Bike on train? No problem

Commuters didn't mind our reporter travelling with a folding bike
Teh Jen Lee, The New Paper 21 Feb 09;

SMILING faces all around.

One woman even gave up her seat on the train so that I could take a seat next to my bicycle.

I was pleasantly surprised. Travelling with my foldable bike from Simei to Toa Payoh was almost a breeze.

Madam Karen Seah, 50, who was on her way to Toa Payoh at about 10am on Tuesday, said: 'I think it's good that only foldable bikes are allowed because, otherwise, it takes up too much space.

'It's a good thing to promote a healthy lifestyle, especially during holidays. Students like my son will want to go riding.'

The foldable bicycle scheme was approved after a six-month trial from May to November last year.

Currently, bikes are allowed on board only between 9.30am and 4.30pm, and 7.30pm and the end of operating hours. The timings will be revised to between 9.30am and 4pm, and 8pm and the end of operating hours from 15 Mar.

There are other guidelines that commuters need to follow.

During the trial, an average of 70 foldable bicycles were taken on board trains each week, and two bicycles on board public buses, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

At the same time, LTA conducted on-site surveys of over 1,000 bus and train commuters. Eight out of 10 train commuters and seven out of 10 bus commuters supported allowing foldable bikes on board during off-peak hours.

With the folded bicycle weighing at least 5kg, wheeling it around was not that easy.

While waiting to board SBS bus service 232 from Toa Payoh Hub at about 10.15am, my bicycle was the topic of conversation among two fellow commuters who were also waiting for the bus.

One of them said that buses nowadays are spacious enough for foldable bicycles. He was right.

However, if I had done my experiment during peak hours, it would have been a different story.

I found, however, that other commuters have to be understanding - I need more time when boarding or alighting the bus since I had to carry my bicycle.

Mr Jeremy Yap, LTA's group director for vehicle and transit licensing, said the foldable bicycle scheme is possible 'owing to the social graciousness and mutual accommodation of commuters'.

Mr Tommy Lam, 34, who owns a foldable bicycle, said: 'I am very happy because LTA and the transport operators recognise that there is a niche group of foldable bike cyclists who commute to work or leisure by public transport.

'I am lucky that my work starts from noon, so I can use my foldable bike to get to work.'

However, given that bicycles are only allowed during off-peak hours, this may prevent quite a lot of commuters from using their bicycles to go to work.

Moving forward, the transport operators may want to consider having buses that have external bike racks on the front and back.

This was the type of bus that was in use while I was studying near San Francisco in the US about 10 years ago.

It would allow for more than one bicycle to be on the bus at any one time. It would also not take up valuable space from commuters.

At present, if there's more than one person with a foldable bicycle waiting for the same bus, one of them will have to wait for the next bus.

Miss Tan Peng Ting, a graduate student, 27, had commuted using a bicycle daily in the US. While she applauds the scheme here because it's 'better than nothing', she thinks that the timings can be adjusted.

# The public can share their views on this scheme by contacting LTA via 1800-call-LTA (2255582), or SMS 77LTA (77582).

Don't block the way on train, bus

Here are some guidelines commuters with folding bikes have to follow:

# Foldable bicycles should be folded at all times in the MRT/LRT stations, bus interchanges/terminals and on trains and buses.

# They should not exceed 114cm by 64cm by 36cm when folded.

# The wheels should be wrapped up if they are dirty or wet.

# They should not block the aisles and doors or impede commuter movement at any time.

# When travelling by train, cyclists should use the first or last car, which is less crowded.

# Cyclists should use the lifts and wide fare gates at MRT/LRT stations where these are available.

# Foldable bicycