Category Archives: daily commute

AMK cycling town phase 1 + Round island Route

July 9, 2016 Singapore

Singapore is one more step closer to become a bicycle friendly city. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced two important cycling infrastructure that will make cycling in Singapore easier, safer and more enjoyable:

Artist impression of Round Island Route  Photo: NPark

Artist impression of Round Island Route Photo: NPark

Short video showing the RIR (Source: NPark)

1. Round Island Route (ST news)

In the early Saturday morning, PM Lee planted a tree at the Sengkang Riverside Park, commemorating the start of phase one of the Round Island Route (RIR), an idea conceptualised in 2011. Construction work on the first 60km of a 150km continuous green trail that will go around Singapore will start at the end of the year. This is an ambitious project to enhance connectivity and create new recreational spaces for cyclists and park goers all around Singapore.

2. AMK model cycling town (ST news)


Some of the innovative features to increase the safety of all users. Video: URA

A slip road was removed at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1 and 3 to make way for a cycling path. PHOTO: LTA

A slip road was removed at the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenues 1 and 3 to make way for a cycling path. PHOTO: LTA

Later in the morning, after riding through a new 4km “red-carpet” cycling path, PM Lee announced the completion of the first phase of AMK Cycling town network. This officially initiated the transformation of Ang Mo Kio into a model cycling and walking town. Estimated by 2019, a total of 20km of cycling paths will be completed to connect to most parts of AMK town. Innovative ideas including the distinctive red-colour paths, safer crossing and elevated share path under the MRT viaduct are to be piloted in AMK. If all are good, future cycling town will adopt the innovative ideas.

Perhaps more important is to see the number of senior level politicians and government agents (URA, LTA, NPark, HDB, Finance) who are actively involved on stage or behind the scene. This is a clear sign showing that there is strong alignment within the government to realise the car-lite vision.

Facebook post by PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Facebook post by LTA
Facebook post about RIR in LoveCyclingSG
Facebook post about AMK cycling town in LoveCyclingSG

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/

Safe cycling in Tokyo, culture or infrastructure?

I visited Tokyo recently, took the opportunity to cycle there. Riding through Tokyo city centre feels quite different compared to Singapore. It feels safe! The same exercise could be deadly, especially for a traveller who is not familiar with the driving culture in Singapore. I’m not suggesting Singapore drivers are maniac, in fact, given the chance, many are very polite and courteous. However sometime they have to endanger others in order to be safe. The design of the road greatly affected their choice of action.

Bicycle users in Tokyo includes all walks of life. Male & female, young & elderly, mothers and kids, workers and office ladies.

Bicycle users in Tokyo includes all walks of life. Male & female, young & elderly, mothers and kids, workers and office ladies.

Despite there are many cars and I have to share the roads, I feel drivers in Tokyo are more careful when they need to overtake cyclists. They give cyclists plenty of room or they will slow down and overtake carefully. The number of people on bicycle is much more than I expected. All walks of life, including office workers, students, old people and even mothers with their kids (one front, one back) on bicycles. There is something in Japan that makes cycling easy and safe. I was reflecting my experience in the Netherlands many years back, it was quite different from the Dutch cycling experience, although both are safe. One of my good friend LCH suggested:

– Dutch cycling is a culture of the mind i.e. a result of rational thinking (typical Dutch) that lead to investments in cycle-infrastructure
– Japan cycling is a probably more of the heart, respect for each other as part of total society inherent in the deep rooted Japanese value system.

There is no doubt that, respecting each others is a core value system in Japan. I can understand how it contributed to road safety. However, is this “culture of respect” the only factor for the safety I experienced when riding in Tokyo?

40 km speed limit is very common in Tokyo. Smaller road are often limit to 30 or 20 km per hour.

40 km speed limit is very common in Tokyo. Smaller road are often limit to 30 or 20 km per hour.

