Cycling must be a key part of Singapore’s future

Guest essay by tk

There has been much discussion in the Singaporean media regarding cycling recently. Unfortunately, most of it negative. While the exact sentiments vary between aggrieved motorists and aggrieved pedestrians, what they all show is a need for more effective cycling advocacy.

For the benefit of non-cyclists or people unfamiliar with Singapore, let’s review the real state of cycling in Singapore. Who actually bothers to cycle in Singapore? And what is it really like?

The biggest misconception is that it’s far too hot to cycle, full stop. Wrong.  Mornings are surprisingly cool, around 26 degrees, and as office workdays start at 8.30, it’s really very pleasant cycling in to work. Of course the arctic air-con also cools you off in no time. It rarely rains in the morning, and Singapore’s seasonal afternoon storms usually only last a couple of hours, from 4-6pm. Singapore’s altitude varies for the most part within just 15 metres above sea level – its extremely flat. It’s also compact, being a highly urbanised city. Of course, Singapore is far from being a cycling utopia, but let’s just establish that while yes, it’s hot during the day, it’s far from a reason to not jump on your bike. In fact, visitors often remark how much cooler it is to roll along on a bike with the breeze in your face, rather than slog along sweltering footpaths, and it’s certainly more enjoyable to cycle in the year-round sunny 32 degrees, than wind, ice and snow. And if it is raining? Take a taxi – you’ve earned it, literally.

So who dares cycle here? As with any collection of humans, numerous subcultures comprise the whole. First, there are the road cyclists – out before dawn, bedecked in lycra and riding top of the line bikes, these are the no-nonsense cyclists of Singapore, who might lap the island before breakfast. Then we have the less serious cyclists, who ride for fun and fitness with their kakis, often on folding or hybrid bikes, often on the park connectors (PCNs), and their brethren who rent bikes on the East Coast or Pulau Ubin. Commuters and shoppers out doing errands are a small but importantly growing segment and then there are the “scene” cyclists, the fix’sters and cycle chic’sters who ride fixed gear or single speed bikes, step-through dutch bikes with child seats, or retro steel bikes from the 70s, as part of their everyday lives. And of course not forgetting the ubiquitous foreign workers on ‘cheap’ mountain bikes and old uncles on flying pigeons. And me? I’m just a guy who rides.

You got a problem with me?

Each of these subcultures is the cause of a number of perceived problems by drivers and pedestrians. Road cyclists and commuters are seen to ‘hog’ road lanes. In addressing this complaint it can’t be stated clearly or more often enough – it is illegal to cycle on the footpath, except in the “cycling town” of Tampines. So cyclists, by law, have to be on the road. Bikes are classed as vehicles, and must be given way to in any situation that you would give way to a car. Additionally, the highway code says that cars must leave a 1.5 metre gap when passing cyclists, but as evidenced by the attitude of senior civil servants (“Driving home a vital safety message”, Straits Times, 30 Nov 2010), the 1.5m gap is treated as ‘optional’ by motorists and the authorities. As a result, competent cyclists ride about one-third of the way into the lane, or ride two abreast, to ensure drivers merge completely into the next lane over to pass, instead of trying to squeeze past in the same lane – a major cause of collisions, especially when cars make left turns across cyclists. In normal traffic, passing a cyclist might cause a five- second delay to the motorist. In heavy traffic, the driver is soon going to be stationary in any case.  And always remember, as a driver, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic, so don’t get mad at cyclists. This kiasu attitude (Singapore patois for being afraid to lose out on something)  is common to drivers all over the world, and is a problem for them to come to terms with, not cyclists.

For cyclists on footpaths, common complaints include riding too fast, and, horror of horrors, ringing their bells. Occasionally a cyclist might even collide with a pedestrian (I believe YB has had this happen). Of course, the onus is on cyclists to travel at a speed at which they can stop safely or avoid a collision. No-one is saying otherwise. But the same anger toward cyclists is not evidently being directed toward the large numbers of motorists colliding with each other or with more vulnerable road users, causing far greater damage, not to mention holding up traffic while they snap pictures and swap insurance details. But it is worth asking who is causing the greater harm. And as for the foreign workers fighting it out in Changi, Sembawang and Tuas with the container trucks and dirt trucks (driven by other foreign workers), honestly, I’d be on the footpath there too.

Any society looking to minimise its healthcare costs should be concentrating less on preventing the collisions that occur at 10-20 km/hr between 2 bodies of roughly equal mass, and more on those that occur at 50-80 km/hr between a 70 kg body and a 2 ton car or 5 ton truck. The immediate and ongoing damage is far more devastating.

Space to be healthy, wealthy and wise

The above complaints about cyclists all stem from the same cause – no unique space has been set aside for them, so they’ve carved out their own. This fight for space is going on in every major city around the world, so Singapore is hardly unique in this regard. Having discredited the specious complaints against cyclists in Singapore, let’s explore how cyclist numbers can actually be increased. But before that, the assertion that increasing cycling would be good for Singapore needs backing up.

Firstly, and most importantly, economics. As with most things these days, ‘it’s about the economy, stupid’. Cycling is cheap and convenient when compared to driving or using public transport anywhere in the world, but especially here in Singapore when you factor in COEs, insurance, inflated car prices, ERP, and maintenance and petrol costs. Conversely however, cycling adds value to the economy — £2.9bn in the UK according to a report from the London School of Economics. Building new heavy transport infrastructure such as MRT lines and expressways costs hundreds of millions to tens of billions, whereas cycling infrastructure is many many orders of magnitude cheaper. Cycling in urban environments has also been shown in a study in the British Medical Journal to have more benefits than risks when compared to car use.

Secondly, cycling improves your quality of life. It’s often said that Singapore is a soulless place. And it is, if you spend all your time zombie shuffling around shopping malls, gawping slack jawed in a cinema and pecking at buttons in casinos like a battery farm chicken. But out in the parks, gardens and farms, along the river, canals and coastline that are the environs of the PCN network, you can be free from industrial noise (some of the time, anyway) and have space to yourself, to think, or even sing. In the global competition to attract talented professionals (and and retain young Singaporeans), more and bigger hotels, shopping malls and casinos are not going to cut it. Singapore needs to start offering more “quality of life” assets, including cycling infrastructure. Singapore’s beloved rankings in the “global liveability” stakes would improve hugely were cycling to be more fully integrated into peoples’ lives. If you look at Monocle’s current list, 9 of the 10 cities have fully integrated cycling. Chip Goodyear, former CEO of BHP Billiton and short-term head of Temasek Holdings, rides to work every day at 4.30am. It “clears his head and allows him space to organise his thoughts”. I also enjoy riding to work for the same reasons, but more importantly it beats sitting on a crowded bus or MRT carriage crammed full of strap hangers, or going nowhere fast on the expressways with increasing stress levels.  On weekends, there’s nothing better than catching up on a ride with mates, stopping for a laneway coffee or riverside beer (yes, in Singapore). If you want to meet new friends or ride more seriously, groups like ANZA or or the Joyriders cater for you. Finally, people have recently been discussing “nature deficit disorder” in Singapore. Cycling is a great preventative for this.

On that point, the environmental factor to cycling is important, but I don’t believe it’s what motivates most people to start cycling. Nevertheless, more people cycling means less cars, less emissions, less congestion, which means fewer roads “need” to be constructed. It’s a well described phenomenon that building more roads merely leads to more cars on those roads, and similar or higher levels of congestion than before. It’s like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt (not my analogy, by the way). Less roads being constructed also means more land available for green space (the excellent “City in a Garden” concept), and a reduction in the urban heat island effect, which in turn encourages more cycling by making it even more comfortable.

