Friday, October 24, 2014

Cycling can become a viable transport option, says Khaw




SINGAPORE — The Government wants cycling to go beyond the realm of recreation and become a “viable transport option” for short trips, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on his blog today (Oct 22).

And to make that happen, these trips — to the supermarket, coffee shop, hawker centre or the nearest MRT station — must be “safe and pleasant”, he said.

Singapore has a “wonderful” Park Connector Network that has brought greenery and recreation closer to homes, and is also quite walkable, with good pavements along most roads, pedestrian priority at traffic junctions, and sheltered walkways.

“But we are not perfect. In fact, some cities, like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have raised active mobility (cycling and walking) to a higher level. Walking and cycling as modes of transport have been honed to be the normal way of life.”

In these cities, they make up more than half of the modes of transport. “Benchmarked against them, we are way behind. Cycling merely makes up 1 to 2 per cent of our transport modes here,” said Mr Khaw.

A new book, by Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) and the United States-based Urban Land Institute (ULI), provides ideas and practical measures, he added.

Launched today (Oct 22), the book is based on research that began last November. Two workshops were held with participants from the private sector, government and civic groups in Singapore and sought to identify potential improvements.

Also, a “Bikeshop” cycling study tour led by renowned Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl was held. Together with 55 participants, he observed and discussed challenges and strategies for bicycling at Ang Mo Kio Town in Singapore.

“Their conclusion is that when more people walk and cycle, there are substantial benefits to the individual, society, environment and the economy,” said Mr Khaw.

The report also included 10 ideas to make cities more walkable, bikeable and people-friendly. Some of these include keeping motorised traffic slow in high-pedestrian areas, making street-level crossings a priority, and making walking and cycling paths comfortable and attractive.

It also noted that with dedicated cycling infrastructure still limited in Singapore, conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists on sidewalks have arisen. On-street cycling, which is becoming more common, has also resulted in an increase in conflicts between drivers of motorised vehicles and cyclists.

Dr Park Byung Joon, an urban transport management expert at SIM University, said it is essential to keep the speed limit low in high-density pedestrian areas to encourage cycling. The speed limit at high pedestrian areas is currently is about 40kmh, and should remain so, he added. “When cars start running around in a high speed, then sometimes you just don’t feel like this is the right place to walk,” added Dr Park.

Under the National Cycling Plan, there will be a cycling network of 700km by 2030, including intra-town and inter-town networks. Come next year, Singapore will have developed 100km of intra-town cycling paths in Yishun, Punggol and Bedok.

Eventually, said Mr Khaw, all 26 HDB towns will have similar networks to connect homes to neighbourhood centres and MRT stations.

He added that the government is exploring bike-sharing schemes, and increasing safety education programmes such as the Safe Cycling Programme for Youth for students from secondary schools.

10 ideas to make cities more bikeable, walkable and people-friendly*
- Make walking and cycling convenient and efficient, integrating them into public transit systems
- Provide dedicated space for all forms of transportation
- Ensure high visibility at junctions to improve safety
- Maintain continuity of movement
- Keep motorised traffic slow in high pedestrian areas
- Make street-level crossings a priority
- Ensure consistency in design standards throughout the city
- Make walking, cycling paths comfortable and attractive (e.g. shady trees help shield people from heat, sun and rain)
- Mix up the land uses adjacent to the routes; mixed-use developments are conducive to walking and cycling as an easy way to get from one place to another
- Close the loop with end-of-trip amenities such as shower facilities, lockers and bicycle parking

*From the Creating Healthy Places through Active Mobility report

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