Culture / Lifestyle

A dilemma: Getting a bicycle in this bike-unfriendly environment

I’m fond of libraries. Being between rows and rows of books gives me immense joy and peace. Unfortunately, the largest public libraries in Singapore are inconvenient to go to because of my central location – Living in a central area is a good thing, except for this ONE aspect: The library. Even the nearest regional library, Woodlands library, is nearly an hour’s journey for me using the public transport.

And that’s why, I want a bicycle. Rather than occupying that time sitting in a bus or a train, I might as well exercise and have a little fun before reaching my destination.

As a newbie whose only knowledge of bicycles is just hopping on a random rental bike for leisure cycling, I’m finding it complicated. I assumed that in buying a bike, I only needed to consider its price and size. I was wrong. You have to consider the brand and its function. Do you want a mountain bike, a BMX, an off-road, or a road bicycle? I didn’t know there was a difference between an off-road and road bicycle. I still don’t. You even have to choose the material. Certain types of steel are no good for bicycle frames, plastic seats are uncomfortable, and you must choose the hand grips and tyres wisely.

The only thing I’m certain about is I want a foldable bicycle.

The main reason for that is because I’m afraid of people stealing my bike. The general advice I’ve got from bicycle community forums is that a cheap bicycle of $100-300 will cause bodily pain for long-distance cycling and it is not durable. On the other hand, buying an expensive one attracts unwanted attention. I can carry a foldable bicycle everywhere I go, and prevent theft from happening.

My next consideration is that I wanted to cycle back home from work. I know that public buses and trains here do not allow large unfoldable bicycles on board. Well, to me, installing front-mounted bike racks on public buses doesn’t seem too difficult. If Sweden can do it, why can’t Singapore? But, anyway, that’s another topic altogether. For now, foldable bicycles seem more agreeable in this respect.

The dilemma starts here. Through my research of Singapore’s public transport system, I was disappointed to read this from the SMRT, one of the main public transport providers:

Can I bring my foldable bicycle on board anytime? 

For the comfort of all passengers, your foldable bicycle can be carried onboard during the following times when our trains and buses are less crowded: Mondays to Fridays, 9.30am – 4.00pm and 8.00pm to the end of passenger service, and all day on weekends and public holidays.

How many foldable bicycles are allowed on the bus? 

Only one foldable bicycle is allowed at any one time.
Source: SMRT website’s FAQ

I found out later that the same policy is implemented on SBS-operated buses.

It might only be me, but isn’t this a very inconvenient policy? Since office hours tend to start from 8 or 9 am, it meant that essentially we cannot bring bicycles, even foldable ones, to work unless you cycle (or drive) to work. It also meant that if there is another passenger with a foldable bicycle trying to get onboard the same bus or train with you, one of you can’t get onboard. Isn’t this terribly restrictive?

All I want is a bicycle. But, is it worth it to get an expensive foldable bike just to use it during weekends?

Mood: Doubtful.

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One thought on “A dilemma: Getting a bicycle in this bike-unfriendly environment

  1. I went through this when I first got into SG in 2010. I had this great idea of commuting to work on a bicycle. I even got a friend of mine to lend me his for a couple of days. The idea was short-lived. No bikepaths meant that I almost got hit several times; I got splashed incessantly on the way, rained on, and was sweatier than a drunk overweight irishman working in the sun; the worst was finding a clean place to take a shower after that ordeal. I gave up midway through…hired a cab, stuck my bicycle in the trunk and revelled in the peace and quiet of the ride back home… 🙂

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