Finally, health and safety. Cycling to work contributes to your daily exercise requirements without having to set aside extra time, or pay gym fees. Cyclists have lower absentee rates at work and spend less on health care, according the UK study referenced above. On the safety side, cyclists benefit enormously from the ‘safety in numbers’ effect. The more cyclists out there, the less statistically likely it is you that will be hit. In Singapore 16 cyclists were killed last year, 17 less than the number of car, bus and truck drivers and passengers, 73 less than motorcyclists and an amazing 39 less than the number of pedestrians. More cyclists out there also increases drivers’ awareness of their presence on the roads. Making cycling safer in Singapore would act as a positive feedforward loop, as has been demonstrated in cities like London, Melbourne and New York. New York is a great comparison, because the government likes to cite it as another example of a ‘space-constrained’ major city. And yet, NYC has added more than 250 miles of bike lanes since 2006, and has plans for at least 100 more. As of July this year, more people in New York support the addition of more lanes than “approve of God”. Supporters of the Green (Rail) Corridor cite New York’s Highline Park as a remarkable example of urban transformation, which it undoubtedly is. But, to my mind, New York’s addition of 400 miles of bike lanes while leaving traffic flows unaffected is a much greater achievement. The URA is calling for ideas on the future use of the Rail Corridor. Using it as part of an island wide cycling network is currently the most popular suggestion, by a very large margin, and it is heartening to see the LTA and Nparks actively collaborating on expanding the network.

Let’s get physical

So it should be clear that getting more cyclists out and about in Singapore is going to be good for the city and its people. How can this be achieved?

Make it safe. Safety is consistently reported as being the most important factor in taking up cycling, above all else. The easiest way to achieve this is to carve out more “cyclespace” – a term coined by architectural academic Steven Fleming, which refers to the mental maps cyclists use to navigate the easiest and safest route from A to B. The expansion of the PCN network is meeting this need, and paths can be shared graciously, as in cities like Osaka. Building more PCNs is great, but importantly, they have to seamlessly link to each other. PCN transitions have not been planned at all well by the LTA, who should learn from New York – once they started linking their lanes, they saw a 35% increase in the numbers of cyclists using them. Current poorly designed transitions require cyclists to dismount, carry bikes up and down stairs or cross major roads (>2 lanes) without signals, and improving these should be of equal priority with constructing new PCNs.

Additionally, buffered bike lanes should be built on arterial roads where no PCN exists. The tired old excuse of “there’s no room in land-scarce Singapore” is a complete falsehood, and needs to be rebutted every time it is raised. Lanes are ridiculously wide (3 metres!) in Singapore, and were obviously planned to accommodate poor driving by creating an overly large buffer zone around each car. Thus, on roads that are 2 – 4 lanes wide, at least 50cm could be carved off each one and set aside, creating a 1-1.5m wide bike lane with raised buffer zone with no impact on the road’s car carrying capacity. Repainting road lanes is cheap and fast, compared to long lead times and huge costs for a new MRT line or expressway. Narrower lanes would have the ancillary effect of slowing drivers, as speeding and tailgating are huge problems in Singapore due to the all but complete absence of the traffic police — a fact lamented by cyclists and responsible drivers alike.

This absence is a strange aspect of an otherwise tightly controlled state. Similarly, punitive sentences for road traffic accidents resulting in serious injuries or fatalities are extremely lenient here, especially when compared to crimes against property. (The most recent example being a one month custodial sentence for killing a pedestrian and injuring another on a signalised crossing – Straits Times, 13 Sep 2011, compared with 3 months for shoplifting goods, which were subsequently recovered – Straits Times, 15 Mar 2011 and 22 Aug 2011.) Stronger deterrents for dangerous driving would go some way toward making motorists pay more attention to other road users around them.

It is also important to remove the culture of blame that indicts cyclists when they do become involved in accidents. Bodies like the Singapore Safe Cycling Task Force have a role to play in educating inexperienced cyclists on how to ride a bike. But their ‘safe cycling’ workshops contribute to the perception that accidents are a result of “errant” cyclists, when in fact the reality is, cyclists have been shown to cause less than 10% of bike-car accidents. The Task Force has failed to engage with motorists / truck drivers in any meaningful way to change their behaviour, yet this is the largest group of people who have the power to make Singapore’s roads safer. Defensive cycling is all well and good, but it has to be fostered along with a culture of defensive driving. The standard of driver education in Singapore is, frankly, pathetic, and needs to be drastically improved. The attitude that “I am in a car, therefore I have right of way” is scarily common, as is speeding, mobile phone use, sudden lane changes, tailgating, unrestrained children, and a host of other dangerous behaviours. The LTA can fight fires by spending millions re-engineering “accident blackspots”, but surely teaching people to drive, and enforcing the law, is an easier solution. Much like teaching children not to play with matches in the first place. Denmark and the Netherlands have a “no blame” system for cyclists and pedestrians in the event of a collision with a car. Such a system, or variant thereof, should be implemented in Singapore.

Make it convenient. Besides building and linking PCNs, facilities need to provided for cyclists at their main destination: commercial buildings. The green building code should be amended such that buildings have to provide secure, sheltered bike parking less than 20m from the entrance, or preferably a secure cage in the basement carpark. It should also stipulate one shower at least every 2nd floor. These can easily be retrofitted in existing buildings, as was done in my workplace. Parking charges have been shown to be more effective than congestion charges in curtailing car numbers in city centres, and the converse is obvious – increase convenient cycle parking and amenities and a large increase in the numbers of cyclists will follow. Anecdotally, real estate agents in Portland report that it is increasingly hard to lease commercial space unless it has cycling facilities for a tenant’s employees.

SMRT should lift its restrictions on folding bikes on the MRT during peak hours, limiting them instead to the first or last carriage. These bikes fold up smaller than a suitcase, and are especially popular as they take up minimal apartment space. If you live and work within 2km of an MRT line, it should take no longer than 20 minutes total cycling time (at a relaxed pace) from home to your workplace. Bike parking at MRT stations and HDB blocks should also be improved, replacing the poorly designed ‘wheelbender’ bike racks, installing overhead shelter, and improving security (this does not mean more CCTV cameras).

Finally, a widespread public bike hire scheme should be introduced here, following Paris’ Velib model or Hangzhou’s bike hire scheme – currently the biggest in the world. Bikes need only be cheap, stable single speeds that can be hired with an EZlink card or credit card (for tourists), can carry advertising, and are to remain within Singapores’s borders with stiff penalties for smuggling them out. “Stations” would be placed outside all MRT stops and at every PCN, throughout the city and popular tourist areas, and along the new Rail Corridor.

Make it cool. There is one final hurdle to increasing ridership: The 5 Cs: Car, Condo, Cash, Country Club, Credit Card. Credit cards are the easiest to obtain, and thanks to cheap finance, the car is not far behind. Riding a bike is perhaps still seen in aspirational Asia as something only poor people do, but this perception will change when more young Singaporeans return from living abroad in cities where cycling is part of the everyday urban landscape. They will contrast that experience with trips to cities that are still being ‘eaten by cars’, such as Jakarta, Bangkok and Beijing, and decide for themselves which way they want their city to go. “Lifestyle” shops as Lifecycle, My Bike Shop and Vanguard Designs just to name just a few are catering to customers’ desires to integrate cycling into their lives. Albert Khoo has already embraced the bike, leaving the Porsche and Ferrari to rust in the garage.

