Plan well to set wheels in motion, say transport experts and cyclists

A national push to promote cycling as a viable mode of transport is good news, but encouraging people to commute on a bicycle requires good planning, say transport experts and cyclists. -- PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS
A national push to promote cycling as a viable mode of transport is good news, but encouraging people to commute on a bicycle requires good planning, say transport experts and cyclists. -- PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

A national push to promote cycling as a viable mode of transport is good news, but encouraging people to commute on a bicycle requires good planning, say transport experts and cyclists.

Cycling routes should be more direct and better integrated with public transport, while the problems of riding on footpaths and road safety must be tackled, they say.

The comments were made after the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) earlier last week unveiled plans for a 700km cycling path network by 2030 as part of its Draft Master Plan 2013.

Dr Alexander Erath, a transport researcher from the Singapore-ETH Centre, welcomed the plans as they will promote cycling as a last-mile solution, and as a mode to get directly from homes to offices, shops and schools.

Mr Woon Taiwoon, co-founder of cycling group LoveCyclingSg, said the plans are "very encouraging" but noted that the planned paths are not ideal for commuting by bicycle. "Cycling commuters are looking for very direct routes," he said.

He suggested two types of routes: a longer, winding path for those who want to "slow down and smell the roses"; and a fast, direct way of getting between two locations.

The URA has proposed six routes under the Master Plan for cyclists to try out and submit feedback using Global Positioning System apps Endomondo and MapMyRide.

Some have started doing so, but noted that some stretches, such as Lornie Road, are not safe for cyclists. Dedicated cycling paths are not ready along those routes and it is illegal to cycle on footpaths there. Currently, Tampines is the only place where it is legal to cycle on footpaths.

Businessman Roland Lee, 61, cycles regularly to work from Bukit Panjang to City Hall using park connectors and roads. He said: "We need proper infrastructure to support the policy of bikes on the road."

Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng said more planning should go into making cycling journeys seamless and safe. As cycling paths cannot be expected to connect to the foot of every block in housing estates, she said it is unrealistic to expect cyclists to carry their bicycles to the nearest off-road path before resuming their journey.

She proposed various solutions: "Some footways should be widened. Some main roads should have protected bike lanes and priority for cyclists at junctions."

Accident statistics repeatedly identify road junctions as high- risk areas for cyclists, said Dr

Erath. As for the targeted 2030 deadline, he called it "rather conservative". New York City has developed a 570km cycling network in only seven years, he said.

Field operations engineer Roy Soon, 27, has cycled to work daily for a year from Aljunied to Tanjong Pagar. To make cycling a lifestyle and more than a recreational activity, he feels that bicycles have to be better integrated with public transport.

Foldable bicycles are now allowed on buses and trains from 9.30am to 4pm and after 8pm on weekdays. Mr Soon suggested having racks on buses for full-size bicycles and easing the rules for foldable ones in trains so that cyclists have more options beyond parking them at MRT stations.

"The current infrastructure may not be able to accommodate a full-size bike, but it is important to have choices. People feel robbed of the choice."

roysim@sph.com.sg