2016: A YEAR OF DISRUPTION

Taking major steps towards a car-lite city

Top: A boy on a scooter while his family opt for an electric bicycle. Above: An innovative bike train made up of 14 tricycles on a Car-Free Sunday in the CBD.
A boy on a scooter while his family opt for an electric bicycle.ST FILE PHOTOS
Top: A boy on a scooter while his family opt for an electric bicycle. Above: An innovative bike train made up of 14 tricycles on a Car-Free Sunday in the CBD.
An innovative bike train made up of 14 tricycles on a Car-Free Sunday in the CBD.ST FILE PHOTOS

In 2016, the Government made a major push towards taking cars off the road - from redesigning a future expressway to include cycling paths to tabling a law legitimising bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMDs) as a mode of transport.

These initiatives have germinated as Singapore's push to go car-lite picks up steam.

When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the $1.5 billion, 15-year Sustainable Singapore Blueprint in 2014, he declared the country would reduce its reliance on cars and move towards more sustainable modes of transportation.

Promoting alternative transport modes is a key part of this strategy, and one area where the Government has been hard at work this year. For starters, the Ministry of Transport accepted recommendations by an expert advisory panel for rules to govern the use of bicycles and PMDs.

One key recommendation was to allow such devices on footpaths, to legitimise their use in a safe environment where users do not have to grapple with traffic.

 
 
 
 

Last month, the ministry followed up by tabling the Active Mobility Bill in Parliament - it spells out stiff penalties for riders who endanger the lives of pedestrians on footpaths, which goes some way towards making sure these vulnerable parties are taken care of.

In tandem with the proposed legislation, which could be passed when Parliament sits next month, more cycling infrastructure will be built to give riders and pedestrians a safe environment to commute.

The North-South Corridor - which will link Woodlands to the city when launched in 2021 - will have one lane reserved for buses, as well as cycling and pedestrian paths along the entire 21.5km route. It is the first expressway designed in such a fashion.

The Ang Mo Kio housing estate is also being developed as a model cycling town, with town planners using it as a testbed for cycling infrastructure that could eventually be replicated islandwide.

Next year, a bicycle-sharing pilot programme will be launched in the Jurong Lake District.

On the heels of these infrastructure projects come various initiatives aimed at winning people over to the idea of commuting by bicycle or PMD, and weaning them off cars.

First, a series of Car-Free Sundays was organised in the Central Business District. The initial six-month pilot proved popular, so a second edition was launched in October, and will run until April next year.

This month, the authorities started a six-month pilot scheme to allow commuters to take their foldable bicycles and PMDs on board trains and buses, to encourage people to use these devices as part of the first and last miles of their journeys.

While these changes might not sound the death knell for the private car, they are a sure sign that these four-wheelers will soon no longer be the king of the roads.

As Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in July, when he announced the trial to allow foldable bikes on public transport: "Cars will still have a role to play, but as shared cars, taxis and private-hire cars, rather than be largely privately owned."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2016, with the headline 'Taking major steps towards a car-lite city'. Print Edition | Subscribe