So go on, what are you waiting for Singapore? The future is out there, and she’s riding a bike.

The author has been a regular cyclist for 22 years (out of 34), and owned one car in all that time. He’s commuted for over 15 years, but would not consider himself a “hardcore cyclist”, just a guy who mostly uses bikes to get around.

92 Responses to “Cycling must be a key part of Singapore’s future”

  1. 1 Gazebo 14 September 2011 at 18:01

    Of course cycling should be a key part of Singapore’s future. Any non self serving government would be able to see that. But here’s a thought why the government while putting on a pretense that they want to curb the use of cars, actually want to maintain a high car population. The reason is that cars fulfill a very important role in the way the government control the population. A car is not a transportation tool in singapore. Instead it is merely an aspirational object, similar to a piece of landed property.

    The car resides within the Singaporean psyche as a material object worthy of pursuit. The average Singaporean thus invests his life away, to fund the car and fulfill his life aspirations. He becomes materially satiated, and thus will not bother questioning the government. And with less questions on hand, the government can then continue their rule unchallenged.

    Think about it. if the government really wants to curb the use of cars, the COE is a really blunt and pointless tool. instead, the government should dramatically increase ERP charges, to really penalize and charge for actual road use. Yet the actual ERP charges are relatively low and irrelevant frankly, compared to the astronomical COE prices. The government wants to keep car prices high, to keep the population invested in material goods, so they will not dabble in higher causes.

    • 2 tk 15 September 2011 at 11:03

      hi gazebo, thanks for reading.

      actually, you could argue that Singapore is way ahead of the curve here with the COE concept:

      a car travelling at cruising speed takes up about a quarter of an acre, and drivers spend about 2 years of their life behind the wheel. when you think about what it would cost to “rent” a quarter acre block in singapore for 2 years, it comes to about $70-100,000.

      more info here:

    • 4 Anonymous 16 September 2011 at 00:28

      ERP merely divert traffic from one bottleneck to the next bottleneck. The bottom line is government wants to get more eggs without killing the geese.

    • 5 JJSK 22 November 2011 at 11:45

      Very good article – made me think. In the UK it is bikes that are the aspirational object. This was not the case a few years ago but it takes a critical mass of people to change things. Even the UK PM and London Mayor regularly cycle.

      I visited London recently and and was amazed at the number of cyclists on the street. On most main roads there are more cyclists than cars and it really brings the city alive.

      I suppose for every bike on the road there is one less car. I’m off to get a bike.

  2. 6 Anonymous 14 September 2011 at 18:29

    Quote: Any society looking to minimise its healthcare costs should be concentrating less on preventing the collisions that occur at 10-20 km/hr between 2 bodies of roughly equal mass, and more on those that occur at 50-80 km/hr between a 70 kg body and a 2 ton car or 5 ton truck. The immediate and ongoing damage is far more devastating.

    The author made a very rational argument. I often wonder why the government authority is not able to think rationally when making decisions such as banning cycling on pavements.

    • 7 Dr Scrum Master 14 September 2011 at 22:50

      Keep cyclists off pavements! If you want to travel on the pavement then get off and wheel your bike.

      For that matter, do something about getting motorcycles off pavements!

      • 8 Anonymous 15 September 2011 at 10:01

        There is nothing wrong to cycle on pavement as long as the cyclist does not speed, keep a proper lookout for pedestrians and slow down when one is encountered. These are basic rules which cyclists should adopt for safe sharing of pavement.

        Motorcyclists are a different breed that needs to be kept off pavement since their traveling speed and mass are double or triple that of cyclists.

      • 9 tk 15 September 2011 at 11:08

        dr scrum master – i’d encourage you to look at the link for Osaka in article, and do some more research. with a little practice, a bike can be stably ridden at walking pace, so it is easy to mix pedestrians and cyclists on one path.

        that’s why the bike is such a beautiful method of getting around – you can be slow enough to mix with pedestrians, cycling right up to your destination, and when the way is clear, move at the most efficient speed to get you to your next destination.

      • 10 dZus 15 September 2011 at 19:12

        I always ask folks who asked to get bicycles off pavements this question:

        Would you really prefer the cyclist in your estate, who more often then not, are old uncles or aunties and mothers with child/children riding pillion cycling on Singapore roads with the way most drivers here behave?

        Yes, collision between cyclists and pedestrians is a painful experience, but not as painful as it is for cyclists to have accidents with vehicles.

        The author is right, the solution must be more protection for cyclists and creation of more cycling lanes. Cyclists should not remain in this lose lose situation as it currently is.

      • 11 jem 16 September 2011 at 12:09

        The answer is, yes, I would prefer that. Cyclists aren’t supposed to be on pavements (except in tampines).

        Sure, accidents on the road may be more serious. That sucks. That is also not a good reason to transfer the potential accidents onto pedestrians, on pavements where cyclists aren’t supposed to be in the first place.

    • 12 jem 15 September 2011 at 11:38

      Any society looking to minimise its healthcare costs should be concentrating on preventing BOTH kinds of collisions. Just because automobile accidents are more serious, doesn’t mean cycling accidents can be ignored.

      Another issue is that bicycles aren’t supposed to be on pavements, so pedestrians don’t expect that they should be actively looking out for bikes coming their way.

      • 13 Dr Scrum Master 15 September 2011 at 23:17

        I’m not impressed by the flimsy argument that cyclists (Singaporeans) should keep clear of roads because of the car drivers (other Singaporeans). That says there is something very broken about the Singaporean mentality.

        Cycling is already illegal on pavements, except Tampines. But do cyclists ride “safely” even on pavements? No. They ride along straight at you, expecting you to get out of their way, then ring their bells as though they have right of way. Sorry, but when you ride straight at me or anywhere near my young children, you’re going to end up hitting my fist.

        The rules in Tampines are that cyclists must dismount to use a crossing. Given that the law is flouted elsewhere in Singapore it comes as no surprise that it is flouted in Tampines.

        (BTW, I’ve been a cyclist for many decades.)

      • 14 Anonymous 16 September 2011 at 00:30

        Unfortunately, accidents btw cyclists and pedestrians may not be minor either.

        Really depends on all parties involved to be considerate to other road or pavement users.

        Old lady walking along the pavement accidentally hit by kid cyclist going too fast and not keeping proper lookout can cause the old lady to lose the use of her legs.

        True story. Happened to my late relative.

        And it is common knowledge how once older folk break their hips will most often result in loss of quality of life and will to live, resulting in high possibility of mortality within a few quick years.

      • 15 Anonymous 16 September 2011 at 10:33

        @ dr scrum master

        You must be referring to the rude cyclists. Yes, they should be educated and penalized. But not at the expense of many other considerate cyclists. The broken Singaporean mentality appears to be yours. Punching others who think they have the right of the way does not make you right.

  3. 16 Leslie 14 September 2011 at 20:14

    Tan Gu Gu. They won’t spend more money to build cycling paths so to take away the riderships from public transport like our world class MRT & buses (tsk tsk.) No way, no hell. Is all dollars and cents with this government.

  4. 18 Laremy 14 September 2011 at 20:22

    Hi Alex and tk,

    Thanks for the essay. The both of you may be interested in this link:

    If cycling is to become a key part of S’pore’s future, we definitely need to start by embedding certain values in our culture and mindsets.

