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New Year Resolution for 2008: Swim faster, Run longer, maybe return to cycling.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Time for Govt to Accept Cycling as a Mode of Transport

I refer to this recent article on our government's efforts to improve bus services and review on current vehicle growth rates. As a practising traffic engineer, here are my thoughts:

The figures seem to be grim in terms of having enough land space for Singapore's growing population. It's a fact that the increase in human population will bring about an increase in vehicle population as well. The question is by how much will vehicle population grow? What will be the annual rate of increase of vehicle growth? For the past few years, transport planners have used the standard 3% annual rate of growth. Now, the government wants a review of the rate.

But will the growth of vehicles drastically affect the land transport system in Singapore? More importantly, can our road systems accomodate such rapid growth? And if so, what is the tipping point?

So based on annual growth rates and the corresponding (but much slower) rate of increase of length of roads, we might have a situation where we are absolutely chock-a-block in a few year's time? Well, this is what is 'kinda-sorta' painted by the grim facts. But seriously, will we become like the infamous Bangkok traffic? Think about it.

On the contrary. Well, at least not so soon. Didn't the report also mention something about improving the public transport system? Didn't the government mention that there would be more rail lines and even full-day bus lanes?

Wait a minute. Perhaps it might be easier for the public to understand the 'more rail lines therefore more people will take the MRT' bit. But full-day bus lanes? Isn't that a direct contradiction to that 'increasing lengths of roads' statement? Some people have asked me if full-day bus lanes effectively takes away a lane's worth of capacity, wouldn't that be detrimental to providing land space for the growing number of vehicles on the road?

The easiest way I could have answered would have been: "Aiyah, government decide then let them decide lor". Of course that wasn't the way i would have put down my own profession lah...

Actually, if there are proper demand management measures in place (and ERP being one method) and the fact that government is willing to promote public transport by having full-day bus lanes, then it goes to show that even with the loss of one lane to other vehicles, there is enough road space for other road users as well.

But think further will you, and stick with me while you're at it. What if these bus lanes are shared with cyclists?

It would be logical for the government to promote cycling on bus lanes. Here are the reasons why:
  1. Now they just have to contend with educating the bus drivers instead of the general driving population about road safety involving cyclists,
  2. Cycling and Cyclists will be accepted into the transport society more easily,
  3. There is no extra land required to share the bus lanes with cyclists,
  4. Promoting cycling helps in demand management and car usage - controls the growth in a certain way
  5. 1 car space is equivalent to 2, 3 bicycle space
  6. Cycling leads to better health,
  7. Cycling is environmentally friendly. Hey, transport ministry needs to tackle fuel emissions too!
  8. etc. etc...

So what do you think? It's about time to officially accept the cyclist as road user right? And with some due respect too!

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