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20 December 2009

Ideas: Creating a Cycling CityState

1. In a tiny, unhilly islet of 46km x 23km, cycling to work like Amsterdamers is truly feasible. It is much faster than the current procedure of walking to the bus stop, wait for a shuttle bus to take you to the bus interchange, then wait again for a crowded bus or train, only to reach some distance short of your final destination, thus requiring you to walk again or take another shuttle bus to your final destination. If you were cycling, you would mount your bicycle from below your block and cycle directly to your destination -- and be on your way the moment you mount your bicycle -- arriving directly at your final destination without any need for walking, waiting or shuttle bus, etc. Thus, on a bicycle, you bypass the entire current Hub&Spoke system of Shuttle and Main buses/trains imposed by our geniuses who stupidly copied this Hub&Spoke system from large cities. What's more, you cycle DIRECT to your destination, not take a meandering route that buses and trains take to maximise profits. You are also assured of a seat on your bicycle. If cycling works in Singapore, there will be less bus/train passenger congestion, reduced road traffic congestion and less vehicular pollution of the air.

2. However, there are a few drawbacks to cycling including Safety, Sweating, Parking, Exertion.

3. For Safety, cyclists should be given preferably, their own lane. Cyclists will include battery-powered bicycles, usually about the same top speed as a fast cyclist. Cyclist Helmets should probably be mandatory. Bike bags, front wire-mesh basket and panniers will solve the problems of carrying one's briefcases, laptops, handbags, etc. Some are lockable, like those on motorbikes, and if free public bicycles are used, most cyclists can carry their own small lock with key or number combination lock. If pavements are allowed for cyclists, this will be safer for Them, though maybe not for Pedestrians! But experience and experiment can solve this. There are ways for both to use pavements rightfully. There may be a need to Type-Approve certain models to ensure safety and roadworthiness -- for example, every bicycle must have fixed Reflectors, removable battery-operated Flashers, Headlamp [S$2 at Daiso stores], Reflective Vests/Helmets/Armbands?, Bell, etc, for cycling after dark. If the free sponsored bicycles are available, any advertising signs must be Type-Approved for safety and not impede the free and convenient use of the bicycle. Their material, size and fixing positions on the bicycle should be studied for safety and non-inconvenient use of the bicycle.

4. Sweating is a big drawback in our hot climate. However, if offices can cheaply modify toilets/install hotwater showers and changing rooms for personal make up and grooming after showers, this is solved. A govt tax incentive could encourage every building to install hotwater showers and changing/grooming rooms, [with Lockers]. Even as standalone public facilities built by govt. Maybe a small fee may be charged for use, to encourage building owners to build/maintain them. There is need for shampoo and shower cream dispensers, though most will bring their own. There is a Chicken and Egg problem as people will not cycle to work until there are showers but if they don't, building owners and govt won't build them.

5. Physical Exertion pedalling a bicycle is no problem because modern bicycles are cheap, light, [even battery powered], multi-geared, for easy pedalling. The Exercise will be beneficial.

6. Parking could be unsightly but fairly easy to solve by designating/building Cycle Stands, maybe easily by modifying current Roadside Barriers which currently serve only to separate/control pedestrian vs vehicular traffic. A simple steel fixture or attachment to the top of these roadside barriers or fences could hold a bicycle at ~60 degrees to the horizontal to save space and for a smaller footprint. There is a huge number of designs for Bicycle Stands as you can see from this Google Image search :

7. Thus, there are no unsolvable problems to promoting cycling to work. Just some commonsense initiatives needed.

8. I suggest that those below Sec 3, that is, about 14 years old, be disallowed from cycling, to ensure nobody is too young to physically and safely handle all the requirements for safe commuting by bicycle, given that they also have heavy school bags plus need to know and understand traffic rules and conditions and be sufficiently 'mature' so as not to endanger themselves with playful behaviour on the roads. But I don't think a Cycling Licence is needed!

9. The reason why cycling is faster than public transport is that cyclists can take the shortest cut direct to and fro plus not have to wait or walk far to catch a bus or train. They can pedal down alleys or narrowly down side streets between buildings, even against the flow of traffic, etc, thus always able to take the shortest cut almost like pedestrians would walk, only much faster.

