Kick-starting a scheme to share bicycles would enable Singapore to join the ranks of Paris, London, New York, Montreal, Melbourne, Taipei and other cities where active mobility is celebrated. Instead of burning fuel and money needlessly, citizens there burn calories instead for short trips - egged on by networks offering cheap and reliable mobility to all, regardless of social differences. It's a movement that large corporations see value in supporting. Nike, for example, is the title sponsor of a bike share system in Portland - a move to create precious mindshare for its brand "in one fell swoosh", as observers put it. Citibank is lending its name to New York City's scheme. Perhaps, a civic-minded Singapore firm might also step forward to give bike sharing here a well-deserved fillip?
Singaporeans who are won over by the need for "green" and community-based forms of urban mobility should not rely entirely on the largesse of a large sponsor and the State. They also need to help make the pilot scheme succeed when it's launched next year. The actions of stakeholders are indeed interlinked. A dense network of stations is needed to promote usage; but if citizens don't make full use of the system, sponsors will not derive value from supporting it. Substantial costs will be involved to set up and run services in Jurong Lake District and, later perhaps, in the Marina Bay area, Tampines and Pasir Ris.
Earlier schemes here, like Town Bike and Isuda, came to a halt because adequate safe cycling infrastructure was not in place, according to commentators. Things have changed since then: Bicycles are to be allowed on pavements; more bike parking facilities will be provided at MRT stations; and developers of new and renovated buildings will be asked to make provisions like showers for cyclists. Crucially, a smooth and safe flow of two-wheelers and pedestrians is to be promoted, and might take root over time. This entails a code of conduct for the sharing of paths, a new Active Mobility Enforcement Team armed with speed guns, and volunteers who are part of an Active Mobility Patrol to spur responsible cycling.
These are quite substantial efforts to shape a progressive system of urban mobility. The big official push for cycling might also prompt calls for similar commitment to be shown for supporting other more environmentally friendly modes of transport, from electric vehicles to car sharing schemes. Support for these might include bigger differentials in taxes for less pollutive vehicles, as well as building up the infrastructure for easy and relatively affordable charging. Beyond this, vehicles that can be tapped on demand - some day not too far off, they might even be driverless - would also make owning one less attractive. If these take off, they would add a fresh dimension to this famously clean, and green, city.