Could London Boris bike work for Singapore?

by admin on April 15, 2012

Could Central London’s 20-month-old bike sharing scheme provide a model for Singapore’s CBD?

Photo by Jess Hurd Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

This is the question posted by Cheow Xinyi, the reporter who traveled to London to check out the Boris bike.

“Barclays Cycle Hire is operated and funded by Transport for London (TFL), the body responsible for the city’s public transport system, with partial sponsorship by Barclays Bank. Can Singapore replicate such a model in its central district? After all, cycling is growing in popularity and official support has increased, with the Government having pledged S$43 million to improve cycling infrastructure islandwide under the National Cycling Plan.”

“While biking enthusiasts Today spoke to debated the viability of a public bike sharing scheme, at least one group of private investors is determined to put the model to the test in an urban workplace context by piloting a project at one-north in the next couple of months.” – Yes that’s ISUDA she is mentioning!

Read more about her report directly from TODAY online.

Will Singaporean’s pilot scheme take off?
PRODuCT designer and avid cyclist Francis Chu has come up with his own innovative twist on the bike sharing system, for his upcoming pilot project at one-north: The docking stations aren’t fixed, but mobile.This tackles one of the problems faced by the London project. Mr Chu explained that during peak hours, most bike sharing systems will have logistics teams undocking bicycles from the endstations and transporting them by trailer back to the start stations, where they have to unload and dock the bicycles one by one.
“This is obviously very expensive and takes a lot of effort. The window of opportunity is not that great because peak hour is limited — the faster you can recycle the bicycles, the more people can
use them,” he said.
“What we have come up with is a station integrating storage with the docking of the bicycles. The station itself is on wheels. When the trailer is full, we just close the door the whole station
is ready to go,” said Mr Chu who, with five other investors, pumped S$100,000 into the scheme.
Besides making short point-to-point journeys, Mr Chu hopes his pilot scheme, called “Isuda” (or “easy, fast and access” in Mandarin), will also encourage commuters to use cycling as a “lastmile connection” between a bus terminal or train station and their workplace.
His group has secured approval for the scheme from JTC Corporation, one-north’s landlord, and is running a trial with “one or two users”. They hope to price the scheme at S$20 a month for
unlimited use, with incremental charges for the duration of each ride.
“There is the perception of … riding a bike for commuting as only appropriate for foreign labourers. That is a stigma that will take some time to erase,” he says.
“One of the reasons that one-north is a good location to start with is the mix of people who work there — there is a high proportion of foreigners but these are researchers and usually highly
educated; they do not associate cycling with this stigma but, rather, they see it as a greener and efficient mode of transport.”
Why not approach the authorities for funding to make it a national scheme?
“We want to be independent and have the freedom, and progress at our own pace. Of course, if there are schemes or funds that are in line with what we are doing, there is no harm in us
approaching the authorities.” (The group is, meanwhile, in talks with the Land Transport Authority for permission to run the scheme on land not belonging to JTC and to clarify traffic regulations
for cycling.)
Essentially, Mr Chu’s aim is to make bike sharing profitable by reducing the operating costs.
“The reason why London’s and Paris’ bike-share schemes need sponsors is because it’s a very expensive operation. If we can make a small profit, then bike share can be expanded in an organic
way,” he said, citing hopes of expanding the scheme to the Central Business District someday.

To cycling enthusiast Ryan Li, the challenge of implementing a bike share scheme in the CBD is the need to balance space for human traffic with space for cyclists, given how built-up the area is.

“Most people cycling to the CBD to work are experienced riders cycling on the roads. Unless there is really a cycling lane catered for on the pavements, it will be quite a challenge” for new riders to cycle within the CBD, said the owner of biking specialist shop Bike Labz.

Indeed, given factors like that and the tropical weather, there are those who are sceptical that cycling to or around the business district would become popular.

The Bike Boutique formerly at Tras Street was founded in 2003 by Lynten Ong and a partner originally as a bike storage facility offering cyclists the use of showers. Mr Ong, who left the company in 2007 before it changed its business, said that in his time, demand was “quite minimal”.

“Cycling has grown a little bit more over the years. It’s more acceptable now … but if you notice, it’s more an expat market rather than a local market. It’s still in its infancy, I think it’ll take a while more before locals can accept the fact that it’s okay to cycle to work. Maybe when COEs go up to S$100,000 for cars,” quipped Mr Ong, who now owns a bike shop at Jalan Batu.

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