Have wheels, will travel
FOLD and ride, instead of park and ride, will be a new option for rush-hour commuters under the Government's recent announcement of a new six-month trial to allow foldable bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMDs) on buses and trains at all hours.
As an owner of a foldable bicycle, I hope that the new trial will lead to a permanent policy change and I am reasonably optimistic that it will happen.
The current scheme allowing foldable bikes during off-peak hours on public transport came about in March 2009, after the authorities held similar public trials in 2008.
The lifting of time restrictions gives hope that the bicycle and other PMDs are firmly part of the push for a car-lite society in Singapore.
BENEFITS OF RIDING TO WORK
Having your own set of wheels with you on your commute is, to me, a happy compromise between driving and taking public transport.
You do not have to worry about petrol and parking costs as well as traffic jams and accidents. You do not have wait for feeder buses or the LRT for that last leg back home.
It also broadens your range when you step out of the office for meals or errands - what was considered too far to walk in the heat becomes more do-able on your bike.
You save money on not paying for a train/bus ride and get some exercise too.
I have used my foldable bike, a Brompton, to get to work on Sunday.
I used the Circle Line at midday for my commute and, on Sunday, the experience was not too far off from a weekday rush-hour commute.
Moving through the station and on board the train is the real test of the trial. You have to find space for yourself and your bike, without making a nuisance and hitting the legs of fellow commuters.
You will also have to plan your route and know where the lifts and large access fare gates are.
You may also want to use a bike cover to prevent anyone getting a grease "tattoo" from your bike.
The cover-up should also include the rider for the sake of everyone's comfort, if he prefers to ride in skin-tight cycling attire that makes him look like an over-stuffed popiah.
I prefer to wear padded bike shorts when I ride but I would wear them under a pair of casual shorts on the train.
I have not tried using buses on the commute as the current scheme allows only one bike per bus. It means you have to start your bus journey at the interchange in order to be sure you can get on board that bus.
I also think getting the bike in and out of a crowded bus could be a nightmare.
MORE SPACE ON THE SURFACE
Although this new trial is helpful to those who wish to fold and ride, it does not address the concerns of a large majority of cyclists and PMD users who use the pavements and roads to get to work.
Given the spate of pavement accidents and subsequent crackdown, this group are caught in a bind. They can pose a danger on narrow pavements to pedestrians, but if they ride on the road, they are vulnerable to careless and inconsiderate motorists.
In areas with a wide enough pavement, I believe in the flexible approach of allowing cyclists to share the path.
The best solution will be to get cyclists off the pavement and on the roads in clearly-marked cycling lanes.
But until that day comes, cyclists should be able to use the roads safely through all road users adopting the right attitude.
Motorists should understand that cyclists have the legal right to use the road and this has nothing to do with paying or not paying road tax.
And on their part, cyclists have to take responsibility for their own safety, by learning how to anticipate road dangers such as riding in a vehicle's blind spot.