10. The easiest, quickest and cheapest way to create instant Bicycle Lanes all over Singapore is to simply pass a law or make a rule: that on every road, which currently almost all have pedestrian footpaths on both sides of the roads, THAT THE LEFT PEDESTRIAN FOOTPATH BE MAINLY USED OR RESERVED FOR USE BY BICYCLES WHILE THE RIGHT FOOTPATHS BE STRICTLY RESERVED FOR USE BY PEDESTRIANS ONLY.

11. Thus, at one stroke, overnight or instantly, we create a dedicated [mostly] Cycle Path that is much safer for cycling than on roads used by all the other heavier vehicles. At the same time, by requiring that pedestrians use the Right Footpath [no bicycles allowed], we separate pedestrians from bicycles making it safer and more convenient for both parties -- true, the pedestrian loses the use [mostly] of the Left Footpath but gains the exclusive use of the Right Footpath -- important for children, the old, handicapped or infirm, which is currently sometimes infringed by bicycles who currently use both sides, both footpaths. However, while the left Cycle Path is mostly designated for bicycles, the rules or laws must not exclude pedestrians since they will sometimes need to use these Left Footpaths to get to their blocks, houses or shops, etc, so no exclusivity for bicycles like the Right Footpath for pedestrians. Motorised wheelchairs need some consideration but probably will use the Right Footpath since they are [still] very slow, practically walking pace.

12. I have noted that the price of a brand new adult 26" bicycle at Giant Hypermarket is about ~S$80 [or ~S$60 when on sale], which can probably be reduced to about ~S$50 if bought in large quantity by companies who wish to advertise their products and services over the long lifetime of the bicycle, probably a decade or so. Thus, a big company can fix one or more permanent advertising sign/s to the bicycles it buys and simply let these bicycles be used by anybody for free, wherever one finds one that is unused and unlocked. It costs ~S$30,000 for a basic fullpage colour ad in the Straits Times for 1 day [without loading for choice positions], which can buy ~300 bicycles including the advertising signages, that will last a decade. Further, the goodwill accruing from sponsoring free bicycles for the people is enormous. However, the govt or Town Councils can insist that for every bicycle a company or rich individual philantropist sponsors, he must also sponsor 1 free parking stand so that number of bicycle stands = number of bicycles, at least. Bicycle stands can also carry ads for the sponsors. An example of an advertising sign could be "Ride free with DBS Bank".

13. Some users who take a free bicycle, ride it to a destination to run an errand or work may want to ensure this bicycle is still available after their errand or work and so use a lock to lock it for their personal re-use after. We cannot stop this, so may as well allow it. Simply have many, many, free bicycles so there will be enough. A good number to start with would be a target of a quarter million free bicycles, with the corresponding bicycle stands -- Singapore's population is now 5m. Small fines may be needed to ensure users don't simply abandon their bicycles to the obstruction or annoyance of other users of the public space. Since it is difficult to wait to catch the offender, it may be easier to simply remove the bicycle on a pick up truck, cut any locks, and maybe put it a short distance away for others to use -- or simply cut the lock so someone else can ride it away -- thus somewhat punishing the offender while also removing a public obstacle or nuisance. In London, crews with wheel locks or wheel clamps drive around to lock illegally parked cars or even tow them away so this is not new and is well tested -- at least for cars. These Bicycle Wardens could also check bicycles routinely for damage or non-useability and either repair them or scrap them if unrepairable. Every rider should have the habit to test both front and rear brakes to ensure safe riding before mounting. Users who find a defective bicycle may want to either physically lock it at a designated Defective Bicycles Return centre at central high-traffic locations or simply call or SMS a Defective Bicycles Reporting telephone number, giving a short description of the Defect/s and the Location of the defective bicycle. You may want to number all or your sponsored bicycles for easier identification.

14. Free bicycles are rugged and lasts for even a decade but the tyres, if like current air-inflated tyres, may need air pumping once in a while. Bicycle hand-pumps are small and cheap, at S$2 each at Daiso, and most bicycle users would carry a small one and inflate their bicycles themselves. Better still, companies and offices could also buy several for loan to their employees, visitors or the public. Even better still, public bicycle pumps could be fixed by a chain to most public places such as at bicycle stands for more convenience. Or, someone could invent solid tyres or permanently sealed constant pressure tyres, not very difficult. Cars already have tubeless tyres so the modest requirements of a bicycle would need only a onetime inflating of air and permanently sealed thereafter for the lifetime of the bicycle.

