Serious about cycling as a way of life

Cycling is good legwork for some who enjoy commuting and running errands on their bicycles

Most people with bicycles clock up their miles on the weekends, when they cycle for leisure or exercise.

But for designer Eugene Chua, 41, cycling is his chief mode of transport. He clocks about 40km every weekday.

He is out of the house by about 7am to cycle his 11-year-old daughter from their home in Punggol to her primary school nearby. He makes this trip on a longtail bicycle - one with an extension at the back for his daughter to sit on.

He then cycles back home to hop on his foldable bike to go to work in Tai Seng.

When he knocks off work, he cycles home to Punggol. There, he switches back to the longtailand is out of the house in a jiffy to pick up his younger child, a six-year-old son, from a kindergarten in Sengkang.

Designer Eugene Chua transports his children Chua Lin, 11, and Chua Yi, six, on a longtail bicycle and cycles on his foldable bicycle to work. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Only then is he ready for the final ride home.

It sounds like a lot of work, but Mr Chua has no complaints.

"I get to kill two birds with one stone - fetch my kids and exercise at the same time," he says.

It does not matter either that his wife, a 43-year-old primary school teacher, gets to drive the family car to work in air-conditioned comfort while he sweats it out.

"I don't miss driving. The traffic and jams irritate me," he says.

With his lifestyle, Mr Chua is the poster boy for Singapore's drive towards a car-lite society.

Today, cycling accounts for just 1.5 per cent of all commutes, but the plan is to increase this to between 3 and 4.5 per cent in the next five to 10 years.

In recent years, the Government has pushed for cycling to become a more attractive mode of transport.

It will build cycling networks in all Housing Board towns by 2030 and roll out schemes such as bikesharing to encourage more people to take to two wheels.

Last month also marked the completion of the first phase of transforming Ang Mo Kio into a model walking and cycling town - some two years after it was identified as a car-lite testbed.

While it remains to be seen if the measures will get more people on bikes, cycling enthusiasts say they have noticed that cycling is going from a fringe sub-culture to the mainstream.

Mr Woon Tai Woon, 42, cofounder of cycling group Love Cycling SG, has the numbers to prove this.

He set up the group - which organises rides on Sunday mornings to explore different parts of Singapore - with former colleagues six years ago.

It had just 10 active members then. The community has since grown to some 14,000 members. About 400 are active members and about 50 people show up for the Sunday rides.

Mr Woon says: "More people are cycling every day for fitness and well-being."

Some, like Mr William Khaw, 46, have been embracing a car-free lifestyle even before the Government's efforts.

In 2000, the operations manager in a manufacturing firm sold his car and started taking public transport to work, before opting to cycle to work every day for the past three years.

On his bike, he says he can stop anywhere for breakfast before work without worrying about parking.

On weekends, he enjoys cycling with his wife Grace, 42, an assistant contract manager in a local transport firm, as well as members from Love Cycling SG. They often make short trips across park connector networks, with plenty of food stops in between.

Younger Singaporeans are finding cycling an attractive way of life too.

Second-year university student Tan Yan, 22, has been cycling to school since August last year.

It takes him 40 minutes to cycle from his home in Choa Chu Kang to Nanyang Technological University, compared with about an hour on public transport.

Besides saving on travelling time, he finds the pedal pushing physically invigorating as well as environmentally friendly.

"Bicycles produce zero emission and take no toll on the earth. I prefer to burn fat, not oil."

'We're detoxing for free every day'

Mr George Kee and his wife Wendy often cycle with their poodle-samoyed, Boss. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Businessman George Kee, 55, started cycling about five years ago on his doctor's advice that exercise would help control his diabetes.

He now calls himself a "chronic cyclist" who clocks an average of 20km daily and bikes whenever he can - including to meet clients of his sign-making business.

His wife Wendy, 51, is an avid cyclist too. On weekends, the couple cycle to run errands and to friends' homes to hang out.

Their dog, a three-year-old poodle-samoyed called Boss, usually accompanies them in a little trailer, which Mr Kee attaches to his bicycle.

The couple, who work together, ride daily to their workplace in Eunos from their home in Pasir Ris.

The 10km journey takes 45 minutes to an hour, about the same as commuting via public transport.

Mrs Kee says the benefit of cycling is avoiding packed, peak-hour trains.

Mr Kee, who owns a car, says cycling to work is less stressful than driving as he can ride past peak-hour traffic and jams.

"I hardly drive these days," he says. "I do so only when there is very heavy rain and if I have many errands to run for the day."

For client meetings, he rides his trusty 25-year-old, $150 foldable bicycle to the nearest MRT station, takes it on board, then cycles to his meeting location after getting off the train.

The couple's son, who is 24 and self-employed, does not have the same interest in cycling.

Mr Kee says: "My son, like most young people, prefers to let his fingers do the exercise - on his mobile phone or on the computer keyboard.

"But my wife and I love to sweat it out. We are detoxing for free every day," he says with a laugh.

He adds that thanks to his riding regimen, his diabetes is under control.

With his health in check, the couple also go on cycling tours several times a year.

They have taken their bicycles to places such as Taiwan, South Korea, Cambodia and Indonesia.

There, they can ride up to 120km a day while taking in the sights.

"It's so nice and relaxing. As we cycle, we take time to smell the roses," says Mrs Kee.

"Before we began cycling as a way of life five years ago, I would never have imagined going on a holiday with my bicycle."

Cheap and faster commute

Madam Foo Meng Yock, 44, cycles her son Isaac, six, to school in eight minutes, while their previous bus route took them 20 minutes. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Rain or shine, housewife Foo Meng Yock, 44, cycles her six-year-old son Isaac to school.

To avoid sun damage, she wears a long-sleeved top and a hat.

"But I feel very hot as a result," she says.

Despite the discomfort, she sticks to this routine, which she started last June, because cycling is a fast and cheap way of getting her son to school.

Previously, the feeder bus ride from her home in Yishun to the school - including waiting and walking time - took them 20 minutes.

But the bicycle ride is just eight minutes long from their front door to the school gate.

The $65 cost of her second-hand bicycle has been more than "paid off" by savings from bus rides they would otherwise have taken.

She and her husband, an army regular, do not own a car and take public transport on weekends to get around.

After dropping her son off, she sometimes cycles to the Chong Pang area in Yishun to pick up groceries.

Or she heads to the swimming pool at Safra Yishun to take a dip to cool off.

Then, it is back to school to pick up Isaac.

In wet weather, the little boy dons a raincoat and Madam Foo takes along a towel and clothing for him to change into before he enters his air-conditioned classroom at school.

Sitting behind his mother on a bicycle seat with a helmet and elbow guards on, Isaac says he loves the daily commute.

"It's fun. I can see the world go by," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'On the ride track'. Subscribe