Saturday, March 12, 2005

Urban Green Space Linked To Walking, Cycling Levels

Urban Green Space Linked To Walking, Cycling Levels

Center For The Advancement Of Health, 28 February 2005. Reported by Science Daily, 8th March 2005.
Original news release.

The degree to which city people walk or ride bicycles for their daily transportation needs depends largely on how much green space there is, says a new study that examines the role of urban design in physical fitness.

"Because engaging in moderate physical activity such as walking or bicycling can improve health outcomes, understanding strategies that increase these behaviors has become a public health priority," says Amy Zlot, an epidemiologist with the Oregon Department of Human Services, writing in the current American Journal of Health Promotion.

Using government databases with results from surveys of more than half a million respondents, the researchers compared levels of fitness with parkland acreage in 34 metropolitan areas.

They found that San Francisco had the highest percentage of people who walked or bicycled for recreation and the highest percentage of parkland. New York City had the highest percentage that walked or bicycled for basic transportation, such as commuting to work or running errands, and the third highest amount of parkland.

Atlanta had the lowest percentage for recreational walking or bicycling and the second lowest percentage of parkland, and Memphis had the lowest proportion of people who walked or rode for transportation purposes and the sixth lowest percentage of open space. San Jose had the lowest percentage of parkland.

The parkland acreage was measured as a percentage of total city size, and the figures for walking or bicycling were derived from those who listed those as their two most frequent forms of physical activity.

"In this set of observations, walking and bicycling for transportation was positively associated with parkland acreage," say Zlot and co-author Tom Schmid, who did the research while employed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data did not show a significant relationship between the level of walking or cycling for pleasure and the percentage of urban parks.

The significance of the study, say the authors, is that "the number of route choices a community provides – and mix – the relative percentage of housing, retail, work and recreational opportunities in a community – appear to be important, independent predictors of walking and bicycling."

Zlot and Schmid suggest that studies like theirs might help in the planning of "livable communities" by multidisciplinary teams of urban planners, architects, transportation experts, developers, policy makers, park administrators and environmentalists.

A study of Atlanta area residents published in early February found that city dwellers were more physically active than suburbanites because they walk more often for shopping, dining or doing errands.

Government data suggest that only 45 percent of Americans meet recommendations for physical activity and of the remaining 55 percent, about half are sedentary.

The top 10 cities for recreational walking and bicycling: San Francisco, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Los Angeles/Tampa (tied) and Denver.

The bottom 10 cities for recreational walking and bicycling: Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix-Mesa, Cleveland, Miami, Las Vegas and Virginia Beach.

The top 10 cities for "utilitarian" walking and bicycling: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Cincinnati and Oakland.

The bottom 10 cities for "utilitarian" walking and bicycling: Memphis, Columbus, Cleveland, Virginia Beach, Milwaukee, St. Louis/Atlanta (tied), San Jose, San Diego and Sacramento.

The top 10 cities for parkland as a percentage of city acreage: San Francisco, Washington, New York, San Diego, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Phoenix-Mesa.

The bottom 10 cities for parkland as a percentage of city acreage: San Jose, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, Houston, Cleveland, Memphis/Sacramento (tie) and Columbus.
This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Center For The Advancement Of Health.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Building a safer roadway

Good inspiration for road planners in Singapore..

"Building a safer roadway." By Melody Hanatani/ CNC Staff WriterFriday, 25 February, 2005. Watertown Tab & Press, on

How can a road be safer for pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists? That was the issue addressed recently at a traffic-calming talk, where residents of Watertown, Belmont and surrounding towns came to hear how they can make their communities safer.

Cara Seiderman, transportation manager for the city of Cambridge, spoke to a crowd of residents from local communities about traffic calming - how to redesign roadways to slow down traffic and increase pedestrian safety.

Using a PowerPoint presentation consisting mainly of photos of streets and intersections from across the country, Seiderman illustrated how visual and physical enhancements to existing streets can reduce the speed of vehicles, which can then increase the flow of pedestrians by making it safer to cross the street.

"People speed because the road environment tells them to," Seiderman said. Visual enhancements, such as trees, do not decrease the actual width of the road but create the appearance of a narrower road. According to Seiderman, the safest streets are found to be only 24 to 30 feet wide.

Chicanes are also commonly used in traffic calming. They slow vehicles by creating deviations and breaking up roads that were originally designed to go straight. Chicanes can include alternating parking from one side to the other, or placing a small island on the street.

