Friday, 7 August 2009

Singaporean Cyclists and the Bukit Timah Road

Singapore's cyclists have it difficult.

The weather conditions are terrible for cycling. It is almost always hot and humid. It is rare to find separate lanes for cyclists anywhere on the island. (I have only ever seen them once, in the Woodlands area.)

Bicycle Route Sign

Cycle lanes wanted

Unbeknown to most cyclists (who take it for granted that it is their right to cycle around their housing estate) cycling on pathways is illegal. Rule 28 of the Singapore Road Traffic Rules states, "No vehicle, except perambulators, shall be driven, parked or ridden on the footway of a road." The Singapore Police has confirmed by email (available upon request) that Rule 28 is applicable to bicycles.

Tinkling their bell once to warn a pedestrian of the impending arrival of riders on their two wheeled instruments does not absolve any speed demons from their civic responsibilities. I am surprised we do not read about collisions more often in the papers.

It seems that now motorists do not want cyclists on the roads either. In a letter to the Straits Times, Mr. Lee Kit Chong has recommended that cyclists be banned from the popular Bukit Timah Road.

I do not agree with Mr. Chong. Cycling in Singapore is a thorny issue and does not lend itself to a quick fix.

Singaporeans tend to be afraid of riding cycles on main roads. The atmosphere breeds a sense that cycling on the roads is foolish. Thus, such an option is never considered viable by 'sensible' people. This must change. In their defense, unlike many European cities, there are few exclusive cycle lanes here. Motorists, even in the best of times, drive selfishly and are not used to sharing their roads with cyclists.

Cyclists are also likely to have limited awareness of safety. Few wear helmets or other safety equipment.

It is a complicated situation but one which the authorities must wake up to. Just allowing pedestrian walkways to be overrun by cyclists is not an option. An official commission, which includes all stakeholders including city planners, should be constituted to study the matter and make recommendations.

Simple solutions such as banning cycling on roads will not correct such a complicated problem. Neither will pedestrians remain silent for too much longer if they have no place to (safely) walk in their own neighbourhoods.

Cyclist pumping fists, studio shot

In case there is any confusion, that's not me in the picture!

PS – Until I moved to the Middle East in 2004, I was a regular bicyclist on the roads of Singapore (much to the horror and amazement of many of my friends).

PPS - Readers may wish to read a (long winded) alternate view made available by the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association here (in html).


  1. Hi Imran,

    I'm with you on getting cycling as a mode of transport on to the serious public policy agenda, so thought you might be interested in the survey and blog I'm running on the same issue -

    Would be glad to discuss the topic or share experiences further.


  2. Hi Zing,

    Thanks for the information and sharing your blog address. I will take a look at the blog and recommend the site to others.

    Kind regards,