Thursday, May 22, 2008

6 month foldable bicycle trail on buses and trains

The Land Transport Authority's media release in full.

LTA Press release, 21 May 2008: Fold It And Ride It - A Six Month Trial To Bring Foldable Bicycles On Trains And Buses

1 The Land Transport Authority (LTA), SMRT and SBST will launch a six-month trial to allow foldable bicycles on board trains and public buses during off-peak hours.

2 During the trial period from 24 May to 24 November 2008, foldable bicycles will be permitted on MRT / LRT trains every weekday during off-peak hours, and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. From 24 May to 24 August 2008, foldable bicycles will also be permitted on SBST and SMRT buses all day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. The trial on buses will be reviewed after the first three months. (Please refer to the Annex for the list of guidelines and timing.) [inserted below]

3 This trial is one of the several initiatives announced during the Land Transport Review to meet the transport needs of diverse groups of people. It recognises the increasing trend of people cycling for sports and recreation, cycling around the neighbourhood, or cycling to key transport nodes like MRT stations.

4 Mr Jeremy Yap, LTA's Group Director for Vehicle and Transit Licensing said, "While catering to the needs of cyclists, we also want to ensure the safety and comfort of other commuters. Social graciousness and mutual accommodation play an important part. Cyclists and other commuters are encouraged to be considerate and make way for one another so that more people can use our public transport system to meet their diverse travel needs."

5 "Commuters are already able to take foldable prams on board buses and carry luggage on board trains, such as when travelling to and from Changi Airport. We are trying to see if the same can be done for foldable bicycles. This trial will be able to help us seek the views from all stakeholders - cyclists, commuters, and operators. Due to the space constraints on buses as compared to the train, foldable bicycles will only be allowed on buses over the weekends and public holidays during the first three months. The feasibility to allow foldable bicycles on buses will be reviewed after three months."

6 During the trial, SBST / SMRT station staff and bus drivers can disallow a cyclist to board a bus or enter the RTS system if the cyclist is unable to comply with the guidelines or if the actual situation within an MRT/LRT station, bus interchange/terminal or on board a train/bus does not permit foldable bicycles to be admitted safely and without inconveniencing other commuters.

7 Ms Kang Huey Ling, SMRT's Director, Station Operations, said, "We are happy to work with LTA on this trial. At SMRT, we support cycling as a viable travel option by linking cycling with public transport. We encourage passengers with foldable bikes to be considerate to their fellow passengers so that everyone can enjoy a pleasant travel experience."

8 Mr Gan Juay Kiat, Chief Operating Officer, SBS Transit Ltd, said, "In supporting this trial, we hope to help a new group of commuters to use public transport as they pursue healthy and fun living. It is a move that is in line with SBS Transit's green charter in supporting healthy and green living. We hope that through this trial, all commuters will learn to be more accommodating and share the limited space available on board buses and trains with one another. While we support the trial, we are also mindful of potential implementation problems. For instance, onlstance, only foldable bicycles le bicycles of a certain size are allowed on board our buses and trains. Commuters with bicycles that are larger will not be allowed on board. Cycling enthusiasts may also be turned away when the bus is crowded as bringing a bicycle on board during such instances may pose a safety hazard to all passengers. In cases like these, disagreements may occur and we seek the co-operation and understanding of all passengers so as not to cause unnecessary service delays and inconvenience to others."

9 Ms Lim Kim Kee, an Accounts Assistant, said, "I am happy and welcome the trial with open arms. I use the foldable bicycle to exercise and get to different places of interest. I enjoy going to the East Coast Park during the weekends. As I live in Telok Blangah, I will cycle to the nearest MRT station (Redhill), hop onto a train to Kembangan MRT station and cycle there via the park connector.

10 "I hope to see more commuters welcoming us onto the trains and buses. We will also practise extra care and consideration to other commuters. At the end of the day, we are all happy commuters using the public transport system."

11 The LTA and operators will monitor the trial closely and take in feedback from commuters during the course of the trial. The trial will help in assessing whether foldable bicycles can be brought onto buses and trains without affecting normal operations or inconveniencing other commuters.


a) Cyclists are responsible for the safe carriage of their foldable bicycles and must stay in the vicinity of their foldable bicycles at all times.

b) Foldable bicycles should be folded at all times in the MRT / LRT stations, bus interchanges / terminals and on trains and buses.

c) Foldable bicycles should not exceed 114 cm by 64 cm by 36 cm when folded.

d) The wheels of the foldable bicycles should be wrapped up if they are dirty or wet.

e) Protruding parts likely to cause injury or dirty/damage property to be covered up.

f) Foldable bicycles should not block the aisles and doors or impede commuter movement at any time.

g) Foldable bicycles should be carried in an upright position.

h) Only two foldable bicycles are allowed on each bus at any one time.

i) When travelling by train, cyclist should use the first or last car, which is less crowded.

j) Cyclists should use the lifts and wide fare gates at MRT / LRT stations where these are available.

k) Foldable bicycles are not allowed on the upper deck of a bus or placed on the staircase leading to the upper deck.

l) From 24 May to 24 August 2008, foldable bicycles are allowed on buses all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. They are not allowed on Mondays to Fridays. This will be reviewed after three months.

m) For the trial on trains, off-peak hours during the six month trial period, 24 May to 24 November, are defined as:
  • Mon – Fri: 9.30am – 4.30pm, 7.30 pm to end of revenue service
  • All day on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays

SMRT / SBS Transit station staff and bus drivers may disallow foldable bicycles if the actual situation within an MRT/LRT station, bus interchange/terminal or on board a train/bus does not permit foldable bicycles to be admitted safely and without inconveniencing other commuters.

Cyclists of foldable bicycles may approach SMRT / SBS Transit staff if they require any assistance.

The public can share their views on this trial by contacting LTA via 1800 2255- 582 (1800 Call-LTA), or SMS 77582 "77LTA".

Friday, May 16, 2008

The need for (LTA?) leadership on bicycle policy

The Tampines trial of legalizing cycling on footways will end soon. Whatever the outcome, bicycle dilemmas in the heartlands are not going away.

Before the trial most bicycle riding in Tampines was on footways. During the trial most cycling there is still on footways. After the trial most cyclists will ride on Tampines footpaths, no matter what the outcome is.

Will the law get enforced if the trail says no to pavement cycling? I doubt it. The Traffic Police have better things to do than enforce this rule against pavement cycling.

Is there an opportunity for bicycle policy here?

Personally I am sad about the media and public reaction to the trial. I had hoped that this would be an opportunity to move forward. But today I don't want to focus on the trial itself. Instead I want to look further ahead.

Even if much of the publicity has been negative, the trial has raised bicycle issues higher on the national consciousness. After the trial, bicycles may even be seen as even more of a problem than before. Complaints about conflict with pedestrians will continue. They may even get worse.

Maybe this can focus minds on the need to get serious about including bicycles in transport policy.

Desperately seeking a serious bicycle policy

As we noted before, the Land Transport Master Plan 2008 takes a little more interest in bicycles as transport than we are accustomed to. But you could hardly call it a serious plan for a constructive role for bicycles in the transport system.

How could Singapore do better on bicycles? I am not talking about 'what' can we do, but about HOW we can do it. How can bicycles become an integral part of transport policy and planning here?

One key will be to establish clear lines of responsibility and leadership. The fastest way for bicycle policy to improve will be for a single agency to take primary responsibility for the issue. But which agency?

Best agency to take the lead on bicycle policy? The LTA!

After all, the LTA is the key land transport agency. When bicycles are used as transport, they are land transport, right?

I know that the LTA has not shown much enthusiasm for bicycles in the past. So it might seem odd to ask a reluctant LTA to lead the way.

Let me explain.

A poster in Tokyo highlighting bicycle infrastructure plans
in that extremely crowded city.

Singapore has some good bicycle policy efforts ... but they lack the coordination and expert guidance that they need

Various other agencies have taken significant initiatives for bicycle use in Singapore in recent years. Unfortunately many of these efforts suffer from a lack of coordination and direction. They would greatly benefit from leadership on this issue.

