Thursday, August 25, 2011

Car congestion woes? How about trying cycling.

Bike... and truck. Scary comparison indeed.

Recently, prices for COE have gone through the roof. What was $20,000 is now $50,000+. The most unfortunate thing is that people these days are complaining that COE should be repealed/reduced/changed totally. However, if you think of it, the government would never do that. You have to remember that the chief goal of the government is to control car population, and it'll make whatever money it can along the way.

That said, another greater issue lies in the fact that these days, we're increasingly getting more and more congestion. Yesteryears' large quotas have resulted in there being more and more cars on the road, and only recently did the quotas shrink and most likely, we'll see the improvement in congestion in years to come, but not now.

However, with regards to congestion, a lot can be done today. If you'd ask me, ERP is becoming more and more a revenue source and a way to keep people out of certain roads - and congest others. ERP is not really that effective as a country-wide decongestant. In fact, the best way to fight congestion is to think in terms of transportational efficiency, rather than cost. A lot of Singaporeans who can drive are middle-class, so the cost of a car isn't that big of an issue when compared to the unpleasantness of squeezing with others on overcrowded buses, or having to wait long long for the bus to arrive.

The car is, today, still one of the most attractive ways of transportation because Singapore was designed to be moved around by cars. Roads were designed for nothing but cars and buses. There's absolutely no other alternative if you want to go places quickly, and efficiently. And as a result, having efficiency outstrip cost, it just doesn't make sense for anyone to forgo the car.

But one thing that can be done to make cars less attractive is to put in effort to think about the efficiency of alternatives, especially when it comes to bikes. Middle-class people don't bike much unless it's a hobby of their, and often in my observations, few cycling enthusiasts take their bikes on commuting rides - they're weekend warriors and then they'll take the car on weekdays.

One of the biggest reasons is that Singapore is quite an unfriendly place to cyclists, especially beginners. You gaze out on the street and you see a small guy on two wheels side-by-side a 5-ton truck. You gaze above and see the sun blazing. You hear stories of bike theft.

But the biggest problem to a beginner has to be the unfriendliness of riding on the road. Tackling this is a big challenge, although I believe that the best way to tackle this is to just get on the road and learn-as-you-go. I do, however, consider bike lanes to be one of the more attractive options to get people out of their cars and onto bikes. Bike lanes increases the attractiveness of cycling, by assuaging people's fears of riding next to a big truck. With beginners, 1.5m really matters.

And what most people don't know is that cycling is actually very efficient. But once you start, you'll realise that you can get to places faster than buses do. And you don't need to walk at all, because bikes can get you right to the doorstep of your destination. No parking woes either.

Unfortunately, the LTA has stated that it won't be able to build bike lanes because we don't have enough land. I believe that it's more of a lack of will, and also how large-scale a project such as this will be - to convert a city built on cars as a main mode of transport to something like a hybrid of bikes and cars. But I also believe that anything can happen if there's an impetus, and the proof is in Marina Bay Sands.

When you see a lycra-clad cyclist on the road with a fancy Pinarello, heading into the city. People should not think, "wahlau, get off the road lah". Instead, it is a good sign because the person who's riding a bike is not in a car. One less car on the road - imagine if more people cycled.

1 comment:

  1. It is really the lack of will that the authorities are dragging their feet on making cycling infrastructure better in singapore. Most importantly.. no money to be made. Like u mentioned, a COE cost 50K while we cyclist dun pay... so I doubt using numbers we will get anything done.
    However, if u look at all the world most liveable countries, cycling is featured prominently and it is a really a feasible way to get around our country. I have invited our MPs and transport ministers to ride along side them to have a feel of the current traffic conditions. This is the best way they can emphatise with cyclists. Sadly there is no reply from them and I guess they must be busy with MRT. :)
    Still we are moving ahead to promote cycling in the best way we can. Thru blogging of normal people riding, and also collabroative means like a google map where we document the danger areas for cyclists. This is more for our LCSG riders but please feel free to share with your fellow cycling kakis.
    The tide is turning, slowly but surely. I can feel it in my bones. We got to keep on cranking away. Together, we can move mountains.
    Thank you for the wonderful blog!