Singapore doesn’t need bike lanes, we need more graciousness
This blogpost is a little different from what we usually write as it won’t contain as much technical information about cycling. We won’t be reviewing city bikes, road bikes, brakes, tyres, bicycle lights or anything like that. Instead we are addressing a deeper important issue that underscores cycling in Singapore.
If you’ve spoken to a friend about whether they would consider using cycling as a means of transport. Chances are that you would hear at least one of them say “maybe I would, but not unless there are dedicated bicycle lanes.” While we like many of you would welcome the building of bicycle lanes, we are of the opinion that this does not solve the root of the problem. So what is the problem and how do we solve it you may ask? We think the answer to this question is this:
We need to be more gracious in the way we use our shared spaces.
One way to a happier society is graciousness
Regardless of whether you are cycling on the road, a pavement or anywhere having other gracious space users will make commuting on a bicycle that much safer and by extension more enjoyable. The spillover effects also would lead to other aspects of society that extend well beyond bicycles. For example, buying your morning cup of kopi would be a lot smoother and having your clogged toilet fixed would be less of a chore. We used to have this graciousness if you look back just 2 to 3 decades ago when kids would share the space below void decks and neighbours would leave their doors open and unlocked. We need to bring back this “kampung” spirit and we argue that a good place to start is on the road and paths.
Cyclists need to be nicer to drivers and motorists
It is a truth that motorists hate cyclists. They don’t understand why people on bicycles can’t just take the bus or drive like everyone else. Riding a bicycle for many of us if a lifestyle choice. Be it whether we cycle to get to work, for fitness/sport or to experience happiness as a past time we love doing it. We have the right to cycle on the road under local legislation, but we are not understood because we are outliers. The exception to this truth are motorists who also cycle. They tend to be more courteous and gracious towards cyclists because they know how much effort is loss if you have to squeeze those brakes and come to a complete stop.
Why give way to motorists and be a gracious cyclist you may ask? The idea is that if we as people who ride bicycles behave better, we can show that not all cyclists misbehave and run red lights or cycle recklessly. Not all cyclists hog the lanes. Not all cyclists swerve left and right and can’t decide whether to change lanes.
For example, if you aren’t confident in doing a right turn on the road, as a cyclist you could chose to join the pavement and take the turn using the pedestrian crossing. This guarantees the safety of yourself and the other motorists around you. This small act of choosing to take a slower method of doing a right turn is a gracious act in itself that would cause less obstruction to the natural flow of traffic.
Motorists need to be nicer and more gracious to cyclists
If you are a motorist reading this, you probably know at least one person personally that cycles. How would you feel if a motorist overtook that person giving nothing but a hair’s length of space? We understand that you may be in a rush and that pesky bicycle might be obstructing you from getting to where you need to be, but that person is simply trying to ride his or her bicycle. Yes motorists pay road tax, but that’s also because motor vehicles wear down roads at a rate that is exponentially higher that that of bicycles or pedestrians. All of us, be it pedestrians, cyclists or motorists share the roads because roads are a public good that allows us to get about our day.
Instead of rushing to beat a bicycle at a zebra crossing, maybe give way to the person on the bicycle and make their day. A little goes a long way.
Cyclists and pedestrians need to be nicer to each other
If you’re a pedestrian on a foot path, please don’t be glued to your phone or plugged into earphones without any sense of spacial awareness. The chances are slim but something could crash into you. This may be a bicycle or if you’re really unlucky a motor vehicle. When you’re using a public space, it’s your civic duty to be aware of what’s around you because it’s a shared space. This is a form of graciousness. If you see someone jogging it’s only natural to make way and let them pass. The same is same for bicycles.
If you’re a bicycle for goodness sake take that damn high beam flashing light of your bicycle. You don’t want to be blinding other cyclists who may crash into you as a result or cause someone to get into an epileptic fit. Be courteous and ring your bell or ask nicely if there’s a pedestrian on the path that you’re trying to pass by. If they don’t budge consider asking again nicely. Note that how you feel on the pathway in relation to pedestrians is exactly how motorists feel when they are in a car trying to overtake you.
To sum things up, everyone just needs to be nicer and more gracious to everyone else. Doesn’t matter what category of road user you are. Our culture in Singapore is something that may take years or even decades to change, but we believe that as long as there are people willing to work on it, our graciousness will trickle down and multiply. Our hope is that eventually it will spread throughout the entire nation such that Singapore will become a great place not just for cyclists but for everyone.
While bike lanes would be nice, wouldn’t a gracious culture of road and path users be even more awesome?