15. Of course, many regular riders will buy their own bicycles, even motorised ones, preferably with removeable batteries that can then be recharged in the office while they work. Many tourists will find that exploring Singapore by bicycle is a great way to see and experience the City since taxis, buses or trains are too enclosed and restricted in views as well as being too fast and travel only on roads. Since bicycles can be picked up from almost anywhere and dumped almost anywhere, this will be a boon for tourists as well as locals. GPS devices are very cheap nowadays, at about S$150 for a basic one with a Singapore map so these can be rented to tourists to affix onto their bicycle handlebars, etc. GPS satellite navigation works as well on foot or bicycle as on cars. Singapore Tourist Board can draw up many Bicycle Tours routes to maximise tourist enjoyment of the islet. Tourists can also hire electric bicycles instead of manual cycling. Tourist groups should be led by a Tour Leader and for bigger groups, an additional Tour Assistant, to maximise safety and convenience as well as the benefits of a knowledgeable Tour Leader who can give commentary and help to make the Bicycle Tour a great way to experience Singapore. For tourist and resident alike, there should be more Recreational Cycling Routes like that of the current East Coast Park and these can be quickly and cheaply built around reservoirs, nature trails, scenic spots, etc. These should be safe and easy enough for young bikers on small bicycles accompanying parents.

16. Currently, all roads and footpaths on both sides of the road are well-lit at night but all users should also carry a bright headlamp that can be fixed to the handlebar for night riding for additional safety. 2 or 3 velcro strips can make fixing on and removing easy. Currently, the Left Cycle Path is raised as a pedestrian path or pavement although with easy slopes or ramps designed for wheelchair friendly access but once the authorities find which routes are heavily used, they may want to level these pavements and asphalt them for easier and faster riding.

17. A small plaque should be affixed prominently to the handlebar or some other very visible part of every bicycle. The plaque should read: "User use this bicycle at own risk. To read more about your rights, visit for full terms and conditions." This is necessary because there are many thousands of tourists in Singapore each day and many will use the bicycles, so need a reminder of the Terms & Conditions [T&C] which most residents will know already.

18. Besides the above, which is mainly cycling as transportation, there can be recreational cycling. Recreational cycling can be learning to ride a unicycle, low-wire [safe] riding on a wire, two or more persons balanced on a bicycle, mountain bike riding through rough countryside, formation cycling of mass cyclists riding in formation like in National Day Parades, perhaps weaving in and out in patterns, trick cycling, etc. Fashionwear for cycling can be a project for Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the polytechnics. They can also develop and invent wearables and bags, holders and other gadgets to make cycling more convenient, fun and safer, in rain or sun. A small kit that holds a tiny airpump, bell, headlamp, flashers, reflective self-curling armbands [S$2 at Daiso], raincoat, etc, will sell well and be very convenient.

19. Thus, Singapore can become a Cycling City, with hardly any govt expenditure or work.

Footnote: In 2007, there were 551 cyclists accidents with 22 deaths; in 2008, 604 with 22 deaths; in 2009, 583 with 19 deaths. If we implement just some of the safety ideas in my article above, there need not be any deaths at all.

NOTHING is important

RH: "If you do nothing, nothing can go wrong. If nothing goes wrong, you won't lose face or job. So, the best option is, ALWAYS DO NOTHING. Because nothing is more important than your face or job."


