Cycling Infrastructure in Singapore is set to undergo significant expansion as part of the Islandwide Cycling Network (ICN). The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has announced plans to build 1,300km of cycling paths by 2030. This move is part of a larger national strategy to encourage bike use and reduce reliance on personal cars, promoting a car-lite society. While there are some concerns and debates surrounding the concept of going car-lite, it is important to examine how the ICN intersects with drivers and its implications for the transportation network in Singapore.

Paths vs Lanes

One important aspect to consider is the allocation of real estate. In cycling-friendly cities like Amsterdam, bicycle lanes are often integrated into the existing road infrastructure. This means that expanding cycling infrastructure requires taking space away from automotive infrastructure. However, in Singapore, the current approach seems to be creating cycling paths alongside existing roads, rather than replacing them. This model is already seen in many estates and will likely continue moving forward.

Having dedicated cycling paths can improve safety by providing clear boundaries for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. This reduces the chances of accidents or incidents caused by overlapping transport modes. While the enforcement of cyclists using these paths remains a challenge, the overall intention is to create a more organized and harmonious transportation network.

Hobby vs Transport

It is important to acknowledge that cycling paths may not cater to all cyclists. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the number of people embracing cycling as a hobby or form of exercise. For these hobbyists, who often cycle longer distances in groups, the new cycling paths may not be sufficient. Regulations on group behavior on roads and the co-existence of cyclists and drivers are separate discussions that need to be addressed.

The primary beneficiaries of the ICN will be individuals who use bicycles as a mode of transport for short distances. These could include commuters traveling from point to point or individuals who work in delivery services. Cycling paths are particularly suitable for these short journeys, supporting the vision of a car-lite society. However, it is unlikely that cycling will replace driving as the primary mode of transport for most car owners.

Cycling: Alternative or Complementary Transportation?

The next question to consider is whether cycling can realistically serve as an alternative form of transport. In densely populated city centers, cycling can be a viable mode of transport for short distances. Countries like Germany and the Netherlands have favorable climates and infrastructure that support cycling as a primary means of transportation. However, in a country like Singapore, it may not be practical to cycle long distances on a daily basis.

While it may not be feasible for everyone to cycle long distances, there are opportunities to utilize cycling as a complementary mode of transport. For example, instead of driving a short distance to have lunch at a nearby hawker center, cycling can be a convenient and efficient alternative. Short, low-speed journeys are when cars are least efficient, and cycling can provide a greener and more economical option. Additionally, with the availability of folding bicycles, it is possible to combine driving for long journeys with cycling for shorter ones.

Cycling alone may not be the solution to achieving a car-lite society, but it can play a role in reducing car usage. By providing accessible and well-connected cycling infrastructure, more people can consider cycling as a viable option for their daily transportation needs. Although cycling paths will not magically reduce the number of cars on the roads, they contribute to creating a more sustainable and inclusive transport ecosystem.

The Reality

The reality is that the ICN is here to stay. With defined paths that improve safety and connectivity, cycling can become a more attractive mode of commuting for shorter journeys. While it may not replace the daily commute to the office for most people, it can be a suitable option for occasional trips to local amenities or leisure activities.

The ICN provides opportunities for individuals to explore alternative means of transport, and this is crucial in promoting the use of bicycles. Making cycling more conducive will benefit existing cyclists and potentially encourage more people to consider cycling as a viable option. While challenges and conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists may still arise, having better infrastructure in place is a positive step forward.

Cycling infrastructure alone cannot solve the challenges of becoming car-lite, but it is a step in the right direction. The availability of cycling paths and the recognition of cyclists as an essential part of the transport landscape contribute to creating a more sustainable and inclusive transportation system. It is important to continually assess and improve the cycling infrastructure in Singapore to ensure its effectiveness and encourage more people to embrace cycling as a mode of transport.

November 29, 2023 — Douglas Koh

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