Apart from riding a bicycle, I had the opportunity to sit in a car, next to the driver, my friend Tsuneki San, who drove me to his office during a morning peak hour. He said that most of the roads in Tokyo are limited to driving speed of 40 km. Only a few main roads are 50 km. Expressways are 80 km. When I cycled through the heart of Tokyo, I passed through many smaller streets with 30 km and 20 km clearly marked on the road. It suddenly daunt on me that, Tokyo, despite being one of the biggest city in the world, is fairly free from loud traffic noise. The overall slower speed must be the key reason for the relatively quiet and calm atmosphere.

Safe junction design in Tokyo prepares drivers to slow down, and provides safe space to "PAUSE and WAIT".

Safe junction design in Tokyo prepares drivers to slow down, and provides safe space to “PAUSE and WAIT”.

I also noticed that Tsuneki San slowed down whenever he drove passed a junction. This greatly enhanced his ability to stop in case of any emergency. Likewise, pedestrians and cyclists who approach the junction can see our car clearly. I noticed a number of visual element may contribute to the “calming effect” around the traffic junctions.
(1) Dotted lines define the lanes changed to solid lines, about 30 meters before a junction. This helps to prepare the driver to slow down.
(2) Sometimes the lanes narrow down a bit in order to add a right turning lane. Driving within narrower lanes require more care and has to be slower.
(3) The zebra crossing is visually bold and striking. The “STOP” line is about a car’s length away from the actual zebra crossing.

Lane marking changed to solid lines, preparing the drivers to slow down.

Lane marking changed to solid lines, preparing the drivers to slow down before they reach the junction.

The overall visual effect is that you intuitively feel the need to slow down and drive more carefully before approaching a junction and pedestrian crossing.

Like many bicycle users, I cycle on the roads as well as pavements. When I need to cycle or walk across the roads, It is easy to judge if it is safe or not. In Singapore, I’ll have to constantly check my back while crossing the road because turning cars may intrude into the pedestrian crossing from behind. This is due to the fact that, in Singapore, the crossing is drawn at the turning radius. There is no buffer space for the driver to “pause” before entering into the “conflicting zone”- the Ped-crossing. Tokyo drivers always stops if there is someone riding or walking on the ped-crossing. Right turning cars does not intrude into the pedestrian crossing, they have a “buffer space” to pause and wait. Driver in Singapore don’t have such space, they have to enter into the pedestrian crossing in order to avoid being crashed by on coming traffic.

It seems what makes cycling safe in Tokyo is not only the culture, design of the road and infrastructure must also play a part to support and sustain safe road user behaviour. At this point I wonder how would a Tokyo driver behave in Singapore? or vise versa?

Related: Unsafe driving behaviour due to poor junction design.

Bicycle friendly city, lesson from Japan (1)

I’ve not heard of any big campaign from Japanese government to promote cycling, but I was amazed to see many people on bicycle during my recent trip to Tokyo. I know bicycle use is common there but didn’t thought that it is so popular. Out of thousands “cyclists” I only spotted a handful who dress up in lycra with helmet, the rest all looks like normal people. Once they park their bicycle and walk away, they look just like any pedestrians. Office workers, students, mums with kids and elderly. They don’t seem to dress in bright colors to increase their visibility for safety, no helmet, no lycra. Many do have a basket or two mounted on their bikes. Bicycle parks (official and unofficial) are everywhere!

I will be jotting down my observation from this Tokyo trip bit by bit. Here is a quick impression of the women bicycle users I’ve seen. They cycle practically everywhere, on road, on footpath. Some even with kids in front and back! Women cyclist is known to be a good indicator of bicycle friendliness – more women cyclist means that the area is safer for cycling in general

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Weman, bicycle users, cyclists Ladies cycling in Tokyo

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Photo set at flickr:

Read more at Link to my Flickr set

Learning from London’s mistakes

Recently 5 cyclists died in London within a short period of 9 days. At the same time New York CitiBike just just completed 5 millions rides over the first 5 month without a single person killed. Consider the CitiBike is used by all sorts of people from young to elderly, including tourists, this contrastic experience between London’s deadly “Cycling Superhighway” and New York’s bicycle friendly design contains a lot to be learnt.

A short video released by The Guardian provides a close look of London’s “Cycling Superhighway”. An experienced cyclist will be able to point out a few design issues relates to cycling safety. Some say more death is expected because new bicycle facilities attracts more people to use bicycle and therefore more accidents is inevitable. I think this is purely nonsense. If that’s true, New York should report similar number of cyclist death during that 5 millions rides.

