BANGKOK • Thailand is building Asia's longest bicycle lane, spanning 184.8km across five provinces, to encourage exercise and a healthy lifestyle among the people.
Transport Permanent Secretary Soithip Traisuth confirmed on Wednesday that the government was going ahead with the 1.5 billion baht (S$60 million) track, which runs across the central provinces of Pathum Thani, Chai Nat, Ayutthaya, Ang Thong and Sing Buri, according to the Bangkok Post.
The project will also help promote tourism in the five provinces as the route crosses several tourist hot spots and historical sites, including Bang Pa-in Palace, Wat Pananchoeng and Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya and Sing Buri's Wat Ampawan.
The Department of Rural Roads, responsible for route survey and design, is working on surveying the area and designing the route, its director-general Darun Saengchai told the newspaper.
Construction will start next year and the bicycle lane will be open by 2017, he said.
Officials said it was notable that the bicycle lane was a dedicated one separated from regular traffic with specifications to ensure uniformity throughout.
The proposed design specifies a total lane width of 3m, which is divided into two 1.5m opposing lanes. Periodic rest stops have also been planned for the entire route.
Ms Soithip said the Transport Ministry is keen to construct bicycle routes nationwide and improve transportation infrastructure to promote cycling and walking over motorised travel. The first one is also intended as a tribute to King Bhumibol Adulyadej on his 88th birthday this year, she said.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports is responsible for raising funds to construct a total of approximately 3,000km of bicycle lanes throughout Thailand. But it is still unclear who will oversee the maintenance, and the lanes have to be built with the highest regard for commuter safety, Ms Soithip said.
Traffic regulations may need to be changed to improve safety for cyclists, including reducing the speed limits from 80kmh to 50kmh, she said.