthier for the environment. Many developed countries promote cycling as a mode of transportation. Surprisingly cycling is not a very popular genre in Singapore. Majority of cycling done is recreational although it is picking up as a mode of transportation around the city. People seem keen about riding bicycle, but the roads lack cycling infrastructure* that is needed to accommodate the bicycles.
LTA and the government believes more in investing public transportation than improving infrastructure that will improve/ accommodate cycling on the road. Available land space and weather are one of the limitations given by the government/LTA not to make roads bicycle friendly. This situation has become like “chicken or egg” scenario. People are concerned about lack of infrastructure and safety, which is keeping cyclist off the road and government is mentioning that not enough people use bicycles and hence infrastructure is absent for the bicycles. All the points mentioned above are from the perspective of cycling as a transportation option. As mentioned earlier cycling is more preferred as a recreational activity and parks are designed wonderfully for that purpose.
Bicycles were not always unpopular transportation choice in Singapore. In the 60’s Singapore had more bicycles running on the road than the motorbikes or cars (286000 bicycles vs. 60000 cars). Several major roads had bicycle tracks next to footpath. With increasing urban nature of the city, cycling became low-status symbol and use of cars increased on the roads. To satisfy the increasing traffic demand, roads were expanded and bicycle lanes disappeared. Singapore roads have no bicycles lanes on the roads. There are very few laws for bicycle riders and their safety. As per the law cyclists are advised by LTA to ride to the extreme left side of the lane. It is not safe and worst of all, cyclists are treated by motor riders or car riders as if bicycles are blocking their way and don’t belong on the road. Each year 8 to 10% of traffic accident fatalities are cyclists. Cyclists need to be regarded, by the government and by the people in the car too!
Recently there may have been some increase in number of cyclists on the road. We found it difficult to find the demographics of cyclists as it is counted in “other only” mode of transports by LTA. As per one study (Department of Statistics, General Household Survey, 2005) there may have been an increase in the use of bicycles from 1.2% in 2000 to 1.6% in 2005. Another flaw this survey may have is the nature of representative population. This study considers use of bicycles as a transport options for “resident Singaporeans” only and majority of cyclists in Singapore are foreigners who are living on the work permit or visiting the city. In fact bicycle is considered as a mode of transport for foreigners in Singapore! Recently LTA permitted use of folding cycles in the trains, however not during peak hours. As per LTA trains are jam packed during peak hours and it could create space problems in the train during peak hours. Cyclists are enthused by this decision however they would like to see some more actions taken on this issue. Some cyclists think that it is convenient if they can carry their folding bicycle in the train (even during peak hours) and use bicycle from station onward thus creating flexibility in their transport options. The bus and train stations provide a parking for bicycles which is fully packed is one more important indicator may be increasing number of bicycles in Singapore.
In conclusion, Singaporeans and government authorities/ LTA need to take a different approach towards cycling. Private organizations, cycling enthusiast are coming together trying to promote use of bicycles not only for recreation but for transportation as well. However there needs a strong advocacy from the LTA which has transformed Singapore in terms of public transportation by taking bold and innovative decisions over the years. LTA seems to deny the importance of bicycles as a mode of transportation. Cyclists are not protected under any law. Cyclist are not regarded on the roads. Roads lack infrastructure which makes cycling unsafe. Majority of foreigners, who are living/ visiting Singapore prefer riding bicycles in the city. However, they are concerned about the safety and the attitude of those who are not riding a bicycle. Instead of considering bicycles as a burden on the road, LTA and the citizens need to recognize bicycles as an important resource that can reinforce the existing sustainable growth.
*Cycling infrastructure is defined as ‘dedicated cycle tracks, demarcated cycle tracks, widened footpaths for pedestrian/bicycle sharing and separate signalized bicycle crossings’.