Why It Matters

Going into high gear for cycling

The island's first large-scale bicycle sharing pilot is set to kick off in the Jurong Lake District from next year end, with a government tender called last Friday to find an operator to build and run the project.

Comprising 1,000 bicycles and 100 docking stations, the scheme will provide commuters in Jurong with access to a set of wheels 24/7, and convenient pick-up and drop-off spots.

Bicycle-sharing has been a catalyst to getting more to cycle in other cities - in Taipei, the cycling mode share increased by 30 per cent, with its YouBike scheme cited as one of the main driving factors.

According to a 2014 report by the European Cyclists' Federation, cycling accounts for 5.5 per cent of all trips in Taipei. In comparison, Singapore's national mode share is 1.5 per cent.

There is strong impetus for bicycle-sharing to be launched here, and it is expected that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be putting some financial muscle into the endeavour.

Bicycle-sharing schemes can be too costly for private operators to bear alone. New York's Citi Bike, for example, is sponsored by Citibank, while the London scheme has the Santander bank as a sponsor.

The LTA thus called a separate tender last Friday for a consultant, which will be tasked with finding sponsors that will enjoy naming rights on bicycles and docking stations, and advertising opportunities.

But there is more. The LTA will provide "gap funding" to further defray the operator's costs. Tender submissions will include a proposal for an annual government grant amount.

The LTA is also exploring an expansion of the pilot to the Marina Bay/City Centre area, Tampines and Pasir Ris - all to be run by a single operator to help it reap economies of scale. The pilot's long tenure of eight years is aimed at giving operators sufficient time to recoup the initial heavy capital investment.

As the LTA doubles the islandwide cycling path network to 700km by 2030, including in the Jurong Lake District, cycling looks to become a more attractive proposition, one that is safer and more convenient than ever before.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Going into high gear for cycling'. Print Edition | Subscribe