WhyItMatters

Cycling lanes a good start

The proverbial line has finally been drawn on the asphalt, with Singapore's first on-road bicycle lanes being built in Sentosa.

The Straits Times reported on the network of bright green lanes last week. The roughly 1m-wide lanes span only a 400m stretch of the island's roads now, but the full network will be complete by the middle of next year.

Even though some have questioned the rationale of building bicycle lanes on a resort island where tourists flock to and the well-heeled reside, the majority of cycling enthusiasts were pumping their fists in victory.

On-road bicycle lanes have been advocated by the community here for some time.

Dedicated lanes for bikes, separated from both traffic and pedestrians, are the gold standard in safe cycling infrastructure.

But the idea has not taken off here - the Government has said time and again, that because of safety concerns, it will focus on building cycling paths off the road, either next to or merged with pedestrian sidewalks. This cautious approach is evident in its National Cycling Plan, where it wants to build such a network, spanning 700km by 2030.

But could this latest development signal a change to that mindset?

Some experts seem to think so - calling the Sentosa project significant and symbolic. Its real impact could stretch well beyond Sentosa's shores to the mainland, they said.

They reckon bicycle lanes on the roads could become a reality in the future, starting first with low-traffic neighbourhood roads.

The benefits are manifold, it gives newer cyclists a perceived sense of safety and might encourage more to swop four-wheels for two. It also sends a clear message to motorists that roads are public spaces for all - cars, bicycles, even pedestrians.

In the end, the lanes would send a signal to Singaporeans everywhere. And if our transport future does not lie with the automobile, then perhaps we should start looking elsewhere.

Bike lanes are a good place to start.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2015, with the headline 'Cycling lanes a good start'. Print Edition | Subscribe