Many opportunities for Active mobility on existing roads

I wrote about lane width before. My interest in studying lane width are two folds. First of all, we can create space for protected bicycle lanes if we can narrow down some of the wider lanes. Second, reduce lane-width can lead to safer roads for all road users, including drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

In 2014 there were 278,545 cases of speeding violation. That’s equivalent to 762 speeding per day! New evidence shows this is largely due to the fact that many of our lanes are too wide and feel “too slow” if one drive within the speed limit (50km/h). It is a well known and well documented fact that speeding increases the risk of the driver and other road users tremendously. The conventional wisdom of “wider lane is safer” should be questioned.

A detail study by Toronto Transport Planner (Dewan Masud Karim) suggested that the optimally safe lane-width is between 3~3.2 meters. He compared the lane dimension, driving speed and crash records between Toronto, and Tokyo. He discovered humans display a surprisingly narrow “safety comfort zone” while trying to achieve a dynamic equilibrium status within the travel lane width:

Both narrow (less than 2.8m) and wide (over 3.1~3.2m) lanes have proven to increase crash risks with equal magnitude. Safety benefits bottom out around 3.1m (for Tokyo) and 3.2m
(for Toronto). Beyond the “safety valley curve”, wider lanes (wider than 3.3m) adversely affect overall side-impact collisions.

If we follow his recommendation to adjust our lane-width to 3~3.1 meters, we will be able to create protected bicycle lanes in many areas. Below are some locations that we can create space for protected bicycle lanes AND makes the roads safer:

– Toa Payoh Lorong 2:
Current status: 2 lanes each direction, total 7.29 meters.
Possible future: 2 lanes each direction, total 6 meters, creates additional 1.29 meter to existing pavement for protected bicycling/walking.

– Geyland East Ave 2:
Current status: 2 lanes 2 directions, total 11.1 meters.
Possible future: 2 lanes 2 direction, total 6.4 meters, creates additional 4.7 meters to existing pavement for protected bicycling/walking. (2.35 meter each direction)

– East Coast Road (north side)
Current status: 2 lanes, total 8.15 meters
Possible future: 2 lanes, total 6.2 meters and creates additional 1.95 meters to existing pavement for protected bicycling/walking. .

– Circuit Road
Current status: 3 lanes, total 12.25 meters
Possible future: 3 lanes, total 9.3 meters and creates additional 2.95 meters to existing pavement for protected bicycling/walking, enough on both sides of circuit road!

– Simei Street 1
Current status: 1 lane, 5.2 meter each direction
Possible future: 1 lane, 3.2 meter each direction, and creates additional 2 meters to existing pavement for protected bicycling/walking.

The list just go on. To find out more opportunities, just check this google map containing the lane width measurement in various parts of Singapore.

Many years ago, in 2003, there was a debate in the parliament between MP Irene Ng and the then Minster of State for Transport, Dr Balaji Sadasivan. I remember one of the point made by Dr. Sadasivan was that “in land scarce Singapore, there is no space for bicycle”. I believe today, with LTA taking up the leadership role of Active Transport, we will be able to see more opportunities for creating safe space for cycling on existing roads space.

Link to the Lane-width study by Toronto Transport Engineer:
file:///Users/mini/Downloads/CITE_Paper_Conference_2015_Regina_Final.pdf

Advanced highway code for driver – how to treat cyclists

Thanks to Hannes Hentze who manage to obtain the reproduction right from MightyMinds Publishing Pte Ltd for the section on Cyclists (Pages 142 to 144) of the Advanced Theory Book (4th Edition). You can go ahead to read the code in it’s full glory. I am pleasantly surprised of it’s existent because if all drivers do follows the highways code relates to cycling, there should be a lots less “accident” between cars and cyclists.

New Highway code section about safety for cyclist

New Highway Code about cycling

The full text is here for ease of sharing :

Source: The New Highway Code Book 2, Advanced Theory of Driving, (Published in consultation with Traffic management, Land Transport Authority)

Cyclist ride on all types of roads excepts expressways. Bicycles are used for both transportation and recreation by people of all ages and sizes; you should expect to find them almost anywhere. Because they rode close to traffic, cyclists are vulnerable to injury in a collision. As a driver, it is your special responsibility to pay attention to them and to provide for their safety.