    • 19 tk 15 September 2011 at 11:14

      thanks for the link Laremy.

      that’s another reason why Singapore is so suited to cycling – the abundance of nearby wetmarkets and provision stores mean you can do small shops for fresh food every couple of days (stopping for example on the way home from work), instead of large shops once a week.

  5. 20 AllyL 14 September 2011 at 23:11

    Some rules apply to cyclists and these should be enforced. For example, putting on their helmets should be mandatory. Secondly, cyclists should be walking their bikes when they are on pavements or when using over head bridges. Thirdly, cyclists should adhere to traffic rules when they are on the road just like any other motorist; so they should be stopping at red light and signaling their intentions (making right/left turns) or coming to a full stop at stop signs. They should be issued tickets by traffic police if they are spotted flouting these rules. The above are basic regulations that should be well-enforced by the traffic police to increase cyclists’ safety on the roads. If they choose to be a rider on the road and then a pedestrian the next second, they should be following rules which apply to either road user. So no riding where there are walkers and no sudden crossing of road at the last minute on their bikes.

    Buses should accommodate cyclists as well, not just trains. But I can imagine the logistics nightmare associated with that in such a crowded city.

    Individually and collectively, cyclists should demand their voices be heard. Write or talk to their representatives to pressure them to open up more bike lanes. Some of the active bike shops should hold lessons and workshops to teach safety and responsibilities on being a safe rider. There should be a whole unit on road safety for would-be drivers studying driving theory with regards to safe driving when encountering cyclists, such as slowing down when passing and giving way to them. Emphasize road sharing.

    • 21 tk 15 September 2011 at 11:24

      thanks for the comment AllyL .

      i deliberately didn’t raise the dreaded “helmet debate” as the science and statistics are still truly a murky field. (unlike for example climate change where 99% of climate scientists are in agreement that; it is happening, and it is being caused by humans.) i do think that conditions should dictate your choice of headwear, and singaporean cyclists are mature enough to make up their own minds. it is clear though that separate cycling infrastructure is the most effective way to reduce injuries and at the same time encourage more people to cycle. unfortunately, after australia introduced mandatory helmet laws, participation rates dropped significantly.

      i agree the traffic police should be issuing more tickets, but they’ll meet their quotas a lot more readily by targeting poor driving than poor riding.

    • 22 Drivercumcyclist 15 September 2011 at 13:01

      Hey Allyl, it’s easier said than done. Bicycle shops’ primary role are to sell bicycles and make profit. You want them to hold lessons?? So should the cyclists/students be paying for the lessons & talks??

      Drivers pay to take driving lessons and pass driving tests while anyone can hop onto a bicycle into the busy streets of Singapore. My wife could not even pass her basic theory test on 3 tries and you expect the uncles, aunties and foreign workers to know about our traffic rules??

      I cycle and race as well. When I’m out training, I try to cycle non-stop if possible – that’s what training is for. It’s like long distance running, you don’t expect a runner to stop eg. at every traffic light. And if you want cyclists to adhere to traffic rules on the road like other motorists, you will also need to MAKE all motorists take us as one of them too! The last time I told a driver who side swiped me that he should keep a 1.5m distance while overtaking, I was greeted with a rude “middle finger”!

      In view of all these complications and arguments leading to no end (with no Government intervention), we thus, should just mind our own business and continue to do what we have been doing all these while and take care of ourselves being motorist while I am driving or as cyclist while I’m on my bicycle.

      Further to this, a proper cycling helmet cost more than a “foreign worker” cheap mountain bicycle. You won’t want to know how much does the rest of the safety gadgets will add up to. Do you expect these other group of “cyclists” to purchase them?

      We have to admit even if it’s an ugly truth, that we do not live in a gracious society, here in Singapore. The balance between cyclists, motorists & pedestrians will never be achieved.

      • 23 twasher 15 September 2011 at 21:16

        I see no reason to be defeatist. Many of the cities that are now cycling-friendly had to work hard to reverse trends of motorists being favoured over cyclists. NYC motorists are some of the worst in the world. Even in the Netherlands, possibly the most bike-friendly nation in the world, the pro-cycling movement was started only in the 1970s as a concerted effort to reduce the rapidly increasing reliance onc ars. The fact is that policies can change behaviour. The problem is that I don’t perceive any significant political will to implement such policies.

        Social habits take a long time to change but there is no reason why we shouldn’t start now. Change did not come overnight in the Netherlands either.

    • 24 JJSK 22 November 2011 at 11:53

      A funny thing happened to my friend a couple of years ago. He was cycling on Orchard Road with a few friends when a police man stopped them. He ordered them to cycle on the pavement otherwise they would be arrested. My friend pointed out that cycling on the pavement was illegal but the policeman said if they carried on cycling on the road then he would call for back-up and have them all arrested. They continued on the pavement.

  6. 25 Francis 15 September 2011 at 06:15

    Excellent article! TK, You have put up a comprehensive plan and solid argument to the future of cycling in Singapore. I hope more people will read this and start to think about why making cycling easier is beneficial to all, not just for cyclist. I would like to have your permission re-post your article in our blogs. , and please let me know if that is ok.

    • 26 tk 15 September 2011 at 11:00

      sure Francis, go ahead, and thanks for the kind words. hopefully will heed the call to start engaging the traffic police and motorists – the ones with the real power to implement change.

      • 27 Francis 16 September 2011 at 00:43

        Thanks tk. it’s done!

        As a member of SCTF I need to clarify that we are working with TP and motorist. At the same time, I admit that our resources is limited being supported by pure volunteers. Yes, we can do more and we should be doing more.

  7. 28 Dan 15 September 2011 at 09:07

    In other major Asian cities, the pavements are much wider than ours, to cater to pedestrains and cyclists. It is a simple solution to the increasing cyclists (liesure/commuting/foreign workers) presence. Our terrain is generally flat and commuting distances are quite short, cycling is a very good option. However, the gut feel is that the interest is not a revenue generating business and with sky high COEs, the consensus is still, the car is king. It is very pleasing to witness the biking culture, not just in European countries, but Asian cities as well. I think we still have a long way to go.

  8. 29 Wallace 15 September 2011 at 10:02

    Hate to be cynical but perhaps the reasons for the government not advocating cycling is because they get a large chunk of money from COE, ERP and also taxes from the sales of cars and petrol, profits from car park companies, parking and speeding fines etc.

    • 30 tk 16 September 2011 at 14:34

      That’s a common sentiment here Wallace, and obviously I’m in no position to say what the government’s “real” position here is. But, if they really were just interested in collecting revenue, speeding fines would be much higher and more frequently given (as they are in Australia for example) and parking fees and fines would also be much higher. It astounds me how cheap it is to park here, and how little the penalties are for flouting parking restrictions.

  9. 31 serendib 15 September 2011 at 10:20

    “but as evidenced by the attitude of senior civil servants (“Driving home a vital safety message”, Straits Times, 30 Nov 2010), the 1.5m gap is treated as ‘optional’ by motorists and the authorities.”
    That flippant comment was not made by a civil servant, but rather an MP (who of course made another flippant comment a few months ago):

    Click to access ST3020.pdf

    • 32 twasher 15 September 2011 at 21:13

      Wow, that is in some ways even more moronic than his ministers’ salaries comment. So congestion gives motorists the right to endanger the lives’ of others?

      What’s the point of having a law in the Highway Code that is neither enforced nor obeyed? Has anyone heard of anyone getting charged for violating it?

