Ride on cycling boom to push for a car-lite society: Experts
Government should seize chance created by pandemic to speed up plans for more to commute by bicycle
As the population's growing interest in cycling further heightens during the pandemic, transport experts say the Government should capitalise on the opportunity and accelerate plans to push for a car-lite society.
Mr Steven Lim, president of the Safe Cycling Task Force and a member of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, said cycling had already been gaining traction over the years but grew more exponentially when Covid-19 hit.
He said such a surge is not surprising, and that it is the right time for plans in the pipeline to be carried out.
"There were talks about converting lanes into bicycle paths. Now is the time to capitalise on this growth and make these changes permanent," he added.
Co-director of the Transport Research Centre at Nanyang Technological University Yap Fook Fah attributed the cycling surge during the pandemic to increased anxiety over the use of public transportation.
More people also took up cycling to exercise amid restrictions at sports facilities and gyms, he added.
Prof Yap agreed that the Government should take this opportunity to push for a car-lite society.
"Singapore already outlined its car-lite vision in the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 a year before the pandemic started. So this is the right time to add momentum to the car-lite plan," he said.
Bicycle retailers TNP spoke to said their sales have hit the roof since the pandemic started, with some even unable to keep up with demand.
A spokesman for Rodalink, which has outlets in East Coast and Jurong East, said sales for bicycles, bicycle parts and accessories "soared to new heights" over the past year.
Mr Jason Tan, digital sport leader for cycling at sports retailer Decathlon, said it sold twice the number of bicycles and cycling gear during the pandemic compared with the 12 months prior.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat told TNP he is glad that more people have taken up cycling, as it is an environmentally friendly and a healthy way to travel.
He added that the Land Transport Authority will be expanding Singapore's cycling path network from 460km to about 1,300km by 2030. This was first announced by former senior minister of state for transport Lam Pin Min in March last year in Parliament.
"We also plan to convert underutilised road lanes within the community into cycling lanes," said Mr Chee.
Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) transport economist Walter Theseira, however, noted that utilising such road lanes entails a trade-off, as the key routes bikers want to use for commuting are also major roads for motor traffic use.
He said: "What we are really doing is deciding that bikers should be given some priority in road use, just as we have decided in the past... for buses."
Mr Saktiandi Supaat, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that while he supports the conversion of underused road lanes into bicycle lanes, he is cognisant of the fact that there are not many of these, given the compact and dense road networks here.
Other infrastructure, such as shower and bicycle parking facilities, will also need to be enhanced to encourage more to commute by cycling.
Experts agree that a cultural shift is needed for cycling to remain a sustainable form of transport.
"There needs to be a greater acceptance from the public and other road users in particular, of cycling as a legitimate mode of transport," said Prof Yap, adding that a "cycling culture" needs to be built up over time.
Transport and active mobility expert from SUSS Maria Cecilia Rojas Lopez said education is key to improving safety.
"Having many types of road users who travel at different speeds increases the risks, so it is important that everyone is aware of the requirements and limitations of others," she said.