1. When sharing the road with cyclists, expect sudden moves on their part at all times. A patch of oil, a pothole, an opening door of a parked car and other hazards can force a cyclist to swerve suddenly into your path.

2. When approaching or passing a cyclist, give him/her ample space and be extra alert. Be prepared to slow down or stop. When a cyclist glances back, it is an indication that he/she may change direction anytime.

3. Look out for cyclists riding against the flow of traffic especially at residential areas.

4. Give even more room to cyclists when they are carrying a heavy weight or a pillion. This makes them unsteady and wobbly and they may ride into your path or even hit the side of your vehicle.

5. Just before turning:
i: Check your mirrors and blind spots.
ii. Watch out for cyclists between your vehicle and the kerb.
iii. Don’t make a sudden sharp turn, you may knock down a cyclist.

6. When overtaking, keep a safe gap between your vehicle and the cyclist. Don’t cut in sharply after overtaking the cyclist. This could result in your vehicle “side brushing” or hitting the cyclist.

7. After parking, look out for cyclists coming up from behind before opening your vehicle door.

Errant cyclist on the rise ?

CNA-news

The number of traffic offences committed by bicycle users went up by 17.5% from 2012 to 2013. Some said that it is due to the increase number of cyclists. Some said it is due to the attitude of bicycle users. Yet some said it is due to the lack of proper infrastructure for bicycle users. The truth probably is a mixture of all the above factors. On further enquiry, the types of violation committed by errant cyclists are typically the following:

1) Riding on pavement
2) Running red light
3) Endangering pedestrians

There were 1455 traffic violation committed by cyclists in 2013. No one was killed due to these offences.

In comparison, motorist committed 252 times more traffic violation in 2013, including the followings:

1) Speeding 260,512 (in 2013)
2) Running red light
3) Careless driving

All together there were 367,496 traffic violation committed by motorists in 2013. 159 persons were killed which included 43 pedestrians.

These information is available from the Traffic Police site:   [Publications] > [Annual Traffic Statistics]

As quote from the TP site, for these violations committed by motorists:

“every traffic violation can potentially result in a fatal or injury accident and the loss of lives.”

When I’m looking through this striking comparison, it occurs to me that there are 250 times more offences committed by motoring and each of these offences has at least 10x higher potential to kill or to cause serious injuries. Shouldn’t we put 2500 times more attention and effort to reduce the bigger, more dangerous offences?

url:
Traffic Police statistics: http://driving-in-singapore.spf.gov.sg
Channel News Asia report: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/errant-cyclists-on-the/1565814.html

Bike lanes in Singapore, Ya or Nay?

STA survey about Bike Lanes

STA survey about Bike Lanes

I was surprised to see my Photoshopped photo appear on the Facebook page of STA. I’m even more delighted to learn that they are conducting a survey to get public views about bicycle lanes on Singapore roads.
Here is the question they posted:

Bicycle lanes in Singapore, Ya or Nay? Motorist seems to have a very negative view on cyclists on the road why is that so? Share your view with us?

3 lucky comments will be selected to win a mystery prize each. Entries close on Friday, 13/2/2015, 12 pm.

However, the most enlightening part are the views expressed by many people, and supported by the most “Likes” for example:

Woon Taiwoon: Cycling can help reduce traffic jam. If you look around you when u drive, how many cars are vacant with only drivers. Imagine when 10 percent of the car drivers convert to cycling. Thats alot of cars OUT OFF the roads.

Now I know cycling as a form of commuting might sound crazy but it is really possible. If there are bike lanes, I am very sure many will chose this eco friendly and happier alternative.

Joanna Peck: personally, I think an excellent first step would be to show on the bus lanes that bicycles are allowed there. This would take minimal effort on the part of authorities to implement.

for the future, I’d love to see a cycling lane network established in Singapore. Where people can cycle from place to place with ease instead of navigating a hodgepodge mixture of road, PCN and pavements.

Brenda Woo: Yes, we need a bicycle lane in Singapore! Whether it’s on the road or side of the road as long as it makes every road users safe while commuting. Motorists may have a negative view of cyclists on road largely because there isn’t a dedicated lane for bicycles and sometimes for the cyclists’ own safety they have to take a whole lane, esp. at turning junctions… If everyone shares the road and everyone knows what to expect, there can be mutual respect amongst all commuters.

