Article by Francis Chu, Director of ISUDA BIKE SHARE and Co-founder of LovecyclingSG
I’m not trying to do the job of road engineer, but cycling on Singapore roads allows me to see opportunities which are not so obvious through the windscreen or from the pavement. I am genuinely curious if there is indeed no space left to make way for safer cycling in our neighborhood.
The picture is taken from Geylang East Avenue 2, a small street near where I live, surrounded by housing estates. Although nearby there are industrial blocks but hardly any “heavy industry” there. Most of the vehicle parked there are private cars. This is typical in many area in Singapore – old industrial space being phased out to make rooms for the increasing housing demands. The need for wide roads for big lorries is also replaced by the need of the residents, most walk, cycle or drive in the area.
The road in the picture is 5.1 meters wide, 4.5 meters for the car lane and 60cm for the double yellow lines. From what I’ve observed in many residential area, 2.9 meter lane is sufficient for cars. Drivers tends to speed when the lane is too wide. Wider lanes unintentionally makes the road more dangerous for non-motorist who walk and cycle. While riding on the left side of the road, I see potential to redraw the double yellow line to allow some space for safer cycling, and helps to moderate car speed. After all, there are kids and elderlies, mothers with baby prams or shopping trolley need to share the space. Cyclists, be it old or young, need to share the same stretch of road too. Car should never be driving fast in such area, may be a speed limit of 30km/h is more appropriate than current standard of 50 km/h. At slower speed, driving within a lane of 2.8 meter is not an issue at all (Kallang Way, a busy road has lanes of 2.95 meters and 3.1 meters).
The picture on the left is the current situation, a wide lane (4.5 meters), fast car and the cyclist has no space but have to ride just on the double yellow lane. As you can see, more than half of the yellow line space is blocked by drainage grills which can be slippery or even trap the bicycle wheels. On the right is the exact same road, nothing change but the double yellow lines shifted 60 cm further away from the curb. The cyclist is now within a space that drivers normally won’t go in. The cyclist can be more confident to ride in a stable manner. On the flip side, a frighten cyclist can be unpredictable and which is more stressful for the driver too (if the drive has a heart not to hurt anyone). The sense of a narrower lane suggest to the drivers: “Drive carefully!”. (LTA’s experiment on PIE proved narrower lanes helps to curb speeding)
When people say there is no space on Singapore roads for bicycle lanes, I will ask: “Have you go down and check?”
I did, in fact three of us did: Teh Ching, AhSun and I. We took a measurement tape and visited different places to measure the roads. We found a lot more opportunities in different parts of Singapore. We plot them in a google map. So far out of 50 location measured, 48 of them have some space that can be allocated for a small bicycle lane without reducing the number of car lanes. These are so called “local access roads” and there are 2000 km of them in Singapore accodring to recent (LTA Statistic). A conservative estimation is 3 quarters of these roads, or 1500 km of these local access roads are wide enough to accommodate both bicycles and cars, without affecting the number of car lanes.
More: lane width project
Media update: The New Paper: 2012-08-28
Media update: Straits Times: 2012-01-23