Figure 1. Bicycle sharing kiosk in St Paul, Minnesota (Source: Estell, 2012)

 

The system of bicycle sharing has gained huge popularity in various countries in the recent years, especially in small towns and new developments. As of 2013, more than 500 cities in over 49 countries have implanted some form of bicycle sharing system (Larsen, 2013). The benefits are both environmental and economical in a sense that there is no carbon footprint and it helps free up the roads. More specifically, the bike-and-ride concept of bicycle sharing provides a convenient solution to travel to slightly distant train or bus stations from home as a form of feeder service (Martens, 2004).

Figure 2. Map of proposed bicycle sharing stations in the Jurong Lake district (Source: LTA, 2016)

Eager to hop on to the bike sharing trend, Singapore has made decent improvements to road infrastructures to include bicycle lanes and in the design of off-road park connections between towns with the ambition to create car-lite districts. The upcoming Jurong Lake District development will host Singapore’s first bike-sharing service (Land and Transport Authority of Singapore, 2016). It aims to provide the public with access to shared bicycles, 24/7 at strategically placed docking stations (Figure 2). It will allow residents to make more convenient bicycle commutes from their homes to significant transport nodes and other facilities.

Following the implementation of bike sharing facilities in residential districts, perhaps the ambition can extend to the city areas as well, where the bike sharing facilities can provide convenience to city dwellers and also improve the experience for tourists as well. Traveling to famous city landmarks via cycling can provide an alternative experience of Singapore. Already happening in small scales, bike tours in Singapore offer users the opportunity to explore well known districts such as Chinatown, Little India and Clarke Quay via bicycle (Biking Singapore, 2015).

Figure 3. Bicycle shops in Georgetown, Penang (Source: Penang Bicycle Rental, 2016)

 

The historical town of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia provides a promising outlook to the implementation of a bicycle sharing system in small touristic districts. Its bike sharing scheme is more traditional in that users rent out bicycles from bicycle shops or from small hostels instead of from unmanned bicycle docking stations (Figure 3). It is interesting to note that whilst there are little planned cycling infrastructures such as bicycle paths or bicycle parking stations, cycling within Georgetown remain a popular activity for both tourists and locals alike. Perhaps, the motivation comes from the opportunity to accessibly explore the random nooks and crannies of the site yet also able to cover large distances. These nooks and crannies are also where most of the fascinating and popular street art works are found (Figure 4). Furthermore, the narrow roads and lack of car parking lots make touring the town via vehicular transportation inconvenient. Since the landmarks are located close to each other, it would also not make sense to get on a taxi at one location only to get off a few minutes later. Cycling around Georgetown can definitely be less tiring than walking and more expedient than taking a taxi or bus.

Figure 4. Street art in Georgetown, Penang (Source: Franca, 2015)

 

The Georgetown example shows that the existing conditions of the site can already provide the motivation to use cycling as a mode of transportation within the site. What is required mainly is the provision of the shared bicycles themselves. Consequently, upgrading of infrastructures to be more bicycle-friendly can come in small interventions that do not heavily disrupt the existing urban condition of the site. This is especially important to a heritage site where the preservation of its existing condition is essential to maintain the overall quality of the site. Hence, the ambition of converting Singapore’s historical districts like Little India, Chinatown, or Kampung Glam into bicycle-friendly districts is not too far-fetched.

 

References

Biking Singapore. (2015). Singapore Cycling Tours. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from Biking Singapore: http://www.bikingsingapore.com/cycling-tours.html

Land and Transport Authority of Singapore. (2016, July 28). Jurong Lake District to have Bicycle Sharing Scheme by End-2017. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from Land and Transport Authority: https://www.lta.gov.sg/apps/news/page.aspx?c=2&id=1d2be988-2d74-47aa-9960-cfe1916dc351

Larsen, J. (2013, April 25). Bike-sharing programs hit the streets in over 500 cities worldwide. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from Earth Policy Institute: http://www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2013/update112

Martens, K. (2004). The bicycle as a feedering mode: experiences from three European countries. 9(Transportation Research Part D).