First published on 7 Aug 2009. Updated on 9 Aug 2010.
People may be claiming that ‘going green’ is so 2008, but another vote for the eco-friendly movement in Singapore. Commuter cycling is getting popular – so popular that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is constructing more bike racks near MRT stations, exploring the idea of setting up bicycle rental and washing services, and are putting up safety signs along well-pedalled routes like those in West Coast and Thomson to alert motorists to cyclists.
Singapore has a long way to go before reaching the cycle status of bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen (these folks can talk on their mobiles and read books while wheeling around the city – skills that probably take years to conquer).
Willie Loo, store manager at the pedallers’ superstore BikeHaus, confirms that there are definitely more people cycling to work than in the past, but he’s not convinced that this city’s streets are ready to give riders a warm welcome.
In theory this little island has all the qualities that could make it a great place to pedal around – fine roads (see iwant2bike2work.org), orderly traffic, benign weather. But in reality, there may be some other roadblocks. ‘The manners of drivers here are largely atrocious – they don’t look out for cyclists and grump about sharing the road with these non-payers of road tax. There are no proper bicycle lanes, and nowhere to park your bike,’ Loo says.
The number of road accidents involving cyclists increased from 392 in 2005 to a scary 551 in 2007, according to Yearbook of Statistics. At the core of the fragile coexistence between motorists and cyclists lie two problems: motorists are not trained to look out for cyclists, and there are no compulsory tests or proper training for cyclists who take to the roads.
‘Practice makes perfect, so you need to cycle regularly on the roads to get used to handling the traffic and live by safety rules. We need more cyclists on the roads so that motorists can get used to seeing them,’ says Steven Lim, a seasoned commuter cyclist and business development manager at Diginexx, a retailer of folding bikes.
He could be getting his wish soon as more urbanites see the benefi ts of swapping gas-guzzling SUVs for ecofriendly bikes. Time-strapped executives see it as a way to fit in a workout as part of the daily grind, as well as saving a packet on parking, ERP and fuel charges.
Debunking the myth that cycling is a poor man’s transport, The Bike Boutique’s store manager Tay Choon Wei claims that 70 per cent of his clientele comes from the expatriate population, and mostly comprises executives in their late twenties to fifties. ‘Cycling to work is mostly an imported practice, while the locals who do it are bike enthusiasts. Many don’t ride fancy bikes, just normal ones,’ he adds.
It may take time for Singapore’s streets to get bike-friendly; many of its residents are still under the impression that four wheels equals good, two wheels equals bad.
How do you birke around Singapore? Read Quick tips for the urban cyclist