In the many years that Singapore had existed on the map, cycling had always been considered to be a form of recreation, but lately, it has gained much more popular popularity with the general public, and backed with an increasing influx of a very wide variety of two, and sometimes three or four, wheeled bikes being imported in Singapore, it has also taken off as a serious form of exercise as well.
Gone were the days when the bicycle was used mainly by the ‘seniors’ for a casual ride to the market for daily groceries or a quick meal at the coffeeshop, for in recent years, the youth and the younger working generation have really taken the use of the bicycle to a whole new level, with some even progressing to a situation where they’ve completely replaced their gas guzzling cars with this extremely green and environmentally friendly vehicle. We are no longer talking about hand welded steel bicycles with steel actuated arms, levers and hinges for brakes and the unmistakable necessity of a dynamo powered front light, but bikes that are now coming out of the factories made from aircraft grade carbon composites and extremely lightweight aluminium tubes that could easily be mistaken and passed off as carbon fibre. This phenomenal leap in technology has enabled the cyclist to reach and maintain higher cruising speeds therefore enabling them to reach their destinations faster, and with less effort too. Now this is where it gets interesting as things start getting complicated, and problems that never existed start to appear.
THE PROS. As cycling is already proven to be the most efficient method of transport, and one of the cleanest as well, more and more people would want to replace their cars and motorcycles with bicycles where possible. Reasons being that it saves them lots of money, it’s super clean to the environment, it keeps them fit with at least two decent bouts of exercise and in probably many cases, it also saves them a lot of time by avoiding the rush hour traffic to and from their workplace.
THE CONS. Without a good cycling infrastructure to get into and out of the ‘working’ areas, cyclists will have to rely on regular roads to get to and from their workplaces, forget about the pedestrian walkways as that would be even much more dangerous idea than a careful cyclist riding on the road, in consideration of everyone’s safety. Having both cyclists and drivers on the roads can also lead to situations where either road user would have their own perception of having the right of way, be it at a traffic junction or even on a normal street, there will definitely be instances of conflict and sadly casualties as well. Furthermore, in most cases, it’s usually the cyclist who is at the losing end of the stick, regardless of whoever has the right of way.
INFRASTRUCTURE. The easiest way to ensure the safety of cyclists is to have a separate path specifically built just for them, these paths could also have directional lanes for added safety to prevent head on collisions, just like our normal roads. Runners and joggers can even be accommodated on these paths but probably best to have their own designated lanes as well, a very good example is the East Coast Parkway with very separate lanes for both cyclists and joggers alike. The PCN is without doubt an already excellent piece of infrastructure which already sees a very high usage rate, but this high usage rate mostly occurs on weekends and on public holidays as these are the periods where the general public have more available free time for leisure activities. So in order to maximize the PCN’s usage effectively, it needs some re-configuration where possible, or even additional routes added to allow the public from the heartlands and further reaches of the island easier access directly into the city, this will not only solve the traffic issues during rush hour, but maybe many health issues as well.
SOCIAL ATTITUDE. Society would also have to play a big part if we are to promote cycling as a mode of transport, many people will have to understand that the bicycle doesn’t only apply for leisure activities, but possibly for work as well? Companies and buildings could cater for cyclists, by offering shower and changing facilities at the office, and even lockers for storing clothing and cycling gear, which could double up for usage by runners and joggers alike. Having proper storage facilities such as a room fitted out with tiers of bike racks could easily store a hundred or even more bikes at a time, this room could be have shelves or pigeonholes for storage of other items as well. Add in one or two staff to man the room and provide something like a hotel’s luggage service, will provide even more security and peace of mind for all cyclists or runners while they are at work.
RESPECT. We have to show respect for each other, in everything that we do, from when we are cycling, to even when we are not. While cycling, giving way and showing care and concern to other cyclists not only makes everyone’s journey more pleasant, but it would certainly make it much safer and more memorable too. I’ve encountered and gained potential clients and customers at a PCN resting area just by showing a simple smile followed with a friendly greeting to get a conversation started, all it takes is a minute bit of effort in being the first to put our prides and egos aside and show our friendliness. Even when we are not cycling, we should all continue to show respect, such as moving aside to allow a cyclist to pass safely, or even helping to question a suspicious character trying to break a lock or steal a bike, because no one wants to find their beloved mode of transport stolen after a long day of hard work right?