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Converting road space

Seven years into Singapore’s official car-lite drive, and the authorities have initiated the Republic’s largest push yet to convert road space to cycling paths. Better late than never!


More than 20 roads in the northeast of Singapore and the eastern parts of the island will be assessed to determine if portions of them can be reclaimed for cycling paths, in what is likely to be the first such study on this scale.


They include stretches along heavily utilised roads such as Aljunied Road, Braddell Road, Upper Serangoon Road, Upper Paya Lebar Road and MacPherson Road.


Should all plans come to fruition, experts said the additional paths - part of a national plan to boost Singapore’s cycling path network to 1,300km by 2030 from 460km now - will significantly improve convenience and safety for cyclists.


They told The Straits Times that the traffic study to be done is the largest they have heard of so far in relation to converting road space to cycling paths. It is one of various initiatives in Singapore’s push to become a car-lite nation.


According to tender documents seen by ST, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is seeking engineering consultancy services to design cycling paths and related infrastructure in the eastern sector.


Plans for the construction of the cycling paths are spread out in three phases till 2030.


The potential conversion of road space would contribute to the expansion of networks in several areas over the next decade.


Estates that could significantly benefit include Geylang, which is slated to have an additional 29.5km of cycling paths, Sengkang (28.3km), Hougang (28.2km) and Serangoon (27.6km).


Industrial areas, such as those in Pasir Ris (6.6km), Tampines (3.6km) and Bishan (1.6km), could also get cycling paths should feasibility studies come through.


The proposed new paths should connect to the existing path properly, LTA said. Where necessary, existing roads, junctions and facilities should be realigned, reconfigured or reconstructed to do so.


The LTA said the studies on identified roads will analyse the traffic impact that the cycling path proposals would have on surrounding roads. Tender applicants should propose localised road improvement schemes to meet traffic demands where necessary, it added.


Associate Professor Walter Theseira, who heads the Master of Urban Transport Management programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said the studies address the issue of lack of space to build cycling paths along some key routes.


On why major roads are being looked at, he said: “If you want to implement a good high-speed commuter cycling network, there is often going to be no choice other than to align the network with the existing arterial road network. The arterial road network is there for a reason - it happens to be the path that is most convenient for a larger number of commuters.”


Mr Gopinath Menon, a transport engineering consultant, noted that cyclists are allowed to use normal road lanes, but many refrain from doing so because they feel unsafe.


Drawing parallels to the decision to introduce dedicated bus lanes, he said that while it had some impact on traffic, there was a strong case to give priority to buses as they are “efficient movers of people”.


“Similarly, bicycles are an eco-friendly mode of transport that the Government wants to encourage.”


But he added that it is unlikely that all the roads being studied will be partially reclaimed for cycling paths, due to traffic considerations...


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LTA will also study the feasibility of removing parking spaces along four roads in the Joo Seng-Tai Seng area: Joo Seng Road, MacTaggart Road, Kim Chuan Road, and Tai Seng Avenue.


The current roadside parking offered at Kim Chuan Road:

Credit: Google Maps.

And at Tai Seng Avenue:

Credit: Google Maps.

Up to 1977, roadside parking was the norm along Singapore’s roads, but from that year, it was gradually phased out, to hand over valuable road space to moving traffic - my book Jalan Singapura covers that. Now, it’s long overdue that LTA phases out whatever’s left of roadside parking. It should be reserved for only the most remote or underused of roads.