Bishan to CBD on a bicycle?

Bishan to CBD on a bicycle?

Route's biggest hindrance: Bridge over 8-lane PIE

Cyclists may be able to ride from Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to Gardens by the Bay, and then into the Central Business District (CBD) in future - without having to get off their bicycles at all.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) plans to study whether the 10km-long Kallang Park Connector, which starts in Bishan and runs along the Kallang River, can become a seamless commuting route for cyclists.

Yesterday, it called for consultants to come forward to find solutions around the seven obstacles that now interrupt the route.

These include pedestrian crossings, an underpass with low head room and overhead pedestrian bridges, such as the 14m-high one spanning an eight-lane stretch of the Pan-Island Expressway.

In a statement, the URA said it would shortlist the external consultants by October and select a team to conduct the study by the second quarter of next year. The study will take a year to complete.

URA executive planner Joycelyn Yik said this could be the birth of Singapore's first seamless cycling route into the heart of the city - one that would pass through 11 housing estates and serve 400,000 people.

If completed, it could take a cyclist about 30 to 45 minutes to ride from Bishan to the heart of the city, compared with about one hour to 11/2 hours now. "We feel this will help improve quality of life by helping us move towards a car-light future for Singapore," said Ms Yik.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan first mooted the idea for a seamless connector in April on his Facebook page, saying that it would help achieve "a great social outcome".

Possible solutions to the obstacles include elevated cycling-friendly bridges with gentle ramps or underpasses, said Ms Yik, who noted that these have to be studied for feasibility.

There are challenging technical constraints, she added.

"Given that the Kallang Park Connector and Kallang River run through very built-up areas, there's really not much land for us to play with around here."

NParks assistant director of park planning Henry Hee said the biggest obstacle along the route is the bridge over the PIE, near St Andrew's Junior School.

Cyclists have to carry their bikes up and down eight flights of stairs to get to the other side.

The Kallang Park Connector, which was built in 1992 by the National Parks Board, is the oldest in Singapore.

Both URA and NParks said they would study the route before turning their attention to other park connectors in the future.

Singapore's cycling-path network will expand to 700km in 2030, with more than 300km of paths built so far. It is part of a shift towards getting more people on bicycles and away from cars.

Mr Pierre Chew, an engineer who cycles from his home in Bishan to the CBD to attend upgrading courses, felt the bridges are the main hindrance. "If you are not strong enough, by the time you carry your bike to the top, you will already feel the strain," said Mr Chew, 42.

He added that although the overhead bridge at Braddell Road had a "bicycle gutter" for cyclists to push their bikes up, this could still be hard work for old folk.

"If they could get around these obstacles, it would be a very pleasant, scenic route to ride," he said.

Experts agreed. Associate Professor Wong Yiik Diew, director of the Centre for Infrastructure Systems at Nanyang Technological University, said the initiative would set up an important "trunk route" for commuting cyclists.

Dr Alexander Erath, a transport researcher at the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, noted it would be important to see how individual towns can be best connected to the upgraded Kallang route.

"Intra- and inter-town cycling depend upon each other. Only if people consider the entire trip to be safe and convenient for cycling, will they start considering it as a relevant travel option," he said.


This article was first published on July 1, 2015.
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