Yawning Bread wrote this insightful piece, "Safety on trial" touching on public safety, the Tampines pavement cycling trial and the lack of bicycle infrastructure in Singapore:
"Why do we need a trial? Are our policy-makers blind? Do they pretend that nowhere else in Singapore do cyclists go onto pedestrian paths and an isolated experiment is needed? Why do we have civil servants with heads in such clouds?
You don't need a trial. Common sense should tell you there will be conflict, especially as our population ages and more old folks are found on the footpaths. Quite often, the bicycles come silently from behind, and if the senior citizen is hard of hearing, even the ringing bell may be missed. That's if the cyclist rings at all; quite often he won't bother.
Another reason why you don't need a trial: just look at how other cities have dealt with the problem, especially in Europe. There, dedicated bicycle paths are commonly provided, separate from pedestrian ways. Is it not obvious, the social benefits of that?
Why is public safety so hard to obtain? Not only are shop-owners and truck-drivers negligent, even our planners don't seem to give it enough priority without first running a trial.
That bicycle paths are rare in Singapore is another oversight of earlier planning that is going to take millions of dollars to rectify, like the failure to provide elevators at metro stations and failure to provide lifts that stop on every floor in apartment blocks."
I said this before, and I'll say it again. Make the roads safer for cyclists, and not try to shoehorn pedestrian walkways to work for cyclists too.
In the original report on the start of the Tampines trial, Ms Ng Guat Ting, the Traffic Police deputy assistant commissioner said that the study will help the tripartite committee to understand "if Singaporeans are generally ready to share the footways".
Ms Ng, how about finding out if the government is generally ready to let cyclists share the ROAD safely?
In the grand scheme of things, the Singapore government does not see bicycles as transport. They see it as "recreation" and something you use "to get around the neighbourhood". These are the words of Raymond Lim, our Transport Minister.
Until Mr Lim and his ministry sees cycling as a legitimate means of transport, bike paths will be the job of NParks, who have gamely tried to create park connectors but ultimately are concerned more with linking you to their parks rather than actual places you want to go to, like Shenton Way for work or Orchard Road for shopping.
The truth is that with our increase in foreign workers from countries like China and India, the number of bicycle commuters are actually increasing. Surely these workers who are depending on their bikes to get around, deserve public safety too.
A Park Connector Network (PCN) is nice to ride on, but there is a limit to its usefulness for getting around.
Firstly, the problem of speed. A typical rider can hit speeds of 20 to 25kmh fairly easily. Park connectors are not designed for those speeds. Because, as their name implies, you are meant to use them to get to the parks at a leisurely pace of say, 15kmh. In fact in some built-up areas, like Tampines, you will be lucky if you can get 12kmh. Depending on traffic lights and traffic conditions, you can get from Katong to Cathay cinema at Dhoby Ghaut (10km) in less than 30 minutes riding on the road. Or Katong to Clementi in less than an hour (22km). The only park connector stretch you can make that kind of time is East Coast Park to Changi Village via the Coastal Connector. Try riding around Tampines in their PCN and you will be dealing with pedestrians, bus stops, and even a giant Shell station with two huge entrances where cars drive through without looking for cyclists.
Secondly, the design of these park connectors are done by people who don't ride.
How else do you explain park connectors that will plunge into a steep incline and then end with a sudden 90-degree right turn? Or the newly done park connector path in Bedok Reservoir Park that travels parallel to the pavement, and when a tree is in the way, the bike path wraps tightly AROUND said tree?
I do notice the effort NParks puts in though. They have painted new lines and the PCN words on the Changi Beach Park stretch, and near the SAF Ferry Terminal, the broken slopes near the carpark entrances have been smoothed over so you don't land with a thud every time you need to ride there.
The third problem is integration. What would be cool to see are the park connectors integrated with bike lanes that go into the city so you could ride on park connectors part of the way and on the road with dedicated bike lanes for areas with no PCN. In Vancouver BC, they have an extensive network of "Bike Routes", which are a series of side streets that roughly follow the major arteries, but are shared streets with traffic calming features that make cycling safe and quick. In Paris they have Vélib’, a self-service "bicycle transit system" and extensive bike lanes.
I hope we don't wait till more people get hurt or die, before we decide bicycle safety is something that needs to be addressed, like the situation with MRT platform screen doors.
Check out in this 7-minute Streetfilms video, how Bogota in Colombia operate a Bus Rapid Transit (free feeder buses! All-day high-speed bus-only lanes! MRT-like bus stops!) and how they integrate bicycles with buses.
And in this 8-minute Streetfilms video, they look at physically separated bike lanes.