For example, NParks Park Connectors programme, which is wonderful in many ways, has design problems and many gaps.

Certain Town Councils, such as Pasir Ris and Tampines,
have tried to create some off-road bicycle ways (with some built and others in planning). The ones built so far also have significant design problems.

Both the Park Connector programme and any efforts by Town Councils would benefit greatly if they could turn to the LTA (where the transport engineering expertise is) for clear national guidelines on design.

The Traffic Police
took the lead (as I understand it) on the Tampines Footway Cycling Trial. The reported responses have been mostly negative (including even some bicycle enthusiasts, such as MrBrown). But the trial does represent a serious attempt to try something to resolve the squeeze that bicycle users face between the 'devil' of riding illegally on footways as many do, and the 'deep blue sea' of riding on the roads with the high-speed motorised traffic. It recognises the reality that most bicycle users ARE already on footways and that the law against this was not being enforced seriously.

But the need to have this trial highlights the policy vacuum on bicycles generally. The enforcement priorities and educational efforts of the Traffic Police could also benefit from a coherent national bicycle policy - led by LTA.

URA and HDB have created a rather permeable residential environment in many parts of Singapore which makes cycling for short trips quite easy in New Towns (despite the lack of dedicated bicycle facilities). But they could do even better if guided by a clear national policy, or by having someone at LTA to turn to for guidance on bicycle issues.

LTA's own Traffic Engineers also need the benefit of some leadership on bicycle policy! LTA's own road designs and lane-marking policies could easily change in various small ways that could make cycling safer. One example (among many) would be a policy of wider kerbside lanes wherever possible. Improving conditions for bicycle users is not rocket science. But LTA traffic engineers on the ground will not seek the necessary expertise unless they get a signal from above. And the top policy makers may not realise that there are actually many win-win opportunities to do better.

How could the LTA demonstrate leadership on bicycle policy?

How could MOT and LTA build on their recent small steps towards a more positive and comprehensive approach to bicycles as part of the transport system?

I think the key is to make bicycle policy someone's responsibility. Somebody specific. Not just the LTA in general but one little bit of it.

The LTA needs a dedicated Bicycle Transport Unit

This need not be grand or require a big budget. A bicycle unit within the LTA could start modestly - maybe as a single Bicycle Officer. Amazing things can start to happen once even just one person in government has bicycle transport policy as their primary responsibility.

There are precedents around the world for this. One example is BikeWest the bicycle agency in Western Australia. It started small but grew into a significant sub-agency.

Once we get the institutions right for bicycles in the transport system, good bicycle policy is much more likely to follow. Meanwhile, bicycle dilemmas are not going away.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

TOO MANY folding bikes?

Here is a BBC article about the problem of TOO MANY folding bikes fighting the space with other passengers in the London tube: "The bicycle backlash unfolds," by Claire Heald. BBC News (Magazine), 06 May 2008.

"The bicycle. It's the model of green transport and sales of folding ones that fit on trains are stepping up a gear. But as they multiply, so does rush-hour resentment, as commuters and cyclists come to blows."

I do hope the announced trial to allow folding bike in the MRT will be organized such that, while getting more people to Cycle-to-MRT, does not cause inconvenient to other passengers.

Some suggest restrict the folding bikes to off-peak so that they won't affect commuters during the peak hours. But that would drastically reduce the usefulness of a folding bike, being an ideal commuter companion, isn't it?

Anothers idea is to remove the seats in the first or last cart to make more rooms available for folders. In a sense, the cyclist "paying" the space by not having the seats.

What else can we do to make folding bike, and eventually bicycle be part of a seamless MRT+ system?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Geylang Boys talk about the ECPCN

ky at Geylang Boys has been blogging abut the Eastern Coastal Park Connector Network since January 2008. He put up a series of posts examining the "potholes" in the connectors and provided NParks feedback, like several cyclists have been doing.

He just commented that "NParks have taken some remedial action. Good for them."

Here are the links to the first of a series of posts for each of the first four months of 2008: