One More Step to Marginalisation

You know, I still haven’t come across a single plausible explanation for why our enlightened urban planners think that Singapore can turn out to be the only city in the world where cycling is both a major mode of transport and mainly done on sidewalks. Because, as I have remarked before, the global pattern is that the most bike-friendly cities are the ones where there are the most cyclists on the roads, not on or rubbing shoulders with sidewalks. And no wonder, too: sidewalks have higher accident rates for cyclists. Note further that this is without taking into account the fact that accidents on sidewalks are already underreported relative to accidents on roads.

Ah, yes. The one more step. Sembawang and Woodlands are going the way of Tampines. The justification for it is shitty:

Surveys have indicated that both cyclists and pedestrians there seemed generally in favour of the idea of sharing the footpaths in order to get cyclists off the busy roads.

The initiative in Sembawang and Woodlands was the result of feedback from residents, who wanted to minimise accidents and conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.

Sorry to be an elitist, but most casual cyclists and pedestrians don’t know shit about transportation and urban planning research. The mistaken perceptions these residents have are worthless in the light of the myriad studies showing a higher risk of accidents on off-road paths (if the studies in my sidewalk cycling post are not enough for you, check out this long list of references).

I have a sneaking feeling (and I’m not the only one who thinks this) that this is part of a creeping phenomenon of driving cyclists off the roads. After all, even if they do not officially ban cyclists from the roads, how many more drivers in Sembawang and Woodlands are going to look at the new ‘cycling paths’ and think, when they next see a cyclist on the road, that that cyclist is not supposed to be there? Plenty of drivers already think that way. The last thing we need is official encouragement for the idea that cyclists do not belong on the roads. The large number of triathletes in Singapore may mean that cyclists won’t be outright banned from the roads, but you just need an increase in driver misbehavior to drive more of us off the road. And it’s hardly implausible that drivers will tend to get more tetchy when they perceive something that does not ‘belong’ on the road as obstructing their movements.


1 Response to “One More Step to Marginalisation”

  1. 1 Back2Nature June 29, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    And I wonder how “busy” are roads in Woodlands and Sembawang? 🙂 My intuition is that there must already be many cyclists in these towns, and a reason for that would be the traffic there aren’t busy. Furthermore, I also speculate that the public transport is not an acceptable choice.

    Personally, I think by simply making the width of the left most lane slight wider is good enough for me. This won’t irritate the pedestrians and reduce the challenge for vehicles to overtake cyclists on the road.

    Also, a cheaper way is to identify and label certain pedestrian paths very unsuitable for cycling based on criteria such as high human traffic, wide left most lane, a narrow pedestrian path, etc., and allow cyclists use the unlabeled ones, w/o the need to spend unnecessary resources to build cycling paths.

    Hope they allow cyclists the choice of using either the road, the cycling path, OR those suitable pedestrian paths, but not force cyclists off the road altogether. Thus, for roads w/o cycling path or suitable pedestrian path for cycling, the message would become road is the only place for bicycle.

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