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    May 11, 2016

    Carrots for developers to go extra mile for cyclists

    DEVELOPERS will be given incentives to provide facilities such as bicycle parking, showers and locker rooms in their new buildings, as part of a new government plan to encourage people to cycle.

    They might not have to pay for the floor area occupied by these facilities, as the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has said that it is prepared to grant gross floor area (GFA) exemptions for such facilities.

    A URA spokesman told The Straits Times such exemptions would complement the Walking and Cycling Plan (WCP), adding that "the details are still being studied".

    Under the plan announced last week, cycling and walking facilities will be incorporated when buildings are designed from the get-go, starting from July.

    This is part of an overall effort to make cycling more attractive for the first- and last-mile of trips.

    On Monday, the Ministry of Transport said in Parliament that developers would have to build a minimum amount of bicycle parking, similar to existing requirements on minimum car parking spaces.

    While developers have welcomed the moves as a step towards a car-lite Singapore, they have also asked for concessions.

    Managing director of Evia Real Estate Vincent Ong said the WCP could impose difficulties on developers, who already deal with tight space constraints.

    For instance, under URA rules, up to 40 per cent of a development's site area would have to be reserved for greenery, leaving little space for anything else, he added.

    "The construction costs might not be significant but what costs money are supporting services (such as ramps and staircases) and how you fit all these facilities into the development," said Mr Ong.

    Terence Seah, divisional director of architecture firm Benoy, points out that much of these facilities - such as bicycle parking - would be built on the ground level so developers could lose "highly profitable space".

    "If the Government gives some form of incentivisation, if these extra facilities could be GFA-exempt it would be a more equitable way to encourage developers to take this on board," he said.

    For a start, the new WCP will apply to commercial developments, such as shopping complexes, offices, business parks and schools, but ST understands it would later apply to residential developments too.

    Concerns about costs aside, experts feel that the WCP could trigger a "proliferation of cycling" in the city and inspire new architecture.

    The streetscape will change gradually, with more ramps and dedicated paths for cyclists and other mobility devices, said Charles Barguirdjian, studio director of architecture firm Atkins Global.

    National University of Singapore associate professor Cheah Kok Ming said developments have to be well-connected to a developed cycling or walking network.

    Said Prof Cheah who is from the department of architecture: "Otherwise, the building could have bicycle parking and all the facilities, but there is no way a cyclist can get into the building safely, if its surrounding is not well-designed."