    • 33 tk 16 September 2011 at 14:37

      thanks serendib for the clarification.

  10. 34 Kang Swee 15 September 2011 at 10:21

    The writer glaringly misses out on an essential segment of whole ecosystem for cycling.

    The Legislation.

    The current state of laws in Singapore is such that as a motorist, you can pretty much get away with blatant manslaughter with 4 wheels without too much more than a mild fine and maybe a few months jail maximum. Period. A sad example would be that of a university student who was knocked down and killed by a drunk uniformed service personnel some years ago. But that guilty party didn’t get anything more severe than a driving ban and a fine! Obviously if you killed someone outside of driving in a drunk stupor you would be charged with manslaughter or even homicide which entails a very different set of consequences.

    This is really the crux of the poor attitude of motorists towards both cyclists and pedestrians alike. If there are no “dire enough” consequences for misdemeanor on 4 wheels on the road, such attitudes of nonchalance and disdain towards ‘lesser’ users of the road will never change.

    • 35 tk 16 September 2011 at 14:41

      Hi Kang See,

      I did point out that motorists who kill or maim other road users often receive very little or no jail time. Motorists in other countries routinely receive sentences of 1-10 years for killing people depending on the circumtances.

      • 36 Jason K 26 January 2012 at 20:13

        I agree. In Holland if a driver hits a pedestrian or a cyclist the burden off proof is on the driver to prove their innocence. The reasoning is that the car is a lethal weapon and if there is a scene where one person is dead and the other is in possession of the weapon, it is usually the person with the lethal weapon who committed the crime.

  11. 37 Xenobio 15 September 2011 at 10:32

    Excellent article, thanks for writing this. The last point on “make it cool” is something that I have been thinking of for a while but isn’t raised much in promoting cycling. There is a kind of stigma that cycling is for poor people and old Ah Peks. I believe this is one reason that cycling has died out among the middle class since our parents’ generation, and has not been embraced by the upper class aside from the few “Lycra” fanatics. Whereas in other parts of the world people realise a $10,000 bike is as much a status symbol as a $500,000 car…

    I think one thing that could be done to improve all road users – pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists – awareness of the rights and responsibilities of cyclists would be to educate all children from an early age. Someone I knew who grew up in in Germany said that she and her classmates had to take a course on cycling in primary school (dunno whether this is throughout Germany or just her school). I was happy to see an article in the Straits Times a while ago about a cycling workshop at some primary school, but it should be implemented consistently and islandwide.

    Agree with AllyL on bikers must wear helmets and adhere to traffic rules. But, you say carrying bikes on buses would be a “logistics nightmare”? You don’t put the bikes inside the buses lah. Install bike racks onto the front of buses. Very common in the USA and I can’t imagine that they would be terribly expensive. Here’s an example from the city where I studied

    • 38 tk 16 September 2011 at 14:46

      I remember doing a cycling course during my primary school years. It planted a seed that’s been sprouting ever since!

      I never said anything about ‘logistics nightmare’, where did you read that?

      Bike racks on the front of buses have also been used in Brisbane, but honestly I don’t think it’s been very successful. No harm in trying though, right?

      I’m glad you mentioned that you studied in Madison, how did you find the cycling culture there?

  12. 39 Sean 15 September 2011 at 11:10

    as a driver, my beef with cyclists is that they’re on BOTH the pavement AND the roads. if it’s illegal to ride on the pavements, then go on the roads, & as a driver i’ll stay clear of them on the roads. but i shouldn’t have to give way to cyclists on the roads as a driver, AND still have to give way to them as a pedestrian on the pavement. it’s like suddenly all cyclists are more important than anybody else?! sheesh.

    • 40 twasher 15 September 2011 at 21:06

      This is a strange beef. There’s a group of cyclists that are brave enough to ride on the roads, and another group that isn’t, and thus rides on the pavement. It’s not the fault of any particular road cyclist that other cyclists that choose to ride on the sidewalk. So there is no reason to direct your anger at road cyclists. I agree that it is not a good thing that cyclists are on sidewalks, but this situation WILL continue so long as there are no adequate bike paths and the roads remain this dangerous. When I commuted by bicycle in Singapore, I used the roads only, but I had enough close shaves that I can understand why people use the sidewalks. It is not going to be possible to eradicate cyclists from sidewalks until adequate infrastructure is provided.

      You should also stand up for your rights. You DO NOT have to give way to cyclists on the sidewalks. It’s illegal for them to be there, and they are endangering pedestrians with their presence. Next time, just stand your ground.

      • 41 Sean 16 September 2011 at 12:54

        it’s funny you mention that i had reason to direct my anger at road cyclists, when i’d specifically said that i’d give way to cyclists on roads. i repeat: i just shouldn’t have to give way to cyclists on the roads AND then give way to them again when on the pavement. & yes, i’m starting to stand my ground as a pedestrian. my point is: again, this is the work of our schizophrenic government that can’t decide what it wants to do. if it wants the cyclists on the roads then do enough to make sure they can ride safely on the roads, & make sure the rules to not have them on pavements are properly enforced. but now we have a half-baked cake where cyclists just flout the rules left, right, & center, with no consequences. one moment they are alongside you on the roads, next moment when they hit the traffic lights they ride alongside pedestrians…. it’s not surprisingly that any anger is directed at them at all, because that’s opportunistic behavior.

    • 42 Z. 16 September 2011 at 11:11

      So the solution is:

      Build Cycling roads, so you won’t have to encounter them everywhere, or way less often 😉

      • 43 tk 16 September 2011 at 14:49

        Sorry Sean, as I’ve said before, the beauty of a bike is that you can be slow enough to safely mix with pedestrians, and fast enough to get where you’re going on the roads. Why does it annoy you that cyclists cross the road on ped crossings after passing you in your car on the road? It makes no difference to you, you’re going to be stuck in your car at the red light regardless of what the bike is doing.

    • 44 Anonymous 17 September 2011 at 19:42

      There is no need to give way to cyclist as a pedestrian. As a cyclist, I will not ring my bell on pedestrians. As a pedestrian, I will not give way to cyclist who persistently ring the bell from behind me.

      • 45 Anonymous 29 September 2011 at 14:20

        I often encounter aunties cycling on pedestrian pathways going to market or ferrying their kids to school. Usually they will ring their bells from behind me, to me, this is just a gesture to caution the pedestrian walking in front. So I will usually move to the side to let the cyclist past by. The act itself not does not really slow down my walking by a lot.
        Similarly if I cycle on road and notice that I am slowing down the traffic of buses or cars behind me, this is usually due to the fact that some singapore roads are really narrow, I will stop at the side of the road to let the faster moving traffic pass me by before continuing. This act does not slow down my cycling by a lot also. But if I insist on my equal right to be on the road as the other motorists by refusing to give way, I am just inconveniencing other road users.

      • 46 Jason K 26 January 2012 at 20:21

        I never ask pedestrians to give way to me when I bike on the pavement and don’t have a bell. I just go around them when safe to do so – even if it means cycling on the grass and it is never an issue and this strategy has only ever delayed me by 30 seconds at most. Most pedestrians are really polite and sense I’m behind them after a few moments and politely move to one side. I just wish car drivers would be as patient when I’m on the road!

