Sunday, December 20, 2009

S’pore’s cycling town

To some residents, Tampines Central might just as well be dubbed Bike Central.

Around 10am last Thursday, it was already crowded with bicycles.

The racks surrounding the MRT station were full. Other cyclists resorted to chaining their bikes to pillars, railings in the area and even trees.

There are about 8,790 bicycle racks in Tampines and the Land Transport Authority recently put up sheltered parking for 247 bicycles near the MRT station as part of a pilot project.

Madam Aminah Ali, 63, a cleaner who cycles to work in Tampines Central every day, said: ‘There are not enough parking spaces and sometimes we have to leave our bicycles all over the place.’

This is why cyclists are cheering the news that Tampines is set to become Singapore’s first cycling town.

Announced on Dec 13, the move includes plans to improve cycling facilities there.

Said an MP for Tampines GRC, Mr Ong Kian Min: ‘Tampines is a very compact town and together with the push to be more environmentally friendly, it makes sense for it to be a cycling town.

‘All the blocks are within a 2km radius from the central area and MRT station. As cycling on the road is risky, using footpaths would be an obvious solution.’

Following a trial period which ended in January this year, cyclists in Tampines were allowed to use the footpaths. It will be made legal in March next year, after rules to penalise reckless cycling are put in place.

North East District Mayor Teo Ser Luck, who set up the Safe Cycling Task Force for the Tampines project, said: ‘Tampines is one of five towns in Singapore with a high volume of cyclists.

‘Surveys have shown that, increasingly, cycling is accepted as a mode of transport.’

A tripartite committee – comprising Tampines grassroots organisations, the Land Transport Authority and the Traffic Police – will improve cycling facilities and education efforts.

At the same time, enforcement against reckless cyclists will be stepped up.

Both bicycle users and non-riders welcomed the three-pronged action plan.

Said Mr Melvin Low, 19, a student who cycles to Tampines Central so he does not have to wait for the bus: ‘It’s good that they have made things easier for us.

‘I hope more stands will be added as well, because in some places there are just not enough of them.’

Civil servant Md Nor Mohamed, 59, whose family of four share three bicycles, said: ‘I see people chaining their bikes to railings near the road. It’s very messy.’

An MP for the area, Ms Irene Ng, said: ‘Improving the infrastructure is a work-in-progress. The town council has been building more bicycle spaces in certain busier areas, such as near the Tampines Street 11 wet market and hawker centre.’

She said a pilot scheme, which had bike racks built near the lift landing of one HDB block, will be studied to see if it should be expanded.

Mr Steven Yeo, chairman of the Tampines GRC Cycling Warden Committee, said: ‘With the Traffic Police’s help, we’ll be holding monthly safety clinics teaching safe and considerate cycling, like giving way to pedestrians and using headlights at night.’

Reactions from pedestrians included that from sales assistant Daphne Yong, 18, who lives and works in Tampines.

The ubiquitous presence of bicycles there is not an issue to her. She said: ‘It may be messy but it doesn’t bother me as long as the bikes don’t block my way.’

But 70-year-old Mustapha Embong was worried about how cyclists behaved.

He said: ‘They continue to obstruct people and ride on pavements at high speed.

‘They must be made to obey the rules and regulations, otherwise I’ll be very disappointed when Tampines becomes a cycling town.’

Source: Sunday Times, 20 Dec 2009

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