Petia Garmadon: More bicycles less cars no jams.

Francis Chu: This particular photo is showing that under current traffic rules, bicycle is allowed on Bus Lanes: http://www.lta.gov.sg/…/road…/road-regulations.html
I think putting a bicycle sign on Bus Lane is a very good start for the following reasons:
1) Some motorists saw cyclists on bus lane and is upset that the cyclist is “breaking the law again” but in fact that’s not true.
2) Some cyclists though they are not supposed to ride on bus lane and decided to ride on the second lane, which is more dangerous and slows down the cars there.
3) Bus drivers todays are properly trained on how to share the road with cyclists.
Putting down a bicycle sign on Bus lane does not affect current rules and is an effective start to make cycling more visible as a mode of transport.

There naturally some are not too sure about having bike lanes on Singapore roads:

Keith Dot Lee: I am not cycling on the road because our road width did not cater for bicycle. Hence a danger to cycle on road. Further, the law is not in favor of the cyclist. So the ball is with LTA. Cater for it first.

But Keith is quickly convinced by the following responses:

Dennis LH Cheong: Actually, after having some cycling in some other cities (with longer history), you should find that our (non ancient) roads have relatively wide left lane catered for buses. This features, which I didn’t know until recently, actually allowed me to have been bicycle commuting since 1996.
Francis Chu: We actually measured ~ 100 road width and we found more than 70% of the roads are wide enough to cater for a 1.2-1.6 meter bike lane.
Keith Dot Lee: Oh I see. Thks for sharing.

And fianlly there are a few nay sayer:

Matthew Lim: nay!!! have you seen the traffic in the bus lanes. its likely to be a road hazard. cars, cyclists and busses are not meant to share the same lane.

To find out what the responses Matthew received? check the STA page here:
https://www.facebook.com/STA.inspection/photos/pb.414822601971575.-2207520000.1423650878./724602577660241/

Should cyclists follow all the traffic rules?

Should cyclists follow all the traffic rules?

The answer seems to be obvious, however, the German Chancellor Merkel gave an unexpected, yet inspiring answer:

“Cyclists do have their own interpretation of traffic rules. But we are not pushing hard for obeying the rules, but for better and more bike paths and as far as helmets go for cyclist, we focus on the voluntary usage and not bringing in laws for that.”

Bicycle as a mode of transport is not new, it exist way before the creation of “traffic rules”. Traffic rules were created after the introduction of motor cars, which imposed unprecedented risks to other road users. You may consider “traffic rules” are essentially “motorist’s rules” and must be obeyed by all motorists for the safety of other road users. However, it is not realistic, nor fair to require a human power mode of transport to follow 100% of the “motorist’s rules” even if it means it will sometimes put the cyclist in risk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel checking a road bike

I’m not advocating cyclists to break the traffic rules. The fundamental principle should be safety. Do what is safe. Follow the traffic rules as much as possible. But, do not follow the rules blindly and put yourself in a dangerous position. Some of these “rules” are in fact perceived and not official. Here a few typical, but exceptional examples that bicycle users may “break the rules” for safety concern:

1) Riding on footpath – if the road is full of fast moving cars, it is potentially deadly for slow riders such as the uncles and aunties going to markets. In this case, I would be using the footpath instead. Anyone insist that cyclists must always be on the road I will challenge them to ride slowly along Lornie Road.

2) Not staying at the extreme left of the left most lane, but shifting to the centre of the lane – Before riding across a road junction, or approaching a slip road, it is often safer for the cyclist to shift his/her position from left of the lane towards the centre of the lane. This is for two purpose: a) signal to the driver behind that you want to go straight, not turning left. 2) prevent driver from last moment overtaking and cutting in front to turn left.

3) Move from left most lane to second or third lanes – before some junction with one or more left turning lanes, you need to position yourself out of the left turning lanes if you need to go straight.

4) Riding on the bus lane – it is actually legal to riding on Bus lane, but many drivers and cyclists are not aware of this and become confused. It should be possible to put a bicycle sign on Bus lane, and it will be more clear for every body that bicycle are supposed to be on the Bus Lanes.