  13. 47 Paradox 15 September 2011 at 12:16

    Before long, I believe THEY will implement road tax for cyclists. Lol

  14. 48 Rabbit 15 September 2011 at 12:18

    Frankly, I wouldn’t mind having trishaw back to Singapore landscape in full force again. I don’t mind taking trishaw from Toa Payoh to Shenton Way office. It is a form of income for the retired who enjoy cycling. I want my mom to enjoy trishaw ride to the wet market few streets away from her home instead of using heavily packed bus feeder service that has never been punctual and arrived full of engine smokes.

    For the young and energetic, cycling is the option to keep them fit and healthy and they can save on hundred of dollars of monthly tranport money. Singapore will have less pollution, save energy and less transport maintenance to worry about, afterall we are living in a small island.

  15. 49 Penetrated 15 September 2011 at 12:22

    First, the goverment will re-start the cycle registration, then it will introduce a road tax if cycling paths are added to the roads. And finally if cyling really picks up we will have COE for cycles as well.

    • 50 tk 16 September 2011 at 14:51

      Bike licensing has never worked, anywhere. It’s just too expensive to run.

      • 51 JJSK 22 November 2011 at 12:02

        They considered bike licensing in the UK too but scrapped the idea as they are wanting to encourage cycling and nudge people onto bikes -not discourage people.

  16. 52 tk 15 September 2011 at 12:22

    As a post-script to the article, the Guardian reports that New York is about to implement a bike hire scheme with 10,000 bikes, and that my reporting of New York’s bike lanes was woefully inadequate. In fact, New York is aiming to add 1,800 miles of bike lanes by 2030.

    • 53 Francis 16 September 2011 at 01:14

      I think bike sharing system is the missing “last mile” solution for the public transportation here. In order to increase the ridership of train and bus, it is necessary to create something more attractive and convenient than driving. Waiting for shuttle bus is not good enough.

      Stand alone, PT and bicycle cannot compare with the flexibility and speed of car. But a combined system of PT (for long distance) and share bicycle (for short distance) become more compelling.

      Because of this, I have been working on a low cost bike sharing system. I hope it will help to make cycling an easier choice for Singaporean.

  17. 54 crackersinsing 15 September 2011 at 12:46

    What a great article. Well-thought out, well-written and full of constructive and useful ideas. I am a Singapore motorist and wannabe cyclist – I would definitely go out more on my bike if it were safer. I hope this message gets through to the people who need to read it – the authorities (who can set up more cycling lanes and maybe police our roads a bit better) and the motorists (those who are guilty of dangerous or thoughtless driving). An excellent article.

  18. 55 ExExpat 15 September 2011 at 14:10

    Hi TK – very nice article and you speak what I think…

    The only fact I would add is that quite a large population of Singapore cyclists are from the foreign worker part – both the crazy ang mohs who cycle to work to change to their white collar, as well as the blue collar foreign talent, such as construction workers etc, which very often drive on the wrong side of the road, without light. Those once really annoy me recently, especially as they are extremely frequent in some areas.. and I usually stop them and tell them to change the side, they are a real danger for other cyclists and anyone else. I agree with you, the police is not very visible in enforcing rules in our country…

    I am somehow unclear about whether or not cycles are considered really vehicle and have the same rights as cars. The legislation does not give me this clue, could you post where you find this?

    Recently, I stopped again cab drivers that cut my priority and almost hit me. All of those individuals insist the car has the right of way in Singapore, and I have nothing much to revert other than that I believe otherwise…

    Another tip I like to give – a helmet camera is a wonderful toy, it an investment of about 200 $ and everything around you gets recorded.

    Strangely, no one took my priority since I have this toy…

    Cheers ExExpat

  19. 56 Saycheese 15 September 2011 at 14:31

    No COE, no road tax, no fuel tax, no revenues for insurance companies, less riders on the MRT, buses and taxis equal no contribution to GDP or the ministers’ bonus, so its a no brainer why the transport minister is not going to waste money building cycling tracks for the plebs and bangla workers. Until they have figured out a way to tax mileage or usage of the bicycles, cyclists will always be the pariahs. Remember, they were not voted in to work for you suckers, but to protect and enhance their interests.

  20. 57 Anders 15 September 2011 at 14:35

    “The attitude that “I am in a car, therefore I have right of way” is scarily common, as is speeding, mobile phone use, sudden lane changes, tailgating, unrestrained children, and a host of other dangerous behaviours.”

    Agree wholeheartedly. Traffic rules are commonly and openly flouted, costing a life every second day according to statistics. Yet, almost nothing is done in educating drivers or enforcing traffic rules, but still a lot of bragging about being a “safe” city.

  21. 58 James 15 September 2011 at 15:04

    The author has owned a car since he was 12?

    • 59 tk 16 September 2011 at 14:55

      Sorry for the misconception James. I had a car from 18 (mandatory rite of passage for suburban Australians) until about 23, when I was living in the city and discovered a car was just an expensive waste of space.

  22. 60 Victor Teo 15 September 2011 at 16:30

    Re Gazebo’s post. Totally agree.

    Keeping the vast majority of Singaporeans’ noses to the grindstone does have its uses for the government. These Singaporeans are not so much kept compliant as much as kept at the lower base of Maslow’s pyramid, keeping us stunted, undeveloped & unable to participate to the fullest extent a citizen can, in the life of Singapore.

    In the meantime, those Singaporeans doing well (no noses to the grindstone) are co-opted and/or have too much material comforts to lose in trying to speak up for other Singaporeans.

    Its the PAP’s Complete Solution in monopolising politics in Singapore.

    • 61 Gazebo 15 September 2011 at 19:43

      exactly. the PAP’s strategy in population control is to as you rightly put it, press every citizen’s nose to the grindstone. they do it by promoting materialism first and foremost. secondly, they remove every last bit of the social safety net by promoting “family values”. lastly, they introduce constant fear by constantly painting doomsday scenarios, and bringing in competition for jobs.

      cycling is difficult to take off in my humble opinion, because the Singaporean society is so fixated with the idea of material comforts. even if cycling is actually the more feasible (and even comfortable!) manner of transportation, the average singaporean is so materialistic, he would regard it as “low class”. for the same reason, something as logical and practical as car sharing or car pooling, has never taken off in Singapore.

      we need to raise the social consciousness of Singaporeans, and elevate them above materialism. we need to do this before any change can take place. I do not profess to know how, but materialism is a necessary evil that must be rooted out.

      • 62 Jason K 26 January 2012 at 20:32

        Cycling might make our National Servicemen fitter and stronger too so that they can give their maids a break. And I suppose we would not have to send them to help out coalition troops in Afghanistan/Iraq if we did not need so much of the Black Gold to power our cars. We could become a Carbohydrate economy instead of a Hydro-Carbon one!

  23. 63 Darren 15 September 2011 at 16:47

    Brillant, should make it to ST printed edition or even Parliament!