Apart from feeling sad for those families and friends of the victims, I believe there are important lessons to be learnt for professional road designers:

“Your job is directly affecting people’s life and everyday wellbeing, please consider the vulnerable road users when designing.” If New York can do it, so does other cities, just don’t repeat the mistakes made by London’s road planners.

Looking at the video, I cannot imagine the one who design this so call Cycling Superhighway will cycle on it themselves. Let’s first check out the video:

I captured screenshots of area that is showing some safety issues. I will add more comment tomorrow. Feel free to add your comments in Facebook here:

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Fig. 1

Fig. 1 Wide and straight, does this looks like a road you can drive fast? 
Painting half a car lane and call it a bicycle superhighway, this design suggests bicycle is to mix with high speed traffic ..

 

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Fig. 2

Fig. 2 Driver abuse the bike lane by parking there, exactly as some people mentioned the reason not to have bike lane… but it doesn’t have to be like this. In New York, the parked cars are used to provide a safety barrier between cyclist and fast moving traffic. 

LondonCSHW-3

Fig. 3

Fig. 3  The “Bike super highway stop abruptly, not transitition space to prepare the dirvers and cyclists to slow down when they have to directly mix on the road. Extremely dangerous, by design. 

 

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Fig. 4

Fig. 4 Here an example of a fast van just over took the cyclist (who took this video) very closely because the driver is forced to share half a lane with the bicycle.

 

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Fig. 5

Fig. 5 Finally a segregated section of the BSHW, it only allows one bicycle at a time and the separation from big lorry is way too little. Pathetic, but at least it is relatively safe compare to other parts.

 

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Fig. 6

Fig. 6 The separation suddenly stop!!?? What are you supposed to do here, the cyclist is right at the blind spot position of turning long vehicles.

 

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Fig. 7

Fig. 7 The yellow lorry on the right can easily eat into the “invisible” BSHW and kill a moving cyclists there, and the driver will say, honestly, “I didn’t see him!” another example of “likely accident caused by road design”

 

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Fig. 8

Fig. 8 The BSHW reappear again

 

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Fig. 9

Fig. 9 The BSHW suddenly end right before a junction. What are the cyclists supposed to do here?

 

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Fig. 10

Fig. 10 Let’s mix with the traffic again..

 

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Fig. 11

Fig. 11 Dangerous crossing , by road design (or the lack of it!)

 

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Fig. 12

Fig. 12 Now this is a proper bike lane, wide enough and with good separation when there is fast moving traffic.

 

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Fig. 13

Fig. 13 The end of the better part of the BSHW

Below is how my friend Calvin Boo describe his experience of riding in London last year:

Having heard about and seen the painted cycle lanes and advanced stop boxes of London, I thought London was cycle-friendly until I tried riding on the city roads one evening … and nearly got knocked off the bike twice on a short 25mins ride (once by a car, once by a bus).

Personally, the poor cyclist safety in London is not just a question of infrastructure, although it stems from infrastructure. The road culture in London is, to sum up in one word, aggresive; aggresive drivers, aggresive cyclists. Aggressive attitudes from both sides does not serve anyone well. 

On London roads, I see cyclists riding at speed along the roads, not alone, not in twos, not in threes … but in hordes. And this at peak hours of the day. I haven’t been to Amsterdam, but from the many videos I have seen, my feel is that the road culture is different. 

People use bicycle in Singapore

These are some of the people I randomly came across who are using a bicycle on Singapore roads. Some bring their children to school on bicycle, some bike to work or school directly, ride to the market, to visit a friend or just to have a coffee at nearby food center. There is a wide spectrum of bicycle users in Singapore. However they are typical the “silence majority”. They are not vocal in media, you don’t read them on Stomp or other online forum. They hardly write to the newspaper. But many of them have the right to vote. Introduce safety space on roads for them and they will feel it and definitely appreciate it.



