Making Singapore Bicycle Friendly

By Bhavani Prakash

One of the things I noticed during my recent visit to Sydney was the lane markings for bicycles. Markings such as the ones that I am about to share below would really make riding a bicycle safe and convenient in a place like Singapore, where the roads are already well laid out and maintained.

Picture 1: Two way lanes for cyclists merging from a pedestrian pavement

Picture 2: Narrow green lane for cyclists planning to ride straight on, where other vehicles may want to turn left.

Video: A bike box, like the one here in the city of Toronto, is a safe zone for cyclists to stand ahead of other vehicles at the traffic lights, to get an early start.

Video link here

The public transport infrastructure in Singapore is quite comprehensive, serviced by buses and underground tube trains, better known as Mass Rapid Transport (MRT). Developing cycling as a complementary and alternative means of transport would greatly improve the quality of life for many – enhancing good health through exercise and reduced air pollution. It would also help lower the country’s carbon emissions.

The city state has total land area of 712.4 sq km and one end to the other  from east to west in the mainland is only 48.2 kms.  Distance wise, it’s a perfect place for cycling.

However, it isn’t such a safe thing to do. At the moment, there are very few separate lanes for cycling, and it can be quite dangerous for cyclists to share roads with cars and buses.  Sometimes cyclists use pavements meant for pedestrians, but that is not officially encouraged.

The only exception is in parks and the area of Tampines East Zone in eastern Singapore, where a pilot programme is being carried out. Cyclists are legally allowed to share the pavement with pedestrians at least during a transition period till separate cycling paths are carved out. There’s even a special Bicycle Patrol to catch errant cyclists.

The solution to safer cycling lies in public education (Tampines promotes cycling talks and clinics in community clubs), but also in allowing for more cycling space directly on the roads.

Though cyclists in Singapore are allowed to use bus lanes, separate lane markings on roads shared with cars would make life simpler and easier for them. Some argue that this will clog up already narrow lanes and slow down vehicular traffic during peak times. Not a bad thing, if you ask me, if this encourages more people to take up cycling instead!

It’s not yet clear if demarcation of separate cyclist lanes on roads is on the Land Transport Authority(LTA)’s agenda. What has been planned for however are cycling paths to be created by extending footpaths.

In Tampines, the first stretch of cycling paths 1.2km stretch, which links Tampines Avenue 4 with the park connector along Tampines Avenue 2 was completed in June 2011. Another 5.7 kms will be constructed soon.

Separate bicycle paths on pedestrian space in Tampines

Besides Tampines, six other towns – Yishun, Sembawang, Taman Jurong, Pasir Ris, Changi-Simei and Bedok - as well as Marina Bay will be given such cycling paths to link cyclists up to transport nodes and key local amenities.

Works for 7.5km of cycling paths in Yishun have also begun earlier this year.

Construction of the paths in the first five towns – except Changi-Simei and Bedok – will be completed by the third quarter of 2012, while that in Marina Bay will wrap up in 2014. Plans for Changi-Simei and Bedok are still being discussed.

The Government has set aside $43 million to construct the cycling paths in the first five heartland areas, and $26 million to build the 16km stretch in Marina Bay.

I visited Tampines recently, and was pleasantly surprised that a simple policy change such as allowing cyclists a shared space with pedestrians had actually created a cycling culture within the town. For a moment, I found it hard it believe that this was Singapore – mums and dads with children, the old and young alike – all on two wheels happily riding away to their destinations.

There is some hope then, in the future of cycling in Singapore, even though cycling paths may be restricted to pavements, rather being extended to roads which is the desirable for more long distance travel.

What are your thoughts? We’d like to hear of your experiences about cycling whether within or outside Singapore.  If you have pictures of lane markings or signposts, do share them with us on facebook  or here in the comments section, so we can in turn share with our readers.

About the writer:

Bhavani Prakash is the Founder of Eco WALK the Talk.com and enjoys walking and riding bicycles, especially when she doesn’t have to look over her shoulders too much. She can be contacted at bhavani[at] ecowalkthetalk.com .  Join EWTT on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.


Further links you may be interested in:

1. EWTT: Bike the Talk: The green solution to urban transport contains a lot of interesting videos on how cycling has been promoted and made safer in many cities.

2.  Cycling in Singapore : A blog dedicated to ” Issues, views, solutions and opportunities for transport and urban cycling in Singapore.”

3.  Join Everyday Traffic, a facebook group and “discussion portal and a resource portal for all things transport and traffic.”

3. Wikipedia on “Shared Space”

The concept of “shared space” has a lot of nuances, and I would encourage you to read this excellent wikipedia entry on the topic. In particular, it is interesting to see the different approaches, with some towns like Makkinga and Drachten in the Netherlands doing away with lane markings altogether, under the premise that this would make all road users more conscious of each other.

4. YouTube: Cycling Friendly Cities

Video link here

5. Straits Times: Tampines deters bicycle thiefs with unique identification lables


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Posted by on Jul 22 2011. Filed under Behaviour Change, Green Cities. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Making Singapore Bicycle Friendly”

  1. [...] from the urban jungle – My Little Corner: Sengkang Floating Wetland – EcoWalktheTalk: Making Singapore Bicycle Friendly – The Long and Winding Road: Journeys through Tanjong [...]

  2. I stayed in Tampines for 3 months before moving to Toa Payoh. In Tampines we would practically cycle everywhere, in Toa Payoh it relatively harder as the cycle paths suddenly end!!!

  3. You’re so right, Vedasri. I couldn’t believe my eyes to see so many cyclists in Tampines. I do so wish that cycling is encouraged throughout Singapore.

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