Cycling Singapore: Urban Adventure

My heart beats up to my neck. I stop for a moment – what’s going on? I’m not on my way to the predator cage here, just want to borrow a bike to ride around town. Singapore is not without its dangers.

Of course, cycling also had a long tradition in the small Southeast Asian city-state before largely fading from the scene for a while. The government continues to invest in an exemplary local transport system made up of metro and buses. Individual traffic is regulated – you see far fewer cars and motorcycles in Singapore than in neighboring metropolises. Singapore also has an island-wide cycling system that is now over 300 km long:

Cycling in Singapore Urban Adventure
Graphic: Nparks Singapore, the east-west extension of Singapore is about 50 km, north-south about 30 km. Some of the routes will not be completed by the end of 2021.

The downside to the play, however, is that there are hardly any cycle paths along the main roads. The sidewalks are mostly completely occupied by numerous pedestrians, and according to a 2007 British study, they are among the fastest in the world. Little space for cyclists next to busy commuters.

But that has changed in recent years: In Singapore, as in many other cities, bicycle rental schemes were in competition. Bikes from local rental bicycle supplier oBike, which was once also active in Germany and now insolvent, were often found in large numbers in the ditch here too. Then came Corona and with the tough blockages and the only permission to exercise outside, a race on individual bikes and the aforementioned hiking and cycling network called the Park Connector Network.

Unexplored paths for cyclists

The challenge is: to get there first. On the East Coast Park cycle paths not far from my accommodation, you can travel half the island undisturbed for tens of kilometers. At Changi Airport to the east and even well beyond. I want to go. And when I write “not far”, it means: I have to make a bridge of about 3 kilometers to the east coast. Shouldn’t that be possible?

1641 109 507 789 Riding Singapore Urban Adventure
Path = cycle path? In principle yes, but something can always happen. Very often, for example, construction sites.

I quickly located and activated a rental bicycle from the Anywheel brand not far from Arab Street in the center of town. And the first chicane begins: while the rush hour traffic continues, cross the street on a U-turn. I press down firmly on the pedals and arrive just before the avalanche of sheets in the middle of the street, where I am half protected. First obstacle overcome alive.

Google Maps advised me against it, but the map app’s bike navigation system is still new here. The app sends pedestrians over the gigantic bridge of a bypass road to the south. And the sidewalk is a cycle path here, so I’ll take a chance.

Cycling in Singapore Urban Adventure

And first of all, I have all the walking for me. Sometimes stairs and construction marks interrupt the steep driveway. But tufts of grass on the path indicate that I’m pretty much alone here and probably will be for a while. Which makes me happy, because it means: travel for free. And because I’m already sweating, I declare myself an athlete – and I can use it to remove the corona mask, which is actually mandatory here.

When suddenly the path ends

The Anywheel doesn’t have a gearshift, but otherwise it drives well. The brakes do their job reliably. I’m very happy right now that I don’t have to drive on the road where the cars pass.

1641109510 435 Riding Singapore Urban Adventure

In Singapore, some cyclists dare to share the lane with cars on main roads, which can be life threatening. You can read about serious accidents involving cyclists almost every week. Locally renowned actress Patricia Mok recently had a (small) accident with another cyclist – who ignored oncoming traffic. The inexperience of many new riders also makes the company insecure.

At the end of my walk on the bridge, the combined sidewalk / cycle path ends abruptly with a staircase before the asphalt also flows out and leaves the visitor in a meadow almost in nowhere. Here I can only be happy that it hasn’t rained for a long time.

1641109510 507 Riding Singapore Urban Adventure

I find a beaten path along a wall that ends in front of a construction site. Fortunately, cycling is not difficult. I lift it over a meadow and come to a street with a barely used sidewalk. But the yards do not collapse and I realize little by little that I have chosen the wrong side of the bridge.

After all, I’m lucky in another way. There is not much on this side of the highway. I want to go east to a mall and the roads there are clear. More and more I dare to go down the paths to the street. Always beautiful to the limit, of course. Once I even had to do it because the sidewalk is interrupted by a small construction site.

Cities could do more for cyclists

When a bus pulls up behind me, I keep my cool and continue stoically. The pump is working again, but I also don’t want to give in now. And it works: luckily the bus driver saw me and drove me away. A little later I’m there. Completely sweaty, but drove reasonably relaxed and arrived safely.

A few days later, I have better luck in front of the bridge. I have to carry the bike up the stairs, but I’m already at the East Coast Park Connector and can drive to the airport. My roommate recommends an alternate route. Late in the evening, I see more and more small columns of busy cyclists in the less busy streets. Draw attention to yourself often with flashing lights and loud music. It has started and I can’t help but think that Singaporean cyclists won’t be competing for their recently won spot.

Singapore could do more for its cyclists. But hey, what other city besides Copenhagen and Amsterdam couldn’t do that? However, the question also arises: why do almost all cities in the world subordinate everything to car traffic? More lanes for cyclists and then, if necessary, special rights for small electric cars, the idea should no longer be a taboo.

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