akmal's bike park

akmal's bike park

Monday, 19 July 2010

Bike Lanes

While listening to Symphony 92.4 FM last week, on the radio was the news that Singapore is up for SGD26m bike lanes. It was meant for the push in making cycling as a means for commuting between towns.
Well, that's a lot of public money, and I'm a proponent for such move. How many would really take it, cycling? There were always walkpaths along the roads in Singapore. I used them a lot during my teen years whenever I come down to Singapore for a visit (sports shopping, more likely). Well, I use the walkpaths because they are everywhere, wide enough, mostly covered with trees, and personally my shopping in Singapore is best by foot - easier to hop into shops. However, when there are walkpaths available, we don't see many using it, but still there are some. Bikes? now that's a different story.
Not everyone has bikes (although it seems virtually every Bangladeshi in Pasir Gudang does), but still there are many who do; and they cycle to places. For intra-city transport, cycling is much more convenient and faster compared to walking, perhaps motorised vehicles too. That is, if the facilities are there, such as (wide enough) bike lanes, parking spaces with locking facilities, showers and lockers (okay, that's for phase 2).
I can assure you that right now is a high time for cycling lanes to be integrated into new roads during city planning and also introduced into existing ones. The other facilities, that can come later (perhaps just before the next national general election).
Bike lanes are different from walkpaths and roads, as the mode of transport is different. Bicycles are slower than most other vehicles (when there's no traffic jam), but much faster than walking. For that obvious reason, it is unsuitable for cyclists to use the walkpaths and roads, hence dedicated bike lanes are needed.
Basically it's a chicken and egg scenario. People who would like to use the bicycle more often are most concerned with their safety. Riding the bike on the roads is quite a gamble and this is much so when cycling alone. We can always invest in personal safety equipment and accessories, but not really defensive. There's still a big risk of being hit from the rear. Having a dedicated bike lane would make it much more safer, because there'll be no heavier and speedier vehicles except bicycles. Those who were concerned in the first place would then take up cycling as a viable transport mode.
On the other end, perhaps bike lanes are non-existent due to lack of numbers making it uneconomic to have them especially when space is a premium. However, if it's stipulated in the law books that housing developers and cities are to have dedicated bike lanes, there will be bike lanes.
In JB less than five years ago, there are only a few prominent bike shops selling decent bikes, parts and accessories. Now, I would say there are more than ten of such. Clearly, the number of cyclists (with expensive bikes) are growing. And, these people would very much like to cycle more as they have invested quite a lot of dough for the bikes, especially during the night on weekdays. These cyclists would also consider cycling as a means for commuting to work. Mind you, this phenomena is not unique to JB. It happens everywhere else in Malaysia, especially in KL. There are a number of bike boutiques now springing out. So, yes, we do have the numbers already now.
We don't have to wait until the statistics show a certain number of fatal accidents involving cyclists in order to have dedicated bike lanes put up in our neighbourhood and roads, do we?
As a side note, I've seen a dedicated bike lane along the main road in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) in KL. However, it seems as though it is under used, and looks shabby from the outset. Back to the chicken and egg scenario. Not enough cyclists? I don't think so. Well, the bike lane's already there. It should not be merely bike lanes, but well-designed and well-maintained bike lanes.
What do you think?

1 comment:

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