Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Take on Implementing Bike Lanes

No bike lanes? Improvise it yourself!

There has never been more talk about bike lanes than now. The last decade certainly saw a growth of cycling, and this has led to bike advocacy groups asking for it. Obviously, having bike lanes are great, but apparently, bike lanes are not as safe as it seems. Apparently, just like race, harmony on the roads are more effective than segregation.

Cycling in Singapore can be classified as largely vehicular cycling, among lawful bike commuters. That is, bicycles act as any other vehicle would, they have a right to do anything that any other vehicle do. The surprising discovery I made is that this is actually the safest way of cycling in the West. It seems,
"[P]ublished studies show either poorer safety for segregated cyclists,or at best no improvement over vehicular cycling. Segregating cyclists marked reduction in convenience and priority" [1]

It is shocking that cycling lanes that we imagine take us a step into greater safety is actually not what it seems to be. Last week's Sunday Times did an article on bikes and again, the honourable bike advocates - the Safe Cycling Task Force - came out advocating for bike lanes, stating that,

"If cyclists and motorist each had their own space, there would be less friction and fewer accidents between them". [2]

But the unfortunate thing is that, everything I have read points against the effectiveness of bike lanes. John Forester, a cycling transportation engineer, believes bike lanes

"[W]ere not devised to keep cyclists safe, but rather to keep them from interfering with car traffic" [3]
It seems that evidence from the West's trials of bike lanes proves that bike lanes are certainly not what certain advocates of it here see it as. Which is truly unfortunate, as there just isn't another better solution than the promise bike lanes held as a panacea for the motorist-cyclist friction.

We do have bike lanes. Ersatz bike lanes. Did anyone notice how our ersatz bike lanes in places such as Buangkok/Yishun/Sembawang, etc., the ones built on sidewalks which segregate pedestrains with cyclist keep getting violated? It's the same case at the PCNs and in East Coast. These bike lanes just make me want to go back to the road. It's faster, and safer. As far as it goes, this is what they call half f*** standard. It is good for training your children to ride bikes safely, but as far as a bike commuter is concerned, it is absolutely useless.

But looking at Western nations which use bikes a a common form of transport, such as Denmark and Holland, it seems that you don't need bike lanes - you need numbers. Jeanette Wang on her blog states,

"Motorists seem to change their behaviour and drive more safely when they see more cyclists and pedestrians around. Also, rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and they are therefore more conscious of and sympathetic towards cyclists.

In fact, studies show that a community that doubles its cycling numbers can expect a one-third drop in the per-cyclist frequency of a crash with a motor vehicle." [4]
But this proves a chicken-and-egg problem. How do you promote more cyclists to join the fray when they would be the ones facing the highest danger on the road?

I don't know, but what I know is that the Singaporean roads are very rideable, it's not so dangerous that you will get killed tomorrow if you went out today. It can be unnerving after reading so much naysaying text from the net/newspapers/coffee shop talk". If you don't do stupid things like try to chiong amber lights as if you had 200 horsepower (no, you typically only have 0.2 hp).

Basically, we aren't getting bike lanes anytime soon. The LTA told us to f*** off, and after reading what I have read recently, I think there is just no reason why we should spend money on bike lanes. If the government is into promoting cycling, it should be in education of motorists, promoting cycling through incentives (Bike to Work incentives, infrastructure for cycling). Bike lanes are not what they seem to be, but social acceptance of bicycles will be the future of safety for cyclists.


References

[1] http://www.cyclehelmets.org/papers/c2014.pdf , p. 354
[2] Lifestyle, Sunday Jan 17, p. 4
[3] Bicycle Times, Issue 002, p. 55
[4] http://blogs.straitstimes.com/2009/12/15/more-cyclists-fewer-accidents

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. Did you send to the newspaper? I think you should.

    This Safe Cycling Task Force really need to get fundings to send its members for cycling tour in cycling cities in the Netherlands, Germany, UK, US, Japan, and so all before they make any more recommendations.

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