Every parent who bring their kids to school on bicycle is helping to remove one car from the morning traffic congestion. But the above lady need to exposed her child and herself to the risk of car traffic by cycling in a narrow gap between the cars and the curb. Struggling to balance the bicycle within such narrow margin, her handle bar or pedal may scratch the car. Such situation invariably creates tension between cyclists and drivers. Opportunity is hidden in plain sight! The pavement is empty on her left, she could have make use of the pavement if it is better designed. This is one example of many opportunities to make cycling safer in Singapore.






Photo set at flickr:

Read more at Link to my Flickr set

Bike skill workshop at Bedok Advanture Park

“Bike Skill workshop is to prepare you to be a safe rider on pavement.” We all want to cycle on the road as well as PCNs safely to go where we need to go. However due to lack of consideration for cyclist safety, some roads are very dangerous and it is understandable many people riding on pavements all over Singapore. However that create another safety concern for pedestrians. In order to share the pavement safely with pedestrians, a cyclist must be able to slow down to walking speed and give way to pedestrians. Thanks to Encik George Lim, Taiwoon and LCSG Angels for this fun and practical bike skill workshop.

Here is a well written summary by Eugene Tan:
“Thank you so much LCSG and the bicycle Angels for putting together the well structured basic bike skills workshop.
The morning started with a self-test guided bike course for participants to gauge their riding skills. Through a series of guided workshop modules, participants were cycled through the skill sets: balancing, braking, negotiating slaloms, left / right turns,, basic hand signals for cycling, turning safely to look behind, evasive action, proper bike fit, etc.
Even more experienced riders will certainly benefit from this bike skills refresher course, especially through the passion, enthusiasm and humour of the course planners, instructors and assistants. I know I did.
A self-ride-through evaluation was done over a riding course at the end of the training for participants to verify the benefits of the workshop. Many will tell you that they have definitely gained more confidence to negotiate the footpaths and pcns.
This joint community project was made possible in collaboration with Bedok CC. The good folks at the CC provided the Bedok Adventure Park facilities gratis for the programme venue. Bedok community residents also took time on their Sunday morning to participate and join LCSG members to improve their basic riding skills.
Kudos to the organisers and Bedok CC. Cheers”

Encik George Lim briefing for Bike skill training

Master coach Steven Lim giving trick instruction

Photo set at flickr:

Read more at SmallWheelsBigSmile

Give me the space so I can follow the rule

2012-07-25 Singapore, by Chu Wa, Francis


Article by Francis Chu, First published in ZaoBao 2012-07-25

Yesterday when I went home, I saw a father riding a bicycle and carrying two kids, one in the front and the other at the back. He yield slowly at a junction, checked there was no car around and he ride across the junction quickly. He continue on the pavement carefully. I snapped a photo and upload it to the Facebook, many friends share their memory of being carried by their father/ mother’s bike when they were small. “It’s really an enjoayble mement, wind blows in my face, talking and chating to my father. Watching the street scene flow by while sitting between his large arm, I felt excited, warm and secured.” A friend told me. Others shared that’s how they bring thier kids to school, as a parent, they all enjoy this “moment of two” with thier kids on thier journey. However, this affordable, eco friendly and healthy way of commute is being marginalized. If you want to avoid the danger of cars, you need to ride on the pavement, and which is illegel (except Tampines town). It is also illegel to carry people on your bicycle. To some, that father using his own effort, carfully carrying his kids between home and school has already breached the law.

Recently there is an article publiched in ST <> the author, Ignatius Low, list many wrongdoing of cyclists in Singapore. He share his experience in UK and feel that cyclists over there are much more deciplined than the local cyclists. The article striked a sensitive chore in the public and many readers write in to support him. Most agreed that there are many “ruleless cyclists” who don’t respect the laws.

As an “Bicycle-Master”, I have more than 7 years of driving and cycling experience in Singapore. I feel Mr. Low does not have a real taste of riding in Singapore. He doesn’t understand why sometimes it is necessary to make an illegel move. e.g riding on pavement (to avoid car), or riding across pedestrian crossing (to reduce exposure to the danger of cars).

