From the Straits Times forum today (17 December 2007):
Allow folded bikes on buses and trains
MY 15-YEAR-OLD nephew has been an avid BMX stunt cyclist for more than a year.
He meets his friends about three times a week at the Youth Park in Somerset Road.
This is a healthy and exciting sport for youngsters like him and we applaud the efforts by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports and the National Youth Council to provide a place for extreme sports for bikers and skaters since 2004.
However, there is an important issue regarding transport for these cyclists which I would like the authorities to address.
My nephew has told me that in the past few months, he and his friends have been stopped many times by officers at MRT stations and told not to take their bicycles onto the train.
Please note that these bikes have been dismantled and folded neatly into special BMX bags which the bikers carry on their shoulders. The bags have clear BMX logos to indicate a bicycle inside.
When they explained they were only carrying bicycles to the Youth Park at Somerset, they were asked to leave the MRT station and find another means of transport. They were even threatened with a fine if they continued to take their bikes on the train.
Getting on the bus has also been a problem for these youngsters. Bus drivers have asked them rudely what they were carrying in their big black bags. Some have asked them to leave the bus.
So it seems the only means of public transport for this group of bikers is by taxi.
This does not make sense, as the Youth Park is located in the heart of town in Orchard Road next to Somerset MRT station. In fact, this is what my nephew has done for the past few months, spending a lot of money simply to pursue the sport he loves.
Ng Lai Yien (Ms)
That's not the message from a letter from SMRT dated July 14th 2006:
Why bicycles are not allowed on trains
ST Forum, 14 July 2006
I REFER to the letters, "Allow bikes in last cabin of MRT train" by Nuryusman Ibrahim (ST, June 27), "Provide more MRT trains and let bikes on-board" by Jenson Chen Zhirong (ST Online, June 30), "Allow bikes in last cabin of MRT" by Andy Ab Samad (ST Online, July 5), "Bikes in trains could lead to problems" by Heng Cho Choon (ST Online, July 5) and "Disciplinary action needed on some MRT commuters'' by Paul Chan Poh Hoi (ST Online, July 7).
Currently, only foldable bicycles are allowed on board our trains. Irrespective of a suggested fare charge, standard bicycles, being fairly large, pose problems of space as well as safety, particularly when the train is crowded.
In addition, there are other concerns, such as the transportation of bicycles from the concourse, through the fare gates and up onto the platform, the soiling of station and train premises due to mud, grime or grease from bicycle wheels, as well as the consideration of other commuters.
With regard to the suggestion of having a dedicated train car for bicycles, we would like to share that during peak hours resources are already fully deployed to run trains at a regular frequency to meet demand. Hence, designating special train cars to cater to a specific group of commuters will affect train capacity and schedules.
On train service frequencies during peak hours, these are planned and reviewed after careful consideration of travel demand and the need to optimise train operations and efficiency. Over the last two years, we have increased train service frequencies during peak and off-peak hours for both the East-West and North-South lines. In particular, during peak hours, our train service frequencies range between two and six minutes. This takes into account the need to maintain a minimum distance between trains.
Regarding the perception of congestion, we would like to share that SMRT is ranked among the top five, with one of the lowest densities of passengers on our trains when benchmarked against 15 of the world's top metro operators from major cities. During peak hours, we have an average of four passengers per square metre, as compared to six for metros located in other densely populated cities.
Notwithstanding this, our MRT network is designed to transport a large number of commuters, hence due consideration must be given to the safety and needs of other commuters when discussing the issue of allowing bicycles on trains. As for the issue of eating, drinking and littering in the trains, we take a serious view of commuters who flout the rules in our system and we do deploy staff to be on the lookout.
When our staff conduct random checks and observe passengers eating, drinking or littering in the trains, they will advise them not to do so. Commuters are liable for a fine of up to $500, and up to $5,000 for littering under the Rapid Transit Systems Regulations. Last year, 137 commuters were fined for consuming food or drinks in the SMRT system. From January to June this year, 89 people were fined.
We would like to remind commuters to help keep the SMRT system clean, and not to obstruct the doorways and passageways in the trains by sitting on the floor. As it is not possible for our staff to conduct checks at stations and in trains at all times, commuters are advised to report rule breakers and inconsiderate commuters to our station staff.
We thank the writers for their feedback.
Dawn Low (Ms)
Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing and Communications