Say yes to bicycle lanes in Singapore: national cyclists

It would be “fantastic” if Singapore had bicycle lanes, said Travis Woodford, a rider signed to OCBC Singapore’s professional cycling team.

The full-time national serviceman, 22, has strong reason to think so: four months ago, he was riding home alone from training when a car rammed into his two-wheeler from the back.

While Woodford was fortunate to escape with minor injuries and whiplash, it wasn’t his first run-in with a vehicle – and if he had it his way, there would be a lot more respect between motorists and cyclists who share the roads in Singapore.

That was one of many messages shared by Woodford and his OCBC teammate Low Ji Wen as they launched this year’s OCBC Cycle Singapore’s Safe Cycling Campaign with a clinic at Yu Neng Primary School.

Into its fourth year running, the initiative saw Low and Woodford give over 800 kids a brief presentation on cycling etiquette and road rules, as well as the importance of wearing helmets.

Student Jovi Huang, who takes a ten-minute bicycle commute to school every day, said that after attending the talk, he now appreciates the need to dismount and push his bike at pedestrian crossings.

OCBC later donated 200 helmets to the needy students of Yu Neng. The bank hopes to conduct more clinics at more schools from May onwards.

Behaving on the road

But there remains a relatively high occurrence of cycling accidents in the republic. Recently, a 52-year-old avid rider landed in critical condition after he was hit by a taxi in December.

And in the most prominent instance of a cycling fatality so far, the cement-mixer driver who last year caused the death of two brothers aged 13 and seven was convicted in late January.

Hence, to reduce the accident rate, it is important to engage primary school students and inculcate safe cycling habits among the young, said Singapore Road Safety Council senior manager Mark Chow.

OCBC pro-cyclists Low and Woodford agreed, as they shared with Yahoo Singapore their personal experiences on the road.

“Sometimes cyclists run red lights and overtake dangerously,” said Low, 24. “And social media and viral videos don’t do us any favours but for every negative instance, we just have to get out there, practice good riding habits and try to make it right.”

Woodford, a former triathlete who represented Singapore at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, added that his biggest gripe was when motorists veer too close to bicycles.

Case for lanes

The OCBC Cycle teammates were, however, unanimous in their support for the creation of bicycle lanes in Singapore.

“If you can’t build one, at least paint the road and mark out a space for cyclists,” argued Low, who drives a car himself.

Bicycle lanes are common in Europe, Australia and the US and have been repeatedly pitched by Singaporeans over the years, only for local authorities to reject the idea on the basis of space constraints.

Asked if bicycles could get off the roads and stick to the growing number of park connectors and cycling paths, the four-time Southeast Asia Games competitor said it would not be viable due to the high volume of “recreational” traffic such as joggers on these routes

“We need the road,” said Low.

At least five motorists Yahoo Singapore spoke to were also in favour of bicycle lanes.

“Bike lanes will make the roads safer,” said Derrick Foo, an undergraduate who drives a car to university every day.

The 26-year-old added: “Cyclists and motorists will have better relationships when they don’t have to compete for space. Bike lanes may mean less space for motorists, but at least the flow of traffic will be smoother.”

“I think motorists need to understand that cycling is a global phenomenon in major cities,” he said. “There’s already a sizeable movement in Singapore. Don’t fight it.”

The 2014 OCBC Singapore Safe Cycling Campaign will be a year-long affair, celebrated on the last Sunday of every month, compared to the month-long efforts of previous years.

The first Safe Cycling Day will take place this Saturday at Long House Food Centre in Thomson, where 2,000 cycling jerseys will be given out in exchange for donations to support safe cycling initiatives by the Singapore Road Safety Council.