Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Road Witch Trial: Traffic calming in British neighbourhoods

Brandon Seah, a friend of mine, highlighted this link on Facebook. Road Witch points out the often-forgotten consideration that neighbourhood roads should not facilitate hurtling metal vehicles through at high speeds but that these are community spaces and need to be managed as such.

Ted Dewan of writes:

The original Road-Witch was an early experiment in 'folk' traffic calming. A Roadwitch is just a dummy, made with old clothes stuffed with leaves, newspapers, or rags. The crucial difference is that the 'head' is a road cone. When laying on the street, they form an effective means of slowing down traffic.

If you live in Britain or the USA, it’s generally the case that your local authority has failed to adequately protect you from people who forget they're operating lethal machinery in public. Setting up your own Roadwitch could be your first step in redressing the balance between motorists and 'unenhanced' humans who also use the roads.

Currently the resource site has information about all sorts of news from various places, photos of campaigns and traffic calming artwork. When I visited, Ted had highlighted this DIY traffic calming effort - "someone in the neighbourhood has had enough and has put in place a creative traffic calming system. It consists of two thick lengths of rope spread across the road. Surprisingly, traffic approaching these almost always slow to a crawl while crossing them."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Awesone Bike To Work

Super photographs and well written text.
From page 18 is the section "No excuse", includes:
- Cycling is dangerous
- My bike will get stolen
- I don't have the time
- Rain! I hate getting wet
- My coworker will laugh at me
- I'll semll
- It cost the Earth to buy a bike
- I've got kids to drop of at school before work, I need an SUV
- Only expensive bikes are good
- I'll get a flat
- I'm too out of shape
- It's too dark when I go home
- You can't carry much on a bike
- I can't I have to wear a suit!
- I travel long distance, too far to cycle
- I want to get fit, but I don't want to get thunder thighs
- Biking will be bad for my sex life
- I have to take clients out to lunch and I need to drive
- I don't know of any bike routes to work
- Bike don't have aircon, I don't want to breathe in city fumes
- I would cycle, but my town is really hilly
- Bikes are oily
- I can't cycle, I lug a laptop
- cycling require too much special clothing and gears

Wow, quite a list. Are you one of them?

Download this electronic "Bike to Work" book free

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Pedal power is the way to go in Singapore" - ST 25 Nov 2008

"Pedal power is the way to go in Singapore,"
by Goh Sui Noi, Straits Times 25 Nov 2008.

IF YOU think cycling is a slowpoke's way of getting around, think again.

Company director Lee Eng Hwee, 48, shaved several minutes off his usual travelling time by car when he cycled to work. Enough time for him to take a shower before getting behind his desk at the same time as if he had driven to work. Not only did he beat the peak-hour jams, but he also saved $500 a month in petrol during the year that he cycled to work.

As for systems analyst Subbusamy Sivakumar, 34, cycling to work is more convenient than taking the bus.

'If I take the bus, I have to wait 10 minutes, and then the journey is another 10 minutes,' he explained. If he cycles, it takes just 10 minutes to get from his Tampines flat to his place of work, the Changi General Hospital in Simei.

The clammy weather does not bother him because the trees along the way provide shade. His only concession to the heat is removing his tie for the journey.

Many Singapore residents are taking to the bicycle as a mode of transport for various reasons, not least to save money, particularly during these lean times.

For Mr Louis Wee, 39, who owns a bicycle shop in the East Coast area, delivering goods on his bicycle to nearby places helps him to cut costs.

For housewife Ong Siew Lian, 52, it's the freedom of movement that she enjoys on her second-hand bicycle, the exercise she gets and the time she saves that motivate her to cycle everywhere within her Tampines estate. She also has better control of her time, she said, as taking the bus can mean a wait of five to 15 minutes.

And for retiree Sia Teck Cheng, 67, of Sembawang, it's simply a matter of dollars and cents. 'I have no money to take the bus,' he told The Straits Times.

Then there is Mr John Teo, 36, an IT manager who cycles from his Bedok home to his office in Marina Square during the school holidays when he does not need to take his two boys to school. He cycles to beat the traffic jams, but also 'to do my part for the environment', he said.

The Government has recognised the growing popularity of cycling as a mode of transport. The Land Transport Masterplan states that the Government will facilitate cycling as a transport option to 'bring commuters to major transport nodes'. This includes providing better bicycle parking facilities around MRT stations and bus interchanges; allowing foldable bicycles onto buses and trains on a trial basis; close short gaps between park connectors and transport nodes; and installing appropriate road signs to alert motorists to the presence of cyclists.

But the Government has no plans to encourage cycling for transport in a big way. Asked why by the Straits Times, the Land Transport Authority's replied:

'Singapore aims to have a land transport system that can move people, goods and services seamlessly and efficiently.

