Plan to expand bicycle paths welcomed, but more needed to encourage Singapore's cycling vision
SINGAPORE: Even as Singapore moves to expedite the expansion of its bicycle path network, more can be done to encourage cycling as a mode of transport here, said observers.
Last Thursday (Mar 5) during the Transport Ministry’s Committee of Supply debate it was announced that the country’s cycling paths would be doubled to 800km by 2023, two years ahead of schedule.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said then that the Government plans to invest more than S$1 billion in the expansion of cycling paths over the next decade as part of the new Islandwide Cycling Network Programme, with such paths expected to span 1,320km islandwide by 2030.
Cycling advocate Francis Chu welcomed the announcement, saying it proved the authorities were committed to promoting “active mobility”.
While it is legal to ride bicycles on both the road and footpaths, such cycling paths are needed as those on bicycles may not feel safe riding alongside motor vehicles, especially on busy roads, said the co-founder of cycling enthusiast group Love Cycling SG.
“Well-designed cycling paths can help more people to use bicycles in such conditions,” he said.
In this regard, more can be done to improve the design and placement of such paths here, he added.
Mr Chu said Singapore’s current arrangement of having cycling paths - where cyclists are able to ride at speeds of up to 25kmh - next to pedestrian footpaths without any barriers between them could pose a danger to vulnerable pedestrians such as children and the elderly.
This is especially since motorised devices such as personal mobility devices (PMDs) and e-bikes are still allowed on cycling paths, he noted.
E-scooters were banned from footpaths in November last year, with other PMDs such as hoverboards and electric unicycles to follow suit in April. But their use remains legal on the 440km of cycling paths islandwide.
While other cities such as New York and London have introduced on-road cycling lanes, Associate Professor Park Byung Joon said such lanes may not be suitable here.
This is because such cycling lanes may further constrict Singapore’s “narrow roads”, said the Singapore University of Social Sciences urban transport expert, adding that this would impact the flow of traffic.
Mr Chu said the authorities here should follow the Dutch example, noting the “vast majority” of cycling paths in the Netherlands are physically separated from pedestrian pathways.
“Physical separation can be bushes, low barriers, or when the space is tight, simply a difference in levels (between the pathways),” he said, suggesting for example that pedestrian pathways could be made 15cm higher than cycling paths.
Width is another factor that should be considered when designing future cycling paths, said Mr Chu, noting this should take into account the location and number of cyclists in a particular area.
He pointed to the Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic published by Dutch transportation non-profit CROW.
The manual suggests a width of at least 1.5m for cycling paths where there are 50 cyclists passing by per hour and a width of at least 3m in each direction for long distance “bicycle highways”.
Singapore’s own Walking and Cycling Design Guide - published by the Land Transport Authority and the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2018 - says cycling paths should be between 2m and 2.5m wide to cater to cyclists heading in both directions.
READ: The Big Read: Why Singapore has yet to become a cycling paradise — and it’s not just about the heat
Associate Professor Lynette Cheah, who leads the Sustainable Urban Mobility research group at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, said that there should also be continuity between bicycle paths, and that such paths should provide connections to places of interest.
Other factors such as the availability of shower facilities at workplaces as well as the availability of bicycle parking would also help encourage more people to cycle, she said.
In November last year the LTA introduced the Active Mobility Grant - which subsidises up to 80 per cent of construction costs, capped at S$80,000 - for workplaces to provide facilities such as showers and changing rooms to encourage active mobility modes.
Associate Professor Park however cautioned against spending too much on cycling facilities, suggesting that only a small percentage of commuters were likely to switch to cycling for their daily journeys.
Meanwhile, Associate Professor Cheah noted that though public transport features most prominently in Singapore’s car-lite vision, cycling is also important, particularly for shorter trips of up to 8km.
“So the active mobility modes are great for getting around or across your neighbourhood. It also promotes healthier living,” she said.