Another way of redesigning streets is to raise the intersection, which works like a speed bump. "We tend to raise intersections where there are a lot of pedestrians such as parks and schools," Seiderman said.

A popular way of reducing speed is a roundabout, which works similar to a rotary but is designed better and safer. "A rotary is a badly and wrongly designed roundabout," she said. "A roundabout controls traffic and a rotary does not."

Roundabouts, which are used at intersections with high accident rates, allow only one vehicle at a time and reduce the number of places where conflict may occur between two vehicles or between a vehicle and a pedestrian.

"The roundabout has to be designed to be tight so it can slow the car down," Seiderman said.

Tightening intersections is a common way of reducing speed and conflict between vehicles and pedestrians, she said. A tighter intersection means drivers will slow down when making a turn, which gives them a better chance of seeing a pedestrian about to cross.

Seiderman also cited economic and health benefits that come along with traffic calming. There is a correlation between the lack of pedestrian access and inactivity, which can lead to obesity, Seiderman said. Showing a graph illustrating the trend in obesity and lack of walking, Seiderman said the group affected most is children.

When the audience of mainly adults was asked whether they walked to school during their childhood, a majority raised their hands. When asked whether their children walk to school, the number of hands was reduced to about two or three.

"People will walk, and some don't have a choice because they don't have a car," Seiderman said. "Studies show that more and more Americans are favoring sidewalks."
Better-designed streets also affect economic health positively by increasing the number of pedestrians along business districts.

To illustrate the business benefits of well-designed streets, Seiderman showed a photo of a woman riding a bike who stopped to smell flowers displayed on a storefront in Denmark. Seiderman said the woman went into the store to buy the flowers after smelling them. But what was interesting, she said, is that the woman already had bought some flowers at another store. "This could only happen if you're walking or cycling," she said.

Seiderman is a well-known expert on traffic calming and serves on the Massachusetts Governor's Highway Design Manual Task Force along with other traffic-related committees. A graduate of Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley, Seiderman received her degrees in urban planning.

The talk was co-sponsored by the East End Neighbors, the Watertown Bicycle Committee, Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety, Belmont Citizens Forum, and various transportation committees from Lexington, Waltham, Arlington and Belmont.

"It's poor design that creates traffic," Seiderman said. "Pedestrians always have the right of way and many designs don't give that message. If you design something right, people will use it right."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Response to sharing pavements

Five letters were published in The Straits Times Forum page, 8th March 2005 in response to an earlier article suggesting that cyclists may get to share pavements with pedestrians.

1/5 - Save pavements for vulnerable pedestrians

THE first line in the Parliament report, 'Cyclists may get to ride on pavements' (ST, March 4), says it all: 'Pedestrians, watch out'.

Why watch out? Because it is not safe to have both cyclists and pedestrians on the same pavement.

Vehicles belong on the road and pedestrians on the pavement, and the bicycle is a vehicle. There is a buffer between the wheel, the handle bar and the cyclist but there is no buffer for the pedestrian in a collision between the two.

If cyclists are to be allowed on the pavement, the bicycle lane should be demarcated clearly and a kerb should separate the bicycle lane from the pedestrian path.

It is much easier to mark out a bicycle lane on the road than to create space on the pavement for bicycles.

Alternatively, bicycles can share the bus lanes, which could be made off limits to other vehicles.

Cyclists should have their space but not on the pavement.

Anthony Leong Chee Hong

2/5 - Don't neglect the safety of pedestrians

I APPLAUD Member of Parliament Irene Ng's lobbying for cyclists' safety ('Cyclists may get to ride on pavements'; ST, March 4). Indeed, accidents involving cy- clists have been on the increase.

However, I wonder if anyone is lobbying for pedestrians' safety. Having lived in 'Bicycle Town' Pasir Ris for the last 14 years, I have had my share of accidents with cyclists while walking on pavements.

On Friday morning, a cyclist brushed past me at high speed. The bicycle handle hit me hard and left me bruised. The rather well-dressed cyclist did not even stop to check on me.

On another occasion, a cyclist, also travelling at high speed on the pavement, hit a student from the back, causing superficial injuries. But what was most shocking was the cyclist's response. First, he shouted 'sh*t', then accused the student of 'not walking straight'.