5) Riding across zebra crossing or pedestrian crossing – again, there is no explicit law states that it is not allowed to cycle across a pedestrian crossing. But you need to do so in a safe manner, for your own safety and other pedestrian’s safety. Never rush across a crossing regardless you are cycling or running.

6) Not wearing helmet –  there is no law in Singapore states that one must wear a helmet in order to ride a bicycle. It is a personal choice.

It is particularly interesting that, such “un-ruling” comment is coming from a German Chancellor, since Germany is well know to be a rule based society. Angela Merkel clearly understand that it is not useful to force the traffic rules, which are primarily created to control motorists for the safety of others, onto the group of cyclists, which does not imposed the same level of risk to other users. Instead she put focus to improve the infrastructure such as bike paths so that everyone will be more safe regardless of the rules.

What is your view? Please put your comment below.

Source: http://www.bike-eu.com/Shows-Events/Show-reviews/2013/8/Angela-Merkel-Steals-the-Show-at-Eurobike-Opening-1347196W/

What does it takes to make Singapore a truly bicycle friendly city?

To Dream Big, and take the Low Hanging Fruit first

It is wonderful news that the National Cycling Plan (NCP) targets to complete 700km off-road bicycle paths by 2030. The recent announcement by PM Lee about AMK town to be the test bed for new and innovative ideas for new bicycle town is a concrete milestone as Singapore moving towards a bicycle friendly city.

However, is 700km bicycle network enough to make Singapore a real bicycle friendly city? What does it takes to make Singapore a truly bicycle friendly city?

Let’s define a bicycle friendly city as a city where you can safely and conveniently use a bicycle to go where you need to go. 400km of the 700km NCP cycling routes are Park Connectors (PCN) which are predominantly for recreational purposes. The remaining 300km are Intra-town cycling routes which are more useful for connecting major transport nodes, town centers and amenities such as food centers and markets.

Today we have over 3000km of local access roads in Singapore connecting all the places where people need to go.

300km intra-town cycling routes vs 3000km normal roads.

This means by 2030, in average, you have a 10% chance (300km/3000km) to get to where you need to go if you are using the NCP bicycle route. If in 9 out of 10 cases I am not able to use my car to get to where I need to go, I probably won’t drive. Similarly 10% access is not friendly enough for bicycle users. So what does it takes to make Singapore a truly bicycle friendly city?

The solution is in fact obvious to many regular bicycle users all over Singapore: as shown here, they use roads as well as pavements and PCNs. The only problem is that it is not safe enough and it does not give confidence to others who would like to try using a bicycle. So what can we do?

I’d suggest to dream big, yet act pragmatic and look for “low-hanging fruit” solutions.

To Dream Big:

A) Bicycles, as a transport mode, should take up at least a 30% share**.

B) Bicycles should be able to access 90%+ of places people need to go.

C) The entire bicycle network must be safe enough for your 10-year-old kid to cycle independently.

It may seems these are impossible dreams but let’s see what are the “low-hanging fruit” that is available:

Take the Low-hanging-fruit solutions: 

1) Lift the ban for cycling on pavements. This will immediately add 3000km of off-road cycleable routes to the network, since most roads in Singapore come with pavements. Simultaneously, introduce a “strict liability law” — in case of any accident between a cyclist and a pedestrian, the cyclist is always liable. Increase the fine to make sure that all cyclists take very good care of pedestrians when sharing pavements.

2) Improve road crossing and road junction design so that it is safe for your 10-year-old kid to cross independently. Without safe crossings, the “network” is not connected.


Dangerous crossing.

Safe crossing example.

These two ideas will unlock the existing potential of Singapore with minimum effort. But it is an intermediate solution because it is not ideal to have cyclists mix with pedestrians in most situations. Therefore we should improve the on-road cycling routes with the following:

3) Introduce a 30km/h speed limit for all streets within 3km from each town center.

4) Put a bicycle sign on Bus Lanes. Gradually improve the bus stop design to allow cyclist to pass through a bus stop without interfering or interference from stopping buses.