  24. 65 Steven Fleming (@BehoovingMoving) 15 September 2011 at 21:07

    Thanks for mentioning my concept of cycle-space, and for a great article, on a great on-line forum for Singapore. I was an HDB architect from 1993-1995, and came to the view that some very cynical discussions must go on behind closed doors in the PAP. They are Plato’s philosopher kings, benevolent dictators, controlling public opinion through the media, BUT—as Plato concluded—such a government is often better then the mob rule of pure democracy, so long as its leaders are wise philosophers. This leads us to ask: is the PAP’s stranglehold on cycling planned, or an oversight? When I lived there, I would sometimes go for a 3am ride. You can cross the whole island, in less time than a bus takes to go the length of Orchard road. If every Singaporean tried this, they would cry out for the free mobility their small flat island naturally offers. But the PAP make a fortune renting retail space near MRT stations, that users are funnelled through, and forced to buy buy buy. The government also makes a lot of revenue from motorists. By freeing up cycling, they would lose revenue, and not even gain on the healthcare front, because public hospitals are ran on the cheap (I know, my wife was a nurse there.) But let’s say they’re reading, and the stranglehold on cycling is an innocent oversight. In that case, they have the resources, and control over thought and human behaviour, to create the world’s best cycling city, in record time. This would bide well on Singapore in the eyes of the international community, and attract high caliber people to work there.
    If you will pardon the plug, my forthcoming book Cycle-Space has a section on Singapore, and the infrastructure they could achieve. In the meantime, my blog makes okay reading as well:
    Congratulations tk, for a comprehensive discussion of something of great importance to Singapore’s future.

    • 66 Jason K 26 January 2012 at 20:51

      Bikes are a cool and hip way to get around and Louisville in the USA has made a determined effort to become bike friendly because the Mayor realised early on that to attract those innovative who will power the economy for decades to come they needed those young creative people who cycle. Singapore has to compete with other cities around the world and people want a quality of life with busy “people filled” streets that have a buzz about them. So many of my friends here cannot wait to move away from here. Maybe our young would stay here if Singapore had the buzz of London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen or New York and our PM would not have to make trips abroad to beg them to come back.

  25. 67 Alon Levy 15 September 2011 at 22:04

    The shortage of land in Singapore is really overstated. Somehow, with all this density and lack of space, Singapore managed to find space for expressways, or other roads that are absurdly wide like Bukit Timah.

    In reality, New York is 50% denser, and is finding room for bike lanes even in Manhattan (some would say only in Manhattan). Paris is 3.5 times denser than Singapore, and has extensive bike lanes and a citywide bike share system.

    It’s not land, it’s willpower. Singapore’s the kind of city where, in response to huge pedestrian volumes at Orchard/Paterson, they built an underpass and gave the intersection away to cars. (In Tokyo there would be a scramble crossing instead.)

    • 68 tk 16 September 2011 at 15:01

      Spot on Alan Levy. I find myself at Orchard Rd about once every 6 months, and it amazes me every time that what could be such a beautiful boulevard has been divided by 5 lanes of traffic, especially when both sides of the strip are served by road access from the rear. Crazy.

    • 69 Jason K 26 January 2012 at 21:03

      I agree. It is crazy how the car is king here. The amount of time I waste waiting (usually with a big crowd of others) at crossings in the heat waiting for the man to turn green is criminal. Surely it should be the cars with their lone air conned drivers that should have to wait for the poor people boiling in the sun to cross. City planners in the West give more priority to pedestrians so they do not have to wait for so long and this encourages more people to walk and nudges them away from their cars. The added benefit is that the more drivers have to wait at lights, the more likely they are to take public transport or other greener ways of getting about.

  26. 70 Eric F. 16 September 2011 at 02:30

    Well said. I lived in Singapore and used a bike recreationally for most of the time I was there. I was lucky enough to live near East Coast Park and took my big comfy beach cruiser out for rides on weekends and midnight rides. I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to ride at night in Singapore. Yes, it’s still humid and you will get sweaty if you exert yourself, but the breeze is often nice and it’s quite relaxing to go for a ride and then hit up a coffee shop for a roti john and iced Milo. Makes me wistful just thinking about it. It’s true that the infrastructure and mental approach to cycling both need help. Your post does a great job of laying out the way it is now and what things could be done to improve the cycling situation in this great place.

  27. 71 nihaoma 16 September 2011 at 02:56

    I would love to cycle but the problem with tampines is that there are too much bicycle thiefs here. Put a brand new bike or a bike with suspension outside and parts of the bicycle will be ripped off within days. Bikes takes too much space in the house for most singaporeans as most of us are hdb dwellers.

    Because of this, I will only dare to park my bike at mrt station or places where there are cameras.

    • 72 Francis 18 September 2011 at 07:35

      nihaoma, try using a foldable bike!
      I got 3 bikes stolen before I chanced upon the idea of a folding bike. After some practice I am now using it everywhere. It is the most versatile mobility tool for me. I can ride the whole journey, combine with train, bus or texi. I can also wheel it into restaurant or shopping mall or even super market. It doesn’t take up much room at home or in the office. Most of all, it never get stolen because I never need to lock it outside. I have been using a folding bike in Singapore since 2004. More about the story here :

  28. 73 Swiss 16 September 2011 at 04:30

    Wait, we need to install ERP cashcard reader on each and every bicycle. Who is going to undertake this? MBT has retired.

  29. 74 Arno 16 September 2011 at 09:35

    What a great article , absolutely brillant , just right and correct on any single point. I can’t believe what I just read. Yeah a publication in the ST is the next step. Hat’s off

  30. 75 wong james 16 September 2011 at 09:49

    In Germany, a scene i cannot forget; my friend’s kid (about 8 years old) waited for his two friends in the neighbourhood on his bike. They came on their bikes and rode together to their school which is about 2km away, smiling and waving goodbye and chatting with one another.
    Can this happen in singapore in the near future ?
    (speed limits in many german towns and near schools is 30kph, and the police is always round the corner to book those who exceed the limit.)
    Outside my home, I have to contend with one Ferrari and one Maserati doing their daily sprint and waking the whole neighbourhood. Any kid on a bicycle will not have a chance if an accident happens. It does not matter who has the right of way.

    • 76 The 21 September 2011 at 15:06

      /// Can this happen in singapore in the near future ? ///

      Why not? In fact, it happened decades ago. 45 years ago, I was cycling daily to my primary school a few km away from home.

    • 77 JJSK 22 November 2011 at 12:14

      There is a big debate in the UK at the t moment as the government wants to limit the speed in built up areas to 20mph. I read the other day about a small girl in Singapore killed when a guy was doing about 86kph. The girl would probably be alive if there was a sensible speed limit as the driver would have been able to stop in time. Just crazy speeds here.

  31. 78 Tokyobike Singapore 18 September 2011 at 02:38

    Nicely written.

    And totally agree with you on “The more cyclists out there, the less statistically likely it is you that will be hit.” & “(having) More cyclists out there.. increases drivers’ awareness of their presence on the roads.”

    Thank you for the article.

    ~ keep riding

  32. 79 Dennis 21 September 2011 at 17:55

    I drive to work. I am also a recreational cyclist who rides on the road very regularly as a form of exercise. First I would like to congratulate tk on his excellent article.

    I also agree with AllyL’s comments. I do not think that cyclists should use pavements. It is actually too dangerous. Pavements are too narrow for bikes and pedestrians to co-use safely. Even on park connectors, it is often pretty dangerous as there are no rules on who is stay on right or left etc. It is not practical to use say road bikes and triathlon bikes on pavements due to speed of travel, the need to go up and down pavements which are higher than road surfaces, and the narrowness of pavements. In general, I think bikes belong to the road because of the practical speeds in which most bikes can be used (say at least 20-35 km/h).

    The problem with our bike culture is simply the lack of public education and the lack of enforcement of current laws. We have heard of public education for use of bikes and bike safety issues but as a cyclist myself, I can see that it is clearly insufficient. How many Singaporeans know of what the law says about use of bikes?

    The authorities should start off with public education in the schools with children of say 10 years old onwards. This should be mixed with upgraded practical classes in the road safety park at East Coast.

