John Ang / Guest Writer
Cycling as a form of transportation hasn’t had a very good start getting integrated within the national consciousness.
While there is definite improvement over the situation a few years back, initiatives such as the one involving cycling on footpaths in Tampines has had much bad press, and while the bus and train operators have made several concessions towards cyclists, the time restrictions (only from 9.30am onwards), as well as the kind of bicycles allowed (only folding bicycles) really nullify much of the potential that such an initiative possesses.
Integration of cycling culture into public transport system
What if we could integrate a cycling culture into our public transport system? We already have an extensive parks connector network, that extends from the suburbs almost all the way towards the city. Perhaps more can be done than simply leaving them as peaceful, well-lit paths. There are two great obstacles to cycling as a mode of transportation to work or school in Singapore. Firstly, a lack of safe spaces to store bicycles; and secondly, shower facilities, because our extremely humid climate makes any physical exertion inconceivable to the average person who goes to work in the city. This is where the park connectors can be leveraged. If manned shower facilities and bicycle storage places can be set up at strategic points around the park connector network (ie: near places with bus stops or train stations), it solves both problems as well as offers the potential to take a load off the public transport system.
Picture this, a commuter could cycle from his home, along the park connector to a hub where he can freshen up and store his bicycle; then, it’s a simple hop onto a bus or train for two or three stations and he’ll reach his workplace. Coming home would be similar, and it would certainly make the journey from City Hall to say, Bedok, much more bearable if cyclists started getting off at Kallang and onwards.
These facilities need not be set only at where the park connectors are. They should also be built at all bus interchanges and MRT stations to further extend the reach of the network and to offer more convenience to cyclists.
Going where no parks have gone before
To relieve load on the buses and trains even further, laws can be passed that make it legal for cyclists to use bus lanes, and to enforce upon bus drives the need to share the lane with cyclists. Now that our roads have more bus lanes and they’re empty, except for the buses, the time is right to allow cyclists to utilise these lanes for a safer and faster journey. A little courtesy and education will go a long way in helping bus drivers and cyclists share the bus lanes harmoniously. To counter the problem of a stream of cyclists holding up buses at the bus bay, a ramp can be build before and after the bus stop, with a designated cycling lane on the pavement to preserve the movement of both motorised and pedal-powered vehicles.
Modifying our buses
In addition, we should have a drive towards integrating our buses with actual bicycle racks on the outside and do away with the timing and bicycle size constraints. All the technology is already there, it’s just that the companies are under no pressure to provide this service because there is no profit to be made. In this respect, we can only expect to see changes if the mindset of the bus and train companies look away from their bottomlines and actually think of providing a service to the commuters.
If done right, the cumulative effect can result in the opening of a new, nationwide transport network using our existing infrastructure, and has the potential to alleviate much of the crunch that commuters are feeling on the buses and trains, and even if no real competition springs up and fares continue to increase, declining ridership might just force public transport companies to treat us more reasonably. It also has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly and a healthy way of life too. All in all, any progress in this area would be more value for money than spending $16 million building the 16 KPE ERP gantries.
People from London to Sydney are already cycling to work daily, some making 10km trips or longer, and they don’t even have park connectors.
Cartoon from: www.wildes-guides.co.uk