5) Repaint neighbourhood streets with excessively wide lanes to standard 3-metre lanes. Use the space left to introduce protected bicycle lanes on road.

With a pragmatic approach, we should be able to unlock the potential of (off-road) cycling as a mode of transport within a few years, and continuously improve the efficiency and safety of the (on road) cycling network at the same time.

**A mode share of 30% share for bicycles will help to increase 33% capacity of public transport as well as 16.5% of road capacity in Singapore. This will be able to justify at least 10% of LTA’s investments to improve bicycle infrastructure. How is that possible?  To make it simple, let’s say today transport mode share is 70% on public transport, 30% use cars and taxis. 25% from public transport and 5% from cars shifted to create the 30% of bicycle mode share. This means bicycle will help to relief 25/75, or one third of the loading from public transport, and at the same time 5/30, or 1/6 of loading on cars. What kind of budget will be required to make such improvement possible, even if space is not an issue? Therefore it is a no brainer to spend billions of budget to improve bicycle infrastructure. It will benefits all road users.

 

PM Lee announce Ang Mo Kio as the latest test bed for new cycling town

The Singapore National Cycling Plan get a substantial endorsement from PM Lee Hsiang Loong. At the launch of the “Clean and Green Singapore 2015″ on November 8th, 2014. PM Lee was surprised by the spontaneous applause when he mentioned “Bicycle!” as an alternative mode of transport he want to encourage. He cited his experience of cycling in Copenhagen and offer Ang Mo Kio as a “test bed” for innovative bicycle infrastructure to make cycling a choice mode of everyday transport. This will be a significant milestone of the National Cycling Plan which targets to complete 700km bicycle paths by 2030.

The role of cycling as part of a bigger picture of Sustainable Singapore vision 2015 is becoming more clear now, as described in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015:

Cycling and walking will become popular forms of getting around in our neighbourhoods and regions. …..   With a “car-lite” Singapore, we can reduce our carbon footprint, as well as enjoy fresher air, a cleaner environment and a healthier lifestyle.

Here are some concrete actions mentioned in the blueprint:

• Introduce innovative features and creative designs to towns to provide a better cycling and walking environment, starting with Ang Mo Kio

• Develop a comprehensive cycling network spanning more than 700 km by 2030, with supporting infrastructure and a code of conduct to promote safe cycling within and across towns

• Create more car-free spaces in housing estates and the city, such as the Civic District, where roads are temporarily or permanently closed for public activities

Links:

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint

Cycling in Singapore get a big push from the goverment

Looking back, it was less than one year since LCSG ride with Minister Khaw last year (link). During that ride he told me that he consider bicycling as an important mode of transport for a livable future Singapore. Under his ministry, URA, NPark and HDB are all working to make cycling an easier choice for the common*.

Therefore I was really excited to read the Minister’s post “4 wheels good, 2 wheels and 2 legs even better” on October 22:

We must now go beyond cycling for recreation. We want it to be a viable transport option for short trips to the supermarket, coffee shop, hawker centre or the nearest MRT station. To do so, we must make such trips safe and pleasant.

But how can we make the bicycle trips safe and pleasant?

Perhaps Ms Irene Ng, MP of Tampines, the first Cycling Town in Singapore, has some solid ideas. She made a 20 minutes long speech yesterday in the Parliament to call for a National Integrated Cycling Strategy and Policy Framework. 

The question now is how to move from good intentions to coordinated policy, and from policy to practice. The answer lies in a national integrated cycling strategy and policy framework which has specific, measurable targets, fosters cooperation between government agencies, and supported by adequate and sustained funding.

 

There are many good observation of the current problems and constructive ideas of how to move forward. Follow this link to the entire speech.

cyclingfinalireneng.3_Nov_2014

 

*Note: NPark pioneered the concept of PCN, or Park Connector Network. Today there are over 200km PCN, which is the backbone of a comprehensive leisure cycling network all over Singapore.
URA, or Urban Redevelopment Authority,  lay down the Master Plan in 2013 defining a more sustainable approach towards a “car-less”, “bike-more” future. URA has been chairing the National Cycling Plan Steering Committee too. HDB, the Housing Development Board, build flats for 70% of the population. It’s traffic calming design of estates are mostly friendly for cyclists and pedestrians.