'Public transport (buses and trains) is a more efficient mode of transport in moving large masses of people, relative to cycling.'

One argument offered by government officials is that Singapore's hot and humid climate is not conducive to cycling. Even with facilities such as bicycle lanes, Singaporeans will not take to it. Moreover, bicycle lanes in land-scarce Singapore is not cost-effective. It is physically not feasible to set aside dedicated road space for bicycles.

Yet bicycle paths will make it so much safer for the many cyclists already on the road. Chinese national Zhang Chengquan, 38, a shipyard worker who cycles to work every day, finds going on the road unsafe but going on the footpath an inconvenience to pedestrians.

In Tampines, cyclists have welcomed the 3km of cycle tracks built by NParks as part of its project to link up its parks. 'I don't have to worry about colliding with pedestrians,' said Madam Ong.

She usually cycles on footpaths for safety reasons. 'I'm afraid to go on the road,' she said.

Cycling on footpaths is an offence punishable by composition fines of $20. But it appears the traffic police have closed an eye to this widespread practice in housing estates.

In Tampines, there is a trial to allow cyclists to go on footpaths. 'The to make sure that those using footways will cycle safely and responsibly so as not to endanger pedestrians,' said Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng.

However, pedestrians are unhappy with sharing footpaths with cyclists. A Tampines resident, in a letter to the ST online forum, called for 'no cycling' zones in heavy pedestrian traffic areas like wet markets.

Ms Ng noted that her town council has embarked on a project to provide 2.3km of cycle paths and that it is working with the Land Transport Authority to provide another 7km of such paths.

Another option would be to widen the innermost lanes of roads so cyclists are not squeezed off the road, especially by lorries. Cyclists note that traffic lanes here are too narrow to allow big vehicles to pass cyclists safely.

Education of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists is another way to make cycling safe. Legislation to put the onus on motorists to look out for and give way to slower traffic - that is, pedestrians and cyclists - will make for safer roads.

Another issue for cyclists is theft of bicycles which, they say, happens frequently. Sembawang resident Azmi Buang, 44, has had three bicycles stolen in seven years. He will not leave his bicycle at MRT station cycle parks for several hours on end as part of a commute.

Mr Sivakumar, who has had a bicycle stolen from the void deck, suggested that closed-circuit TV cameras be installed at void deck bicycle park areas to deter theft. Mr Wee suggested that enclosed bicycle parks with security guards be set up, with cyclists paying a small fee for their use.

The Government has reacted passively to such demands for facilities by cyclists.

Yet, with the issue of global warming and climate change gaining urgency, actively encouraging pedal power may be the way to go in Singapore. The island is small and compact enough, and flat enough, for cycling to be a viable mode of transport.

Thoughtful urban planning so that work, school and play are localised and travel distances shortened would be one way to encourage cycling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OCBC Cycle Singapore - a costly mass ride

OCBC Cycle Singapore calls this the first mass participation cycling event catering to every cyclists from beginner to pofessional.

CNA's abbreviated headline (see below), however, ends up making an incorrect claim. This is NOT Singapore's first mass cycling event on public roads. In the 1990's DuPont sponsored Singapore Sports Council's mass leisure ride series called the National Leisure Cycle.

Anyway, this was exciting, to see news of OCBC Cycle Singapore. But then I saw the cost - its prohibitive. To ride the 40km challenge, you have to pay between between $58 - $93 (cheaper to register before mid-December and with an OCBC Credit Card). The 20km community ride would cost between $34 - $63. I suppose there is a cost to organising a ride through the city and an income to be generated so that its sustainable.

However, if you settle for the much better scenery of the Changi to ECP park connector, the two way trip will see you clock about 25km and it will cost you $10 for bike rental. Save the cash for the delectable food at either end for a net increase in calories!

Still, I am sure there are enough who will like the event jersey (40km & 50km rides) or t-shirt, the thrill of a ride through the city that they would not tackle on their own and most importantly, the pageantry and camaraderie of a mass participatory event.

I'm obviously not one of them and am probably too sold on the NTU Round Island Ride. However, the idea of this many Singaporeans venturing out on bicycles is an attractive idea and at the very least, I'm likely to cycle down to some sweet spot to take photos.

"Singapore's first mass cycling event aims to attract 5,000 participants," by Cheah Yean Ti. Channel NewsAsia, 18 Nov 2008.

First it was the Formula One. Now, another sport looks set to capitalise on Singapore's cityscape.

On February 22 next year, Singapore's first mass cycling event on public roads aims to attract 5,000 participants.

Called OCBC Cycle Singapore, participants will have full use of closed roads stretching from the bayside Formula One pit building to as far away as Changi in the east.

It will also be the first time an event will include both amateur and elite cyclists.

For recreational cyclists, routes will range from five to 40 kilometres.

