Apr 11, 2014

    Some ideas to make cycling to work safer

    I REFER to the report, "Now get on your bike and ride to work" (My Paper, March 12).

    I have some suggestions to improve the overall road infrastructure.

    With dedicated bike lanes almost impossible in land-scarce Singapore, moving around safely, away from vehicular traffic, would mean sharing footpaths with pedestrians.

    There have been arguments against sharing pavements for a long time. One possible solution may be to improve the design of these footpaths.

    Currently, footpaths are usually 1.5m wide, often enough for only two persons to walk abreast. This space is definitely insufficient if cyclists are to share the paths. I would therefore suggest having pavements that are at least 3m to 4.5m wide.

    The next question: Are we able to provide this extra space to widen the paths? In many cases, the answer is yes. Look at the sides of the footpaths and you would find a few metres of grass verge between the footpaths and the road kerbs on one side and, very often, an open drain on the other side.

    How about reducing the size of that grass patch? And how about covering all the open drains? One or both actions will increase the shared space for cyclists and  pedestrians.

    What  if there are no footpaths or park connectors? Cyclists would then have to share the road with cars, trucks and buses but this can be made safer if the road design is improved.

    The Land Transport Authority has said that the extreme left lane is wider and can accommodate the occasional bicycle traffic safely. But cycling next to the kerb is often not the safest thing to do.

    Let me outline the reasons.

    First, there is a strip of concrete between the bitumen on the road and the kerb and often the two surfaces are not at the same level - the road may have been resurfaced, resulting in a height differential. This difference can cause a cyclist to crash when his bicycle tyre goes down the concrete and up the bitumen.

    Next, the design of the rainwater drainage grilles can trap thinner bicycle tyres. The metal strips run parallel to the road and the gap is often wide enough to catch the tyres. This is another potential cycling hazard.

    All roads should be designed like Portsdown Avenue in Queensway. There the bitumen is paved all the way to the kerb, without there being a strip of concrete, and the rain gutters are on the vertical wall of the kerb.

    This design would truly make the extra space on the left lane usable for cyclists.

    Lastly, think about the slippery-when-wet double yellow lines: they should be level with the road surface and still provide traction for bicycle tyres, regardless of weather condition.

    However, even with all these physical improvements, ultimately it is the road user that determines if we have a safe environment for cyclists and other road users.

    It is paramount that we continue to have national campaigns and education on what safe cycling means on our roads.

    This is especially so when we continue to have young riders on our roads, and also foreign cyclists that might bring in different riding habits from their countries.