Mr. Low listed 7 sins of the local cyclist:
1) riding on pavement,
2) ringing their bell and threathening the pedestrian
3) carrying people on bicycle
4) riding across crossing
5) riding against traffic
6) no front and back light at night
7) not wearing helmet.

Only (2) is really a bad behavior and should not be allowed, and I agree there are a few cyclists belongs to this group. The rest, technically illegel, but Mr. Low is pushing too far when he said these behavior are “endngering” car drivers. About the helmet, in Singapore there is no law to force cyclist to wear a helmet, it is a personal freedom that each person should decide for himself. In fact helmet law does not exist in all advanced countries with high population of bicycle, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. They genearlly agree helmet doesn’t add to the safety of the rider, but increase the burden for cycling.

If cyclist really is the “King of the Road” as claimed, than we shouldn’t see cyclists being forced onto the pavement. I feel local cyclist is more like the “Orphan of the Road”, they don’t have a space they belong (no bicycle lane), they don’t have proper protection (law does not protect them well). When confronted with danger (car) , they just have to jump here and there to avoid being hit.

I don’t agree with the view of Mr. Low. However, at the end of his article, he asked a very valid question: “Is it unwillingness on the part of Goverment to lay down the law clearly for cyclists and provides the necessary cycling lanes and other infrastructure that will engender oerderly behaviour?”

Safe cycling on Singapore’s roads

Key concept for safer cycling in Singapore:

Remember you are invisible to cars.
Find a quiet route, mode share if necessary.
Be adept and confident in your bike handling skills. Cycle to your ability.
Ride in the middle of the lane at intersections. When turning right, filter early, or do a hook turn. Use hand signals.
Watch and allow space for car doors opening.
Use the footpath and pedestrian crossings if you feel the need to. Always give way to pedestrians and cycle at walking pace.
Remember you are invisible.

Singapore roads do not currently have separated lanes for cyclists, as many other countries do. In any collision between a cyclist and a car which is traveling at more than 30km/hr, the cyclist is likely to be killed or seriously injured. Never assume you are safe because wearing a helmet. Bicycle helmet is designed to protect (the top of) your head for impact at 20km/h if you are falling off from the bicycle. There are 180 over road fatalities every year, around 18 of which are cyclists. I use the following strategy to avoid being involved in such accidents.
The principle is called “Defensive bicycling”. It is a strategy that can increase your safety margin.

First, assume that drivers haven’t seen you (e.g. they may be illegally talking on the phone, busy to overtake from the slow lane, or just not paying attention). Ride as if you are invisible.

Accordingly, make yourself very visible on the road to give drivers the best opportunity to notice you earlier, which allows them to share the road safely with you. Wear brightly colored clothing, put on a brightly colored cap or helmet, ride in a predictable manner. By law you have to Install bright front (white) and rear (red) lights if you ride at night. But, never forget point 1, ALWAYS ride as if you are invisible.

But don’t think you are safe yet, read on.
There are 6 factors affecting the safety of cyclists on Singapore road. Two of them: the design of the roads, and drivers’ behavior are not in your control. But you can use the other 4 factors to improve your chances of survival.

1. Your route choice

Your route choice can drastically affect your safety and the overall cycling experience. Take some time on a weekend to explore alternative, quieter routes, such as cutting through HDB estates, crossing major roads at pedestrian crossings, and using Nparks’ park connectors. It will be much more pleasant than ‘fighting’ traffic, and often the total journey time is only slightly longer. Google Maps is a great help.
If you need to cover a long distance and can’t avoid dangerous roads, consider combining your cycling with the MRT or Bus by using a folding bike or locking your bike at the station. You can almost always find a safe route to your nearest Bus or MRT station from within most estates.

2. Your skill and attitude

As with a car, you need to be in complete control of your bike at all times. Can you turn your head to check over your shoulder and keep steering a straight line? Can you give hand signals without losing control? Can you execute an emergency stop (without skidding the rear tyre or flipping over your handlebars)? Can you avoid an obstacle (such as a pothole) while cycling at speed? If not, practice in a park before venturing onto the road. Make sure you have the right attitude; arriving safely is more important than arriving quickly. Needless to say, don’t cycle when drunk.