Dear Presidents and Principals of universities and polytechnics,

a. Sorry to address you all in one email rather than individually, but I wanted to be fair, so that you all receive this on the same day, so that if and when you decide to implement some of my cycling ideas below, you will all start at the same starting line in seeking sponsors to donate free bicycles and their corresponding bicycle stands. Naturally, the earlier tertiary institutions will get the more prestigious sponsors.

b. My ideas on Creating A Cycling City, the subject of my blog post [below], are designed to be implemented island-wide in Singapore but there are some road bumps along the way. For one, implementing it means some loss of revenue by the govt bus, train and even taxi companies. Two, the govt loses some control over the physical meanderings of each Singaporean -- instead of being predictably and sheep-like being herded in buses and trains, those who choose to cycle will climb on a bicycle and ride off anywhere he wants! A no-no. Three is Newton's First Law, or Inertia, which opposes change of any sort, no matter how beneficial. Four is timidity of those in charge.

c. Casting around, I noticed that your universities like NUS, NTU, and the half dozen Polytechnics or so, have huge [relatively] campuses -- many blocks spread over an unwalkable distance. Ah, perhaps, here, you can implement my ideas. Your campuses also suffer from inadequate public transport, so my solutions will be a godsend for staff and students alike -- also, the govt bus, train and taxi monopolies lose no money! Everything to gain and nothing to lose. All the students and staff are adult and there is little vehicular traffic within campus. Ideal.

d. In addition, each of your campuses are directly under your management, so you can implement my ideas without need to check with higher authority -- you ARE the higher authority and the only authority needed to implement the project.

e. Having control over your campuses means you can simply make a speech, email all your staff and students, informing them to avoid walking on the Left Footpath, and that's about it. It's done! Your students and staff, being of higher intelligence than the general population, are the easiest group to ride away with my ideas without any further instruction or policing. Everything is easy.

f. How do you start? Here, the race for the most prestigious sponsors begins. Choose your target. SIA? DBS Bank? Keppel? Citibank? SingTel? There are so many. Remember that, to these big advertising spenders, sponsoring a few thousand bicycles and stands is peanuts. In paragraph 12, I wrote that a fullpage colour advertisement in the Straits Times for one day, costs ~S$30,000 [several times more if published in a choice position in the paper]. This one day advertisement can buy several hundred bicycles for your campus that will last a decade. So, advertisers will be only too happy to sponsor free bicycles for your campus.

g. In addition, these advertisers are very aware of the fact that your staff and students are the creme de la creme of Singapore and future leaders, professionals, movers and shakers, not to mention what they love best, High Net Worth Individuals who will have the monies to spend on their products and services. These advertisers will also want to create goodwill in your students so as to get some of your best students as future employees. So catch them young, here in your campus. With bicycles that they will love to jump on, ride to their lectures, and park almost anywhere nearby. Walking is so last century. Soon, all campuses will be run this way.

h. For your campus bicycles, there probably needs to be a tag that reads "Property of NUS for use within campus only." Or some such. Do forward and discuss these ideas with your colleagues and subordinates and even peer review the ideas for originality and flaws. If you have a Cycling Club, please also forward to them, thanks. Well, that's about it. Very simple ideas to implement. Imagine the benefit. Everyone on campus will simply pick up the nearest bicycle, ride to wherever, then park it and do his business. Some day, all campuses will be run this way. By the way, my ideas are not protected by Intellectual Property laws so feel free to use, abuse, adapt, plagiarise, forward, all without need for attribution. Regards and good day.

i. Unlike a national cycling plan, whose riders will primarily be men, campuses will have ~50% female riders. This means that all bicycles should be 'female' bicycles for easy mounting and female decorum.

j. You may want to consider spending ~50 cents per user per year [students, staff and small number of Others] for a group insurance policy covering all bicycle use within campus. In an injury arising from, say, a defective bicycle, the user will be paid from this group insurance policy. This policy can also cover 3rd Party like say, a pedestrian injured by a student/staff cyclist, who will then be paid by the policy. Shop around for the best insurance rates.

k. Sponsors/donors of the bicycles may want to consult their advertising agency to design their livery on the bicycles for more effective branding of their bicycles. Donors need not be big advertisers, can be an individual philantropist, etc.

l. There are many big bicycle manufacturers in Taiwan who can easily adapt models for your campus use. Google for them.

m. If you want a bit of levity, humour and even whimsy on your campus, you could erect small 'traffic signs' that read, say, "You are entering a Bicycle Town/Campus"; "Give way to Bicycles"; "Bicycles have right of way"; "2 Wheels good, 4 Wheels bad"; etc. Design-wise, these signs could incorporate the Bicycle graphic Symbol in place of the word.

Footnote: Cycling developments around the world: China switches to e-bikes
at Asia Times Online url