The Straits Times says

One road, many travel modes

Changing a way of life that is heavily dependent on motor vehicles will not be a cinch as it calls for many components of travel to fall into place. Silky smooth public transport, for instance, must arise to edge out cars as kings of the road. Expressways must morph into integrated transport corridors catering to different users, as is the plan for the north-south artery. And cycling tracks must connect with broad footpaths which are shared safely and considerately by walkers and cyclists alike.

The latest sharing initiative is a six-month trial to allow foldable bicycles and personal mobility devices to be taken on buses and trains throughout the day. All such efforts represent a multi-modal approach to urban mobility which is the new thinking that must take hold here if Singapore is to segue towards a car-lite future. To be sure, there will always be a place for cars to serve specific needs. But rather than treating them as objects of desire to be owned and used exclusively, they will be part of a pool of shared cars, taxis and private-hire cars. What more urban commuters might regard as their personal ride could be lightweight folding bicycles. These have become more sophisticated - like the Bike Friday Tikit which can be made compact in five seconds flat.

To help ensure the success of the carry-around bike trial, all should extend the common courtesy of looking out for each other, rather than hogging space single-mindedly on public transport. For example, a cyclist who insists on hoisting a foldable bike onto a crowded bus or train will inconvenience other commuters and might even cause injury when there's precious little space for people to board and alight. Bike racks might help but ultimately it is social behaviour that can make a bigger difference. Sharing spaces is about give and take: While machines should yield to people, commuters should accommodate folding bikes wherever possible. And if accidents do happen, the reflexive action of cyclists should be to render assistance and not to scoot off in five seconds.

Apart from socialising commuters to share public goods equitably, there is also a need to help them think of an optimal modal mix when travelling. Apart from adequate physical infrastructure to spur alternative forms of mobility, useful transport apps will be necessary to help plan journeys. The latter is the focus of the Land Transport Authority's partnership with a number of technology companies. The aim is to harness up-to-date information to offer commuters a bird's-eye view of cycling paths, footpaths, parking areas, bus stops and train stations. This will allow people to switch easily from one mode to another - a particularly helpful option when the information supplied includes the latest train service disruptions.

City life would be transformed if cycling, scooting and walking can blend well with older travel modes and new ones like driverless vehicles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'One road, many travel modes'. Print Edition | Subscribe