While serious cyclists can sign up for a 50 kilometre challenge, subject to qualification, or even more rigorous racing events which are subject to time trials.

Organisers also plan to bring in 50 professional cyclists from around the world to compete in a special category with a prize purse of S$100,000.

Mr Teo Ser Luck, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, said: "I can almost imagine everybody, young and old, cycling together. Then you have the elite cyclists on another circuit. I think this has the potential to grow into a regional event."

Organisers are looking to bring in professional cyclists who will be in the region for the Tour de Langkawi, which will be held a week before OCBC Cycle Singapore.

Visit for more information or to sign up. - CNA/de

OCBC Cycle Singapore 2009

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Upside down design of Dutch cities

You will be watching some of the strange phenomenon that make transport planning in Holland looks like upside down:

- bicycle goes faster than car from A to B
- cars are afraid of cyclists
- car always follows bicycle in mix roads
- special under-pass for bicycle in heavy junction
- bike friendly/ car slowing humps
and last but not listed
- 90% of kids cycle to school

This would seem impossible in Singapore. However, some Dutch people living here feel Singapore is an ideal place to implement similar bike-friendly infrastructure. They see the opportunity because they had experienced how it work. Nothing that works there can not be done here.

Technically, I would argue Singapore is not legging behind. I think what is lacking is the awareness of the enormous opportunity of the benefits to each individual and to the society as a whole.

The benefits goes way beyond transportation and includes more active and healthy people, faster and smooth commuting, more fresh air, less traffic noise and less road kills, as well as more friendly communities. The total benefit is difficult to quantify. However just the potential reduction of cardiovascular diseases alone would account for the saving of thousands of good quality lives and hundred millions of dollars in treatment cost each year.

An earlier post by Paul (Resources on Dutch Bicycle Planning) link to a solid reference for Dutch bicycle planning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

LTA considering bicycle park/rental kiosks at MRT stations

"Bicycle kiosks at MRT stations," by Yeo Ghim Lay. The Strait Times, 04 Nov 2008.

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) is considering building bicycle kiosks at MRT stations to encourage more people to cycle before making the rest of the journey by public transport.

LTA chief executive Yam Ah Mee on Tuesday said the LTA is studying the idea, and hopes to partner private vendors to provide the kiosks.

These kiosks might provide bicycle rental and bicycle washing services, besides giving cyclists a space to park their bicycles before they hop on a bus or train.

'Cyclists can be assured that their bikes are well taken of while they are away,' Mr Yam told reporters on the sidelines of the World Urban Transport Leaders Summit.

The inaugural three-day conference was officially opened by Transport Minister Raymond Lim on Tuesday morning. About 100 delegates, who include transport policy makers and academics from various countries, are attending.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bicycle lane is the way to go?

120 out of the 675 public feedback received by the Sustainable Singapore are related to bicycling.
This is an impressive figure because the invitation for feedback was wide ranged including:
  • The way we work
  • The way we commute and
  • The way we live and play
Out of this 120 feedback an even more impression 75% suggested we should have bicycle lane to protect the cyclists from motorized transport.
It is very clear that there are many potential cyclists out there, but they are too intimidated by the danger on our roads. Without a safe environment cycling on the smoothly paved Singapore road remain only as a dream for most people.
No one is prepare to risk his life to become more green.

The heated debate over the trial on "Share pavement for pedestrain and cyclist" in Tampines is a clear signal that cyclists need their own space.
There will be less car if we built less road, there will be less people walking if there is no safe pavement. Similarly there are not many cyclists because there is hardly any safety facilities cater for this group of road users.
Judging from the public response, now may be the best time ever for the government to push for some bicycle lanes in Singapore.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Auto sales plunge to near 25-year lows

US auto sales
General Motors - down 45%
Toyota - down 29% 
Honda - down 25%
Nissan - down 33%

European auto sales 
Spain - down 40% 
Italy - down 19%

GM said this is the industry's worst month since the end of World War II.

I think this is a piece of good news for cyclist if it indicates a begining of a trend towards "less car".  I don't know about the auto sales in Singapore but would expect it is similar to US and Europe. 
Forced by the economic woe, people will start to question the basics such as the necessity of owning and driving a car; is there a better way? If you are one of the unfortunetely affected, let me encurage you to give cycling a try. I can assure you will be presently surprised (read the comments):
  • Instead of hardwork, cycling is energizing
  • Rather than slow, it is much faster than you think
  • No where to park? Cycling is a door to door solution
  • Weather is too hot? Not when you ride to work in the morning or back home in the evening.
  • It is not safe? Not as dangerous as you think, but there is room for big improvement- let's work on this.
I belive more and more people will be "forced" to be nicely surprised- when they start to test ride their bicycle for daily needs. It is not as difficult as they thought and the whole perception of driving everywhere is "convinient" will be changed.