Despite Singapore’s small land area, highly-dense population and notoriously exorbitant cost of driving, Singapore has yet to truly embrace the culture of cycling as a viable mode of commute. All this is in spite of the steadily growing number of self-professed cyclists in Singapore and the various government initiatives enacted to better serve the cycling community.
So, why is it that a nation as modern and conducive as Singapore is struggling to keep up with cities such as Amsterdam and London in their acceptance of cycling?
Singapore’s cycling community is steadily on the rise
The recreational cycling scene in Singapore is growing steadily and surely. Just a quick search on the internet you will find a number of blogs and forums dedicated to the hobby of cycling. These growing online communities serve as depositories for information like safe cycling routes, expeditions and community events. The easy access of the internet allows for otherwise solitary cyclists to communicate with those of the same ilk, and for a strong cycling base to be formed.
Likewise, the proliferation of the internet means that road-friendly bicycles and equipment can be purchased and delivered easily to your doorstep by buying through online stores like Lazada, eBay and Qoo10. A decent road-friendly bicycle can be bought for less than SGD$100, with the perks of online shopping like periodic discounts, free shipping and cashback from sites like ShopBack.
However, on the whole, the cycling community in Singapore still remains pretty much under the radar due to the realpolitik of cycling in Singapore.
Improved infrastructure – but is it sufficient?
Over the years, the government has laid certain infrastructural improvements to help get cyclists on their way. This includes an intensive Park Connector Network that connects adjacent neighbourhoods through a series of gravel paths. By 2020, these Park Connectors will reach a combined length of 360 kilometres, providing cyclists with safer and less interrupted routes to cycle on.
However, unlike cyclist-friendly countries like Netherlands that have designated “Bike Streets”, these Park Connector Networks are mostly in various states of incompleteness. Cycling through neighbourhood boundaries means constant “Dismounting and Pushing” and often means taking a longer route to reach your destination.
To mitigate the unforgiving road situation in Singapore, cyclists are allowed to ride on bus lanes that provide a wider berth rather the precarious and thin strips of space cyclists are afforded on normal roads. However, most cyclists seem unaware of such a provision despite a bicycle symbol being painted prominently on the lanes, perhaps suggesting a larger underlying obstacle. Despite the efforts to encourage cycling as a form of commute, the most apparent hurdle is the “Car is King” mentality that still resides amongst most Singaporean road users.
Dutch philosophy: “bike is right” and “cars are guests”
Unlike the Dutch who reinforce that the “bike is right” and “cars are guests”, the size of the cycling community is still conservative at best and it will be difficult to rid of a mentality so ingrained into society.
This aggressive territorial battle between cars and cyclists has led to finger pointing between both parties for delinquent behaviour on the roads.
Regulation means cyclists are caught between a rock and a hard place
This push and shove behaviour between roads users has put cyclists in quite a tough position. The regulation in Singapore denies cyclists access to pavements – though rightly so – and heftier and more drastic fines have been slapped on to those caught flouting the rules, with even jail terms being meted out to some serious offenders. These punishments act as a serious deterrent to cyclists, with many choosing not to cycle at all.
It is also to Singapore’s credit that the transport system in Singapore is quite efficient, which makes the need for a bicycle pretty much superfluous. Hence, the Singaporean authorities have established intra-town cycling paths that lead to major civilian hubs such as malls, train stations and bus terminals. This is in addition to ample bicycle parking spaces provided for short-distance riding to and from homes.
The potential for growth is promising
Fortunately, what cyclists in Singapore have got going for them is time. Cycling infrastructure is constantly being improved on and added all across Singapore, making it a real possibility that cycling may become a viable and more widespread form of commute in the near future.
Over the years, there have also been more large-scale cycling events being organised, like the OCBC Cycle, that have slowly inculcated the culture of cycling into Singaporeans. The most recent instalment of the OCBC Cycle saw some 68,000 casual, amateur and professional cyclists come together – which is a promising for the cycling scene in Singapore.
However, the larger issue at hand is educating both cyclists and road users alike, on the proper and cyclist-friendly etiquette. This will go a long way in preventing mishaps and prevent cyclists from drawing the ire of other road users and for motor vehicles and cyclists to co-exist on the roads of Singapore.
Sharizzat is an avid cyclist on the unforgiving roads of Singapore. He also writes full-time for cashback and deals provider ShopBack Malaysia.