Good infrastructure vital for bike-share to succeed

A commuter choosing a bike at a YouBike station atop Taipei City Hall MRT station. The Taiwanese city piloted its bike-share system in 1998, in part to tackle traffic congestion.
A commuter choosing a bike at a YouBike station atop Taipei City Hall MRT station. The Taiwanese city piloted its bike-share system in 1998, in part to tackle traffic congestion.ST PHOTO: LEE SEOK HWAI

Experts call for seamless routes and bike-friendly road junctions

A bike-share trial to be rolled out by next year has the potential to be well received by commuters, but cycling infrastructure must be improved for it to succeed, said experts yesterday.

Off-road cycling paths are being built islandwide, but these will take time to complete and do not address safety concerns for cyclists on the roads, some noted. Meanwhile, it is illegal to ride on footpaths everywhere except in Tampines.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) identified five potential areas for a bike-share scheme in its call for proposals from industry players on Wednesday - Jurong Lake District, the city centre, Tampines, Pasir Ris and Sembawang.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng and Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng said there is potential for bike-sharing to be popular in their constituencies, which have ready or upcoming cycling paths and a pool of cyclists.

Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng said she was glad LTA was asking for ideas and proposals before piloting such a scheme. But she had some reservations. Bike-sharing needs critical mass to work, and this will not be achieved if the infrastructure is inadequate.

"There needs to be greater improvement, with more seamless and dedicated cycling paths, more bike crossings, bike-friendly road junctions," she said, adding that routes need to be as free as possible of stops, and safe.

Though it is legal to cycle on footpaths in Tampines, some cyclists brave the roads as they offer a more seamless journey. "If we are serious about encouraging cycling as a mode of transport, we first have to understand the psychology of cyclists and provide the infrastructure," said Ms Ng.

Cycling paths are being built islandwide, and will total about 700km by 2030.

However, there is still no good solution for integrating cycling paths at road intersections where most accidents involving cyclists happen, said transport researcher Alexander Erath from the Singapore-ETH Centre.

"It would be desirable if there are paths for cyclists to make right turns without the need to wait for two pedestrian traffic lights," he said.

He also noted that if there are too many pedestrians and cyclists sharing paths, it can get uncomfortable for both parties.

Mr Ang, the Jurong MP, said pedestrians and cyclists can be taught how to co-exist. He plans to ride in his estate with grassroots volunteers to demonstrate proper cycling behaviour.

Dr Erath said community- based riding workshops and public campaigns on riding etiquette could be organised for people uncomfortable with cycling in an urban environment.

"Support from VIPs from politics and entertainment can help to mitigate potential stigma and display cycling as a desirable form of mobility," he added.

There are bike-share schemes in numerous cities, including London, Paris, Taipei and Madrid. Recently, the Spanish city launched an electric bike-share system.

Electric bike-share is a possibility at a later stage, when Singapore has a more widespread cycling network, said Dr Erath.

The Institute of Transportation and Development Policy in New York said successful bike- share systems should have, among other things, easy-to-use docking stations, 10 to 16 stations for every sq km and 10 to 30 bicycles available for every 1,000 residents in the coverage area, which should be a minimum of 10 sq km.