3. Your awareness

– Most traffic accidents occur at intersections. Pay special attention when riding through intersections, and be aware of left-turning cars turning into you (this is called a “left hook”). Take the entire lane when approaching an intersection to prevent turning cars cutting into you. When turning right, filter early into the right turn lane, or perform a hook turn – proceed through the intersection and once on the far side join the left most lane of stationary traffic and wait for the green light.

– Being predictable makes it easier for drivers to give you sufficient space. Avoid sudden changes of direction. Riding in a straight line in one lane is safer than darting in and out around obstacles, such as parked vehicles.

– When riding adjacent to parked cars, be sure to leave enough space for drivers opening their car doors without looking by riding a bit further out. If you are hit by a door you will either be spilled out into traffic or go over the handlebars.

– Roads in Singapore are designed for car speeds well over the 50-80km limit (e.g. Toa Payoh Lorong 1), and drivers will drive over the speed limit, despite its illegality. Cyclists are at risk due to the large speed differential, so ride on the footpath if you have to to stay safe.

– Riding opposite to traffic direction (like a salmon swimming upstream) is much more dangerous than it appears, because the speed difference is even greater and drivers don’t have any time to react if anything unexpected happens.

– Be aware that drivers are not actively looking for you. Remember you are invisible.

– Footpaths are a safe haven if the road gets too dangerous, eg. on a 3 or 4 lane arterial road or when heavy rain reduces traction and visibility. However, you must respect the right of way of pedestrians, and be able to cycle at walking pace without wobbling or losing control. Be polite and courteous. Also be extremely careful when merging back onto the road. Drivers are not skillful enough to react if you dart out suddenly. Also look for turning cars when crossing sidestreets on the footpath – a major cause of “left hook” accidents.

– Smaller roads (single lane both directions) are usually much safer than main roads, but you still need to be alert for cars entering from side streets without looking.

– Don’t trust road signs and traffic light signals as many drivers will “roll through” a stop sign, and many others try to “beat the lights”. Make sure no driver is in a possible position to hurt you before crossing the intersection. For example, if the traffic green man is on but a car is still approaching the crossing, I wait until the car slows down and stops before I start to cross. The same applies when you are a pedestrian.

4. Your bicycle

Your bicycle should be in good working condition with functioning front and rear brakes, fitted with front and rear lights if you need to cycle at night. Remember you are invisible.

Finally the last two factors that you can’t control, yet it is essential to know.

5. Road design

Road infrastructure in Singapore is world class – for automotive. Unfortunately in some cases it is at the expenses of non-motorized road users, including cyclist and pedestrian. Wide lanes, straight roads, turning designed at large radius in densely populated area often encourage drivers to drive beyond the legal speed limit. Due to the road and traffic light design it is normal to see drivers speed through the straight segments between the traffic lights, only to find themselves waiting frustratingly at the next traffic lights a couple of seconds earlier.

6. Driver’s behavior

Most drivers are of good nature and courteous. However there are some very dangerous odds. A few common “habits” that can turn a seemingly harmless driver into a deadly killer:
– Speeding: 10km is “OK”. 50km/h is already way too fast for most of the urban area, many drivers consider driving at 60km/h is still acceptable.
– Poor lane discipline: Overtake from the slow lane, or worst, illegally using the bus lane as overtaking lane: The attention of the overtaking driver is on the right hand side, so it is very possible he/she won’t see the cyclist on the left.
– Multi-tasking: SMS, phoning, or checking the map while driving.
– Not stopping/ slow down when approaching junction, zebra crossing or pedestrian crossing.
– Not giving enough space for cyclist when over taking.
– Cutting into cyclist path when turning.
– Drunk driving, or driving when one is too tire.

The combination of factor 5 and 6 makes some of the roads in Singapore more deadly than it is necessary. However, knowing these factors and actively avoiding such roads helps to increase your safety as a cyclists significantly.

Thanks to my friend Tom, this is an improved version of my original post back in 2009

Cycling must be a key part of Singapore’s future

An excellent article by tk published on 14 September 2011 in Yawningbread. There is a lot of interesting discussion going on at the original post.


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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 lovecycling.net 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.