Is Singapore ready for bicycle-sharing system?
The Land Transport Authority recently announced plans to pilot a bicycle-sharing scheme and called for a tender on July 28. But some Singaporeans are bad at returning supermarket trolleys and some motorists are not exactly friendly to cyclists, so would this really work? ARYA THAMPURAN (firstname.lastname@example.org) asks experts whether Singapore is ready for such a scheme
The self-service bicycle-sharing scheme will be piloted in Jurong Lake District from end 2017. According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), more than 1,000 bicycles will be available 24/7 at 100 docking stations around the area.
The public can pick up and return their bicycles at any docking station. Cyclists can use these bicycles to commute from their homes to nearby amenities, bus stops and MRT stations.
The LTA has yet to release information about the mode of payment for hiring bicycles.
On July 28, LTA announced that it would call tenders to appoint an operator and sponsorship consultant for the scheme.
The companies that tender will also have the option to operate similar schemes in Marina Bay/City Centre, Tampines and Pasir Ris. This will potentially double the expected number of bicycles to about 2,300.
The scheme is part of an initiative to develop a healthier and greener society.
How the bicycle-sharing system works in other parts of the world:
LONDON'S SANTANDER CYCLES
There are more than 750 docking stations and 11,000 bikes across London, England.
The bicycles are meant for short commutes and are available at any time.
It costs £2 (S$3.55) to hire a bicycle for 24-hour access. The first 30 minutes of each journey is free. Longer journeys cost £2 for each extra 30 minutes.
Users can make as many journeys as they wish within 24 hours.
They simply go to the nearest docking station terminal with their debit or credit card to make payment electronically.
After the payment is processed, they can obtain a printed release code. The five-digit code must be typed into the docking point's silent keypad for the bicycle to be released.
Users can also download the Santander Cycles smartphone app.
With this app, users can obtain a release code on their smartphones, letting them bypass the hiring process at the docking terminal.
MELBOURNE BIKE SHARE
There are 50 bicycle stations and 600 bicycles situated around Melbourne's Central Business District.
Casual users can use their credit card at any bicycle station kiosk to hire a bicycle at any time.
It costs A$3 (S$3.09) to hire a bicycle for a day and A$8 to hire one for a week.
Regular users can buy an annual subscription for A$60, which entitles them to a bicycle any time of the day.
They will receive a key to insert into kiosks for easy access to bicycles.
Casual users get 30 minutes for free each trip, while annual users get 45 minutes for free each trip.
Overtime charges are A$2 for trips of up to 60 minutes, A$7 for trips up to 90 minutes, and A$10 for every additional 30 minutes.
Users have to be at least 15 years old and be at least 1.25m tall to use these bicycles.
In Taipei, Taiwan, users can hire bicycles from designated stations around the city at any time.
One-time users can opt for the Single Rent option, which allows them to obtain a bicycle using their credit card.
Frequent users can purchase an EasyCard. The card can be scanned at the docking station.
Prices vary across the different districts.
Users are charged NT$10 (43 cents) every 30 minutes within the first four hours, NT$20 for every 30 minutes between four and eight hours, and NT$40 for every 30 minutes exceeding eight hours.
'Cyclists, pedestrians must cooperate'
Mr Gerard Pereira, operations manager of Singapore Safety Driving Centre:
Mr Pereira believes it is a good scheme, but foresees several challenges with implementation.
"Certain logistics issues need to be worked out, including how to encourage people to return the bicycles."
He also wondered whether the cyclists would be safe riders.
"The person riding the bicycle also has to be attentive to pedestrians.
"For example, (some areas) in Tampines have two separate paths (for cyclists and pedestrians), but people still cross over."
He recalled his sister being hit by a bicycle when she was a young child. She had to get 12 stitches.
"A bicycle hitting a pedestrian can cause serious damage," Mr Pereira said.
However, he is still optimistic about the scheme.
He said safety comes down to mutual cooperation.
"Cyclists and pedestrians must respect each other and cooperate.
"Both parties must adhere to the rules... There must be rules to hold people accountable."
He added: "But it has to start somewhere."
'There must be regular maintenance'
Mr Bernard Tay, chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council:
Mr Tay feels that Singaporeans may not be responsible enough for such a scheme to work.
He said Singapore still has much to learn from London, which runs self-service bicycle-sharing scheme, Santander Cycles.
"In England, the culture enables them (to have such a scheme).
"In Singapore, I'm not quite sure if people are kind enough not to take the bicycles away unless someone is manning (the docking station)."
He brought up a recent report where more than 20 supermarket trolleys were abandoned at a condominium in Marine Parade for more than six months.
Mr Tay said: "Even though people put money into the trolleys, such a thing still happened."
Mr Tay anticipated two main challenges: bicycle maintenance and the safety of users.
He said: "There must be regular maintenance for the bicycles. Users must also take care of the bicycles."
Cyclists must also be aware of road safety rules, he added.
Mr Tay is particularly worried about the safety of young users, who must receive proper education on road safety before taking part in the scheme.
While he sees challenges ahead, he believes the scheme can help Singapore become a greener, car-lite society.
He said: "There are pros and cons to the scheme. LTA should work with the community and consider these concerns.
"It is a community effort to make this scheme work."
'Scheme may teach civic consciousness'
Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser, National University of Singapore sociologist.
Prof Tan said: "I must say that so far, our track record on civic consciousness isn't the most admirable. However, I wouldn't go to the extent of saying that Singaporeans in general are lacking in such qualities.
"All it takes is 1 per cent of bad hats and we end up with a lot of littering or other anti-social manifestations.
"Remember, 1 per cent of 3.3 million Singapore residents (not to mention 5.4 million people on this island) is 33,000 people (or 54,000 people) - not a small number."
Nonetheless, he believes it is worth piloting the bicycle-sharing scheme.
The scheme might actually cultivate civic consciousness in Singaporeans, he said.
He also suggested using the pilot to study how to nudge users to be more responsible and to learn which users need more education on road safety.
The scheme might also be the right step in fostering a global city by international standards.
It might teach people to be responsible without relying on penalties like fines to deter unlawful behaviour.
Prof Tan said: "After all, if Singapore aspires to be a liveable global city, we need to inculcate civic consciousness and social graces among the people.
"A liveable city shouldn't be a 'fine' city."
'Bike-enabled roads needed'
Associate Professor Michael Li, transport economist at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School:
Prof Li believes Singaporeans are capable of making the bicycle-sharing scheme a success.
"I have no doubt that Singaporeans are responsible, more so than in other cities. Responsibility is not my worry. I'm not worried that people will abuse the system."
But he has practical concerns about space and safety.
"We are far behind using bicycles. One main obstacle is that our roads are not bicycle-friendly.
"We need to have dedicated bicycle-enabled roads. London is building several cycling superhighways... We need such dedicated bike networks."
He is concerned that bicycle overcrowding may become an issue.
Prof Li said: "If cyclists ride from Jurong Lake District to NTU, will all the bicycles remain in NTU? How do we rebalance the bicycles?"
The lack of space can also pose a safety issue if cycling paths and roads become too congested.
"The critical factor is riders must have a strong sense of safety," he said.
Another practical issue is people turning up at work sweaty and uncomfortable from bike rides, he said.
Nonetheless, he believes it is a good scheme, adding: "We have to start somewhere."
For the scheme to be a success, collaboration between everyone in society is key.
Prof Li said: "Don't make it just LTA's problem.
"Everybody has to pitch in to help to make this work."