The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that it will be speeding up the construction of cycling path networks as well as active mobility infrastructure, as part of the new Islandwide Cycling Network (ICN) programme.
While speaking at the Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply debate on 4 March (Wednesday), Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min stated that the effort to “bring the cycling path network closer to Singaporeans’ doorsteps” will roughly cost about S$1 billion.
Last year, the Government announced that it is looking to triple the cycling path network in the country after a complete ban was imposed on e-scooters from all footpaths in the country. However, in December 2019, Dr Lam revealed that it aimed to quicken plans by “a couple of years”.
“The reason we are doing this is because with the announcement of the ban of e-scooters on footpaths, the connectivity of active mobility users has been affected,” said Dr Lam.
He also pointed out during his speech last week that the Government wants to invest more than S$1 billion in expanding the cycling paths in the next decade.
Under the ICN, all Housing Board (HDB) towns will have cycling paths by 2023, said Dr Lam. He added that towns “which currently lack cycling paths or have many active mobility device users” will have cycling paths constructed first.
LTA stated in a statement that there are 12 areas like Bukit Batok, Hougang and Marine Parade which have limited cycling path connectivity.
“Residents across these towns will be able to look forward to better active mobility connectivity in the years to come,” the Authority explained.
By end of this year, towns such as Ang Mo Kio and Tampines will have sections of cycling paths completed, while the cycling paths in Toa Payoh will begin its construction.
In 2021, construction works will start on intra-town cycling paths in Choa Chu Kang and Woodlands. As for towns like Geylang and Queenstown, new cycling paths linking to current park connector networks (PCN) to the city centre will be completed.
LTA added that in new HDB towns like Tengah and Bidadari, “more comprehensive cycling paths” will be introduced.
“By 2026, Singapore’s cycling path network will be expanded to 1,000km,” said Dr Lam, adding that this will give eight in 10 HDB households “a few minutes away” from the cycling path network.
The majority of HDB residents will be within 250m of a cycling path, which is akin to other famous cycling cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, he said. Dr Lam added that by 2030, the cycling path network will be expanded to 1,320km across the island.
No change to speed of cycling paths till sudden ban of PMDs from footpaths
Based on Dr Faishal’s 2015 parliamentary speech, the government had been encouraging of PMD usage at least four years back. However, the conversation around PMDs have heated up recently following a string of accidents involving errant riders resulting in injuries and even one fatality.
The thing is, the issue of errant riders have long been raised in Parliament in 2016.
Answering to a barrage of questions from eight MPs who were concerns with the near-misses and collisions between PMD riders and pedestrians, Then-Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo responded to questions on the enforcement against errant PMD users in 2016, saying, “the careless behaviour of a small minority of users has caused accidents, and led some members of the public to oppose their proliferation.”
“It would be unfortunate if we allowed the careless behaviour of this small minority to prevent the larger majority of responsible and considerate cyclists and personal mobility device users from enjoying the benefits of such travel modes.”
She added, “The sensible approach is to adopt measures that will help prevent accidents. Earlier this year, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, which comprises representatives from a broad spectrum of society, issued a list of recommendations on how this can be achieved.”
So a position was taken that measures would be adopted to prevent accidents. These include the strict fire safety regulations for PMDs, speed and weight limits, registration, and most recently the footpath ban.
However, since 2016, we haven’t heard of any measure taken to speed up the construction of more cycling paths – the paths that PMDs are only allowed on – which is curious given that the goal of being a ‘car-lite’ nation is something the country has been working on for a few years now till it had chosen the drastic step of banning PMDs from the footpath without much notice in November last year.
Underground bicycle parking ceased its operation after spending millions
Separately, while speaking in Parliament on the very same day, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan informed that the popularity of shared bicycles and e-scooter in Singapore had dramatically altered the demand for paid underground bicycle parking. This ultimately led to the end of the SecureMyBike trial period.
Mr Khaw said the LTA decided to end the trial on 28 December 2019 as the fees collected could not cover the operating cost.
Despite LTA’s effort to promote the system—such as installing wayfinding signs and bicycle parking maps for users, offering free trials and subsidized pricing rates for a certain period—SecureMyBike has ceased operations in less than two years due to a low take-up rate by cyclists.
The development of underground bicycle parking system had cost the Government S$4.7 million over four years.
Over time, due to poor take up rate, SecureMyBike has wound up operations and the parking has been left unattended. The minister intimated that the 198sqm underground parking space that’s not been used now could still be re-purposed.
Netizens also heavily criticised of the Government’s poor planning of the underground project.
Mr Khaw revealed about the end of the automated underground bicycle after Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Walter Theseira questioned on what studies were conducted to support the development of the project and how the Government plans to make sure that future walk, cycle and ride infrastructure improvements are cost effective.
Given that this project of the Government did not succeed after spending millions on it, the next thing to know is how the S$1 billion will be spent to avoid any wastage, as well as whether it will be accountable by the public?