These are but two very recent examples of the perils of walking along pavements in Pasir Ris. And the danger is not confined to pavements; cyclist-pedestrian accidents can also be witnessed frequently at our beach parks.

What irks me is that even when it is illegal to ride on pavements, cyclists are already bullying pedestrians. Should the legislation be changed, I fear taking a walk in Singapore, which has yet to become a gracious society.

Please understand that I am for cyclists' safety and am willing to share the pavement. However, don't neglect the safety of pedestrians too, lest my town becomes Pasir Ris-ky.

John Toh Boon Jauw

3/5 - Take a leaf out of Australia's book

I REFER to the article, 'Cyclists may get to ride on pavement' (ST, March 4). The average width of a pavement is about 1.2m. With cyclists riding on the pavement, there is little space left for pedestrians.

In Australia, cyclists - clad in safety helmets and reflective vests - share the road with motorists, who give way to them.

Alan Yap Ken Kuo

4/5 - Will 'pavement code' be obeyed?

PRESENTLY many cyclists do not obey the simple rule about staying off the pavement. Is there any reason to believe that they will somehow comply with a new 'Use of Pavement Code' to be drawn up?

Many cyclists are foreign workers or elderly retired persons. Unless it is made compulsory for them to take up insurance, I foresee that those injured by 'pavement cyclists' would be left without compensation when they are not at fault.

Finally, cyclists are not the only road users bullied by drivers of larger vehicles; motorcyclists and drivers of smaller cars are also at their mercy.

Lee Siew Boo

5/5 - Jog-Cum-Cycle path for Ponggol Road

I WOULD like the authorities to consider building a jogging-cum-cycling path along Ponggol Road.

I have often seen joggers, walkers and cyclists using the main road early in the morning and in the evening, sharing the road with huge trucks, buses, lorries and cars, which frequently shave past each other, posing a very dangerous situation.

Chan Wai Chong

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Pedalling for Space

Pedalling for Space. By Tor Ching Li, Today, 5th Mar 2005

The Singapore cyclist and the constant clash of wheel power

CYCLISTS in Singapore — who may feel like a forgotten lot — should take heart: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the word "bicycle" twice in his Budget Debate roundup speech last week. Likening the Budget for the coming year to a "bicycle built for two", he urged Singaporeans to pedal in tandem with the Government's efforts to help them.

Analogies aside, however, just how much in tune is the Government with the needs of Singapore's cyclists — who ride for leisure, to work or to stay fit? Judging by the general outcry from cyclists — as well as their pedestrian "victims" — there is still a long way to go to make cycling safer here.

A recent commentary in Today titled "Vote for pedal power" hit a raw nerve among members of the cycling fraternity and sparked a flurry of responses, with appeals for ministries and agencies to address their plight. Ms Irene Ng, MP and patron of the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association, summed up the situation to the House as follows: "Because (safe cycling) is an issue that cuts across several different ministries and requires coordinated action, it seems to fall between the cracks with no real progress made."

Indeed, far from freewheeling, cyclists here face the hard-hitting reality of risking their lives on the road or paying fines of $1,000 and spending up to three months in jail for cycling on footpaths.


The number of cyclists involved in traffic accidents is on the rise, increasing from 341 in 1998 to 363 in 2002. The figure was 292 for January to September last year. . Offering pedallers a sliver of hope, the Ministry of Home Affairs responded to Ms Ng by offering the possibility of relaxing the pavement ban on cyclists. But evidently, much more must be done for the cycling community.

Calling for a multi-agency task force to make concerted efforts to protect cyclists and for a safe cycling campaign, Ms Ng said: "No matter how much enforcement or education is done, it is hard to make our roads safer for cyclists if our urban planners or transport policy-makers do not factor cyclists into their plans."


When it comes to public cycling facilities, it seems Singapore should go Dutch. Mr Lim Kong Hiong, who lived and worked in the Netherlands for 18 months, said: "In Holland, the importance of cycling can be seen in the presence of many facilities for cyclists. The attitude of other road users is also cordial compared to the attitude here."

So developed and entrenched is the Dutch cycling culture that the country has dedicated cycling lanes — complete with traffic lights for cyclists on major roads — bicycle stands throughout the city and even multi-storey bicycle parks with guards to ensure that expensive bicycles are not stolen, said Mr Lim.

In contrast, cyclists in Singapore have to endure rude stares even when cycling on proper cycling tracks in parks. "On several occasions, maids or pedestrians with baby prams or dogs have given me unfriendly stares and been unwilling to let me cycle through, even on a pathway made for cyclists and joggers," said Mr Eddie Goh. Unsurprisingly, cyclists here are casualties of the relentless national pursuit of "efficiency".

On the possibility of dedicated cycling lanes, the Land Transport Authority maintains that the need to optimise the limited land here rules it out. Only buses — as a "more efficient form of transporting people" — have been given dedicated lanes during peak hours. Said Mr Ong Kian Min, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport: "Dedicated cycling lanes are not feasible for a country such as Singapore. Rather, we should focus on promoting a safety consciousness among road users." Nevertheless, civil engineer-cum-cyclist Penelope Bennett said: "On-road facilities are the way to change motorists' 'I own the road' mindset and to really provide for bicycle commuters."

Meanwhile, don't even think of taking your bicycle on the MRT — the epitome of efficiency in people transport — as part of a "cycle-MRT-cycle" strategy. Unlike some rail operators in Thailand, the United States, Germany and France, both local train operators bar bicycles — unless they are folded — from the MRT. Why? Because they feel that bicycles could cause injuries or damage and would pose an obstruction to other passengers.


Nevertheless, respect for cycling as a form of transport is, as they say, a two-way street. Reckless pedallers have earned cyclists a bad reputation among motorists and pedestrians. Following the death of avid cyclist Sylvester Ang last December, a group of pedallers banded together to form the Safe Cycling Task Force. The group has met with the relevant government authorities to convey their concerns.

Mr Melvin Yuan, spokesman for the movement, said: "Our next step will be to create awareness and educate the public on the need to foster a partnership with other road users."

To share your views, email

So you want to be a biker? Here are some safety terms and conditions:
• Ride your bikes on the left side of the road
• Wear a cycling helmet
• Ensure your bicycle is roadworthy and equipped with a light
• Signals when intending to stop, slow down and turn to the left or right
• Travelling to the right of another vehicle is against the law

Buy a biCycle . Check out the following websites to get a roadworthy bike:

Getting on track

Park Connector Networks: The Urban Redevelopment Authority is planning a 170km green network to be completed by 2010, connecting park to park, coast to coast, parks to town centres … you get the picture.

To date, 58km of pathways, mainly along rivers and canals, have been built. . Designated Bike Parks: Bishan Park, East Coast Park, Pasir Ris Park, West Coast Park, Bedok Reservoir Park

Band of Bikers
Some cycling groups to consider joining:
• Singapore Amateur Cycling Association (
• Singapore BMX (
• Teamabsolut (

Friday, March 04, 2005

Cyclists may get to ride on pavements

"Cyclists may get to ride on pavements." By Li Xueying. The Straits Times, 4th March 2005.

PEDESTRIANS, watch out. Cyclists could soon be sharing pavements with you. The Traffic Police are looking into allowing them on sidewalks.

Right now, they are banned from these spaces. But many disregard the law, pedestrians have claimed in letters to The Straits Times Forum pages. If caught, such cyclists can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to three months.

But insisting that they share the roads with vehicles also poses great risks to them, said MP Irene Ng (Tampines GRC), who has championed the cause of cyclists in Parliament for the past three years.

During the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) yesterday, she got into gear again - and made some headway. Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee told the House about the possibility of relaxing the pavement ban on cyclists.

Miss Ng, who is the patron of the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association, said: 'This is a positive sign from the MHA that cyclists have a share of the common space and are legitimate road users.' MP Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol) and NMP Geh Min too spoke on the safety of cyclists yesterday.

The number of cyclists involved in traffic accidents has been rising - from 341 in 1998 to 363 in 2002. The latest figure, between January and September last year, was 292. Ms Ng told The Straits Times that even if the law is relaxed, pedestrians' safety should not be compromised. She is for clearly demarcated cyclist lanes and good sign-posting. Also, some pavements may have to be widened.

A Traffic Police spokesman said that if cyclists are allowed to ride on the pavement, 'relevant laws and enforcement procedures would have to be put in place to ensure everyone's safety'.

Ms Ng revealed to The Straits Times that she is in talks with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to widen roads in Tampines to accommodate cyclists. 'We'd like to pilot this in Tampines, and if it works out well, we hope it would convince LTA to implement it nationwide.'