Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Commute by bike

nice story to share about cycling to work...

In late December, the local news began covering the contract dispute between the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Transit Workers Union, and the possibility of a strike by subway and bus operators. A lot of friends and co-workers were confident that the strike wouldn’t happen, but I wanted to be prepared. On Monday, December 19th, I put on several layers of clothing and some cold weather gear, hopped on my bike, and rode to work. Having proved to myself that I was capable, I concluded that I was prepared for a strike. The next day, the strike was on.

Biking in sub-freezing weather proved easier than I had expected. I anticipated burning wind, icy roads, numb extremities, and other unpleasantries, but learned over a few days of trial and error some of the basic do’s and donts of winter biking, the most important of which was not to overdress, which I did at the start. I also found, somewhat to my surprise, that I enjoyed it. Since you guys at CbB have done a fine job cataloging all the joys of commuting by bike, I won't waste my time listing them. I expect we're all very familiar with them. Suffice it to say that they were new to me.

The transit strike lasted only four days, but it gave me a new resolve. When one transportation option was taken away, I was forced to find another, and the alternative turned out to be the preferable option. So, when the trains started running again, I didn’t get on, and I don't regret it. Commuting by bike has made me stronger, faster, leaner and smarter. It's burned my lungs, strained my knees, torn my rotator cuff, and toughened me up in a hundred little ways. My wife sure likes what it's done to my butt. My co-workers, who at first were impressed and confused, have come to accept it as normal, even to the point of buying bikes and riding to work themselves. Now, having started in the dead of winter, I'm looking forward to the warm weather and sunshine that most cyclists consider "biking season."

I don't think there's anything difficult or special about what I did. Lots of people bike more than 75 miles in a week, and I’m no athlete. Make anything a part of your daily routine and you stop seeing it as a challenge.
I encourage anyone still debating their options to try it out. If it’s not possible, you'll know, but you might surprise yourself.

more story can be found here

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Low stress route makes for a joyful bike ride

Joyful? By bicycle? In Singapore? On the roads?? Yes! Let me explain.

My daily ride to work has become a joy since I found a low stress route to take. It takes me mostly along quiet streets. These stretches are linked up by some short off-road short cuts (and a few short stretches of busy roads). Riding to work is now a real pleasure.

The 'short cuts' involve places where I need to dismount to deal with a few steps or clamber up or down a slope. Maybe that sounds annoying but IMHO these inconveniences are a small price to pay to help me avoid the heavy traffic, lorries, noise and fumes of the main alternative route, which includes Alexandra and Pasir Panjang Roads.

You might think all the hassles with short cuts would take more time. But no! The low stress route takes me less than 25 minutes door to door (about 5 or 6 kms). The main road route is shorter and flatter but takes 25 minutes as well, mainly because it has more traffic lights to wait at.

Below I will give details of the route. But first I want to explain why I am sharing this. Why should you be interested in this route if you live nowhere near it?

One reason is to make the point that riding in Singapore is NOT always unpleasant and dangerous. My daily commuting ride is mostly very pleasant, relatively safe and leaves me feeling calm and happy.

Another reason for sharing this is that I hope to encourage you (Singapore cyclists) to share your own useful short cuts. I have often wished for a map of 'secret' ways to avoid dangerous stretches of road when I am out cycling in unfamiliar territory. So much so that I once started to make my own such maps. I might try again if enough people share their short cuts and low-stress bicycle routes! And, at risk of getting carried away with enthusiasm, if we can find and map enough safe routes all over the island, maybe we can persuade the LTA, URA and NParks to improve and protect them and one day link them up into a national bicycle network. Why not?

My route to work
Here is a brief summary of the route. Just the basic facts so you could find it if you wanted to.

  • Depot Rd (traffic not too bad usually) turn right (north) into Alexandra Rd (very busy - but on it for a just short stretch)
  • turn left (west and up the only serious hill of the trip) into York Rd (in quiet leafy Alexandra Park) (map)
  • turn right into Canterbury
  • then left into Russels (becomes Winchester)
  • then right into small blocked road before Tennis Courts (map)
  • left onto grass at the end, dismount, carry bicycles and clamber carefully down steep slope towards AYE. Cross drain - be careful not to fall in! (this bit may put some people off)
  • left along 'goat track' that has been worn by pedestrians and bicycles running along AYE (on the safe side of the crash barrier)
  • join the Normanton exit from AYE
  • at far side of junction dismount and climb steps into Science Park I (at the back of Cintech III) (map)
  • turn right into Science Park Drive (some traffic but usually low speed)
  • turn left into South Buona Vista (and be careful of the pinch point right near the junction at the star on this map and be wary of the heavy traffic here at peak times)
  • continue south along the windy road (by the way, if you instead turn right immediately here you can enter NUS and either ride along the ridge to the Central Library or head down to the Business School past the PGP student accommodation)
  • until the first bus stop (you will see a sheltered bus stop on the right for SBS route 200). Cross road (carefully!) and carry bicycle down the stairs into Science Park II (The Gemini) (map)
  • turn right into Science Park Rd (down hill - the only serious hill of return trip)
  • This takes you to Pasir Panjang Rd, although I turn right again before the Capricorn building to go up to Heng Mui Keng Terrace and my office

The reverse route is more or less the same, but with slightly more inconvenience (walking bike on footpaths in two places for a short stretch rather than ride the wrong way against traffic - which is very very dangerous!).

Please email details of your favourite LOW-STRESS routes and short cuts to sppbpa at nus dot edu dot sg. Please give enough detail so we can find them. I and other friends of 'Cycling in Singapore' blog will try to check them out and then hopefully share them via this blog sometime.

In coming months I will also share some other low stress routes and useful short-cuts that I have found.