    There should be a special chapter in the basic highway code assessment for motorists about the rights of cyclists on the roads, their obligations and also the obligations of cyclists on the road. Motorists should be educated and reminded of the rights and obligations of cyclists. Cyclists who want to use the roads should also be required to pass the test to attend the course since they need to understand the same rules as their fellow road users.

    Education without enforcement is insufficient. We should punish the cyclists who do not obey traffic lights, go against traffic or fail to observe other rules. If cyclists want motorists to respect their use of the roads, they must show that they do comply with the highway code themselves. Respect must be mutually earned. I blame the current state of affairs on the police.

    I have been observing the excuses given by our police over the last 10 years for not actively enforcing laws against cyclists. They have repeatedly claimed that they cannot enforce the law due to lack of resources. They said this even before the influx of foreign workers (I estimated the influx to be from the mid 2000 onwards) when the problematic cyclists were mostly old people. With the huge number of foreign workers in Singapore and with a lot of them using bicycles now, the problems have got much worse. There is no enforcement at all and there are many ignorant or inconsiderate cyclists who use the roads or pavement to the consternation of other road users and tarnish the reputation of fellow cyclists. The problem is: this in turn encourages the drivers not to respect the cyclists’ right to share the roads. The motorists have therefore become less careful or considerate towards cyclists. It has become a vicious cycle and an unsatisfactory state of affairs. Until the police and the LTA make a better effort, the present state of affairs will continue.

  33. 80 Anonymous 22 September 2011 at 09:33

    Driver,Pedestrain or cyclist, we can argue till the cows come home who is right and who has right of way. the simple answer is, everybody.

    the problem is very simple, the ME mentality. No matter if you are a driver, pedestrain or cyclist, as long as you have the ME mentality, you are in the right and noone else has the right to cause you inconvenience.

    I’m all 3.

    • 81 Anonymous 27 September 2011 at 10:52

      I do not mind cyclists on busy roads at peak morning and evening hours if they are riding to and from work. What annoys me is to see horde of leisure cyclists in their fully- geared- up- fancy attire on roads at peak morning and evening hours competing for road space with cars. You can see this often along Upper Thomson Road.

      I had an unpleasant experience of sitting in car on a winding and extremely narrow uphill road at the Pasir Panjang area at about 9.00 am. The bus in front of my car was crawling at snail pace because there is a leisure cyclist in front of the bus. The bus could not overtake the cyclist because the road is too narrow. The driver of the car I am in honk a few times. The cyclist decided to stop at the side of the road and let the bus overtook it. As a result, both the bus and the car I am in were able to move faster. When my car stopped at the traffic light, the cyclist managed to catch up and stop next to the car on the side of the driver. He made a sign to want to talk to the driver. The driver lowered the glass window and in short, the point the cyclist wanted to make to the driver is that it is wrong, rude and inconsiderate for the driver to honk because the cyclist has as much right of way on the road as the car driver and the driver must learn patience on the road and wait for him.

      I think the traffic police should banned cyclist on very narrow roads during peak morning and evening hours because it just need one cyclist to cause a traffic jam behind him.

      • 82 Anonymous 16 February 2012 at 01:23

        Right why should drivers have to waste their time waiting for cyclists when the time can be much better spent waiting at red lights,

  34. 83 Anonymous 24 September 2011 at 12:56

    Well thought and written article that highlighted the dilemma of local bike scene. If you ever need a petition, count me in!

  35. 84 Heng Wangxing 27 September 2011 at 20:19

    I live in Tampines and I cycle to work in Raffles Place from time to time. A few points I have to share:-

    1. Mornings are cool, but after about 40 minutes of cycling, most people will sweat quite a bit. Lack of shower facilities will put off most people thinking of cycling to work.

    2. I have had my share of close shaves not because there are no proper designated lanes for bicycles. For example, motorists exiting ECP carparks without checking for incoming cyclists (because they were not looking out for them, or perhaps they are too small to be seen in a single glance). Other related close shaves were also because motorists were careless. The cyclist is inherently vulnerable and this is a fact that cannot be changed. The consequences of a crash puts many off as it is too great a risk to leave to chance.

    3. Most of the population right now don’t think so much about their level of physical fitness. Riding is a hassle compared to taking the public transport. Consider a worker going to work at 8am : Changing into work clothes-walking to the train station-walking from train station to workplace is more appealing compared to changing to cycling attire-riding through harrowing traffic at 8am-arrive at workplace needing to find space to stow bicycle away-showering/cleaning up-changing into work clothes…you get the drift

    4. After a long day at work, cycling back to Tampines from Raffles Place is far more tiring compared to taking the train.

    5. Rain. Once it rains, cycling on a road bike becomes truly hazardous. You can’t really safely brake in emergencies if you are going faster than 20kmph: you will skid and lose control of your bike. And the speed of a road bike is really what makes cycling to work from Tampines viable. For much of the past week, it has been raining in the early mornings. Riding through rain is unpleasant and riding on wet roads is not much better.

    Hope this is helpful.

    • 86 Jason K 26 January 2012 at 21:15

      I have been cycling to work in Singapore for about 18 months now on average about 4 times a week. I usually set off for work at 8:30am-ish and return at 6:30pm-ish and have only been caught in heavy rain once and light rain once as well. It was actually lovely as I had never been caught in warm tropical rain before. I did not die, become ill, slip, get hit by a car or electrocuted by lightening. Surprisingly I found out that skin is pretty water-proof. The only time I was uncomfortable was when I had to put on my damp gear at going home time!

  36. 87 Victor Soh 6 October 2011 at 10:39

    A very good article indeed! I have a foldable bike and I cycle to work once a week. It has definitely made a big improvement to my health. Could you write something on bike thefts? I had one of my bike stolen and it was a very painful experience. I know of many friends who have had their bikes stolen. It seems like a very common problem but it’s hardly mentioned by the police or the media.

  37. 88 slimlim 2 November 2011 at 09:34

    Hey tk,

    Thanks for raising these points. I agree especially with that point about making it cool. Cycling doesn’t have the coolest rep in Singapore and it’s such a shame because the city has so much potential to become the next chic cycling city especially since we have so many fashionable people here.

    It’s not about expensive clothes or bikes, it’s all about how you carry yourself and the attitude. Blogs like Cycle Chic and Velo Vogue have got it right but let’s start our own cool cycle movement!

    I’ve started my blog to do my part and show everyone that it is possible. Not much local stuff on it now but hopefully that will change soon. Hope you guys will check it out and give some support and tell me what you think 🙂

  38. 89 Jason K 19 December 2011 at 21:32

    This is the best article on cycling I have possibly ever read – and I read a lot of cycling articles. And who would have thought it would come from Singapore! Keep up the excellent work.

  39. 90 tOM Trottier 18 July 2012 at 05:55

    Great article. One thing I would add: If you bike to work and find yourself sweaty, give yourself a “sponge bath” when you arrive and change. A soaked microfibre cloth is ideal for this. This will both clean you and cool you down. Bathrooms for the disabled are ideal – nice and big.

  40. 91 Anon He4B 29 August 2012 at 09:47

    Why is there double standards?

    We shouldn’t penalise the whole lot of cyclists just because of a minority of cyclists.

    But we should penalise the whole lot of drivers and pedestrians just for a minority group of cyclists?


  41. 92 Anon Hbdi 16 August 2013 at 22:48

    This is a great article! Thanks for posting it. I recently moved to Singapore from Dublin and the change was drastic.

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