Friday, February 13, 2009

Better cycling facilities in 5 neighbourhoods

RESIDENTS in five neighbourhoods will be the first to get improved cycling facilities under a $43 million programme to promote it as a mode of transport.

Work will begin on 6.9km of cycling tracks for Tampines residents in the second half of this year, while 7.5km of tracks will be added in Yishun from next year. Plans are also in the pipeline for tracks in Sembawang, Pasir Ris and Taman Jurong.

These will either be dedicated 2m-wide cycling tracks or, where space is restricted, the tracks will join existing pedestrian footpaths but have painted markings to clearly identify them for cyclists.

The five were chosen because they have strong support for cycling, are relatively compact and
have land available for the cycling tracks.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Transport) Teo Ser Luck announced these measures yesterday during the budget debate on estimates for the Transport Ministry.

He was responding to Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC), Madam Cynthia Phua (Aljunied GRC), Mr Wee Siew Kim (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Ang Mong Seng (Hong Kah GRC) who, while encouraged by the increasing use of bicycles, were concerned about safety and how cyclists would interact with pedestrians and other motorists.

Mr Teo, in acknowledging the competing demands for space, said the authorities had taken 'a very careful and deliberate approach to finding that balance between the various stakeholders'.

And while there was still some way to go before Singapore could be considered a 'cycling nation', he outlined initiatives to move the country in that direction.

First, a scheme to allow foldable bicycles on public transport has been approved after a six-month trial.

Foldable bicycles will be allowed on buses and trains during the off-peak periods of 9.30am to 4pm and after 8pm on weekdays, and all day on weekends and public holidays.

Other initiatives include 823 additional bicycle racks at three MRT stations - Pasir Ris, Tampines and Yishun - and safety signs on popular cycling routes.

An avid cyclist, Ms Ng, said that while cyclists were now allowed to share bus lanes, they were constantly squeezed out by buses. She called for markings on bus lanes to make them 'bike-bus lanes'.

Responding, Mr Teo said too many markings may confuse users. He suggested education and publicity as an alternative approach.

Mr Ang - who brandished a model of a bicycle, photographs and a bicycle light and bell when speaking during the debate - wanted bicycles to have licence plates so cyclists could be held responsible if they were reckless.

Mr Teo said this may not be practical or feasible to implement, and noted that bicycle-friendly cities like Paris and Amsterdam did not have such a regulation.

'Instead, we should focus on improving cyclist and pedestrian behaviour, which is really the crux of the matter,' he said. 'This is why we can move only at a pace that people are reasonably comfortable with, all the while actively consulting and engaging the various groups before taking the next step.'

Source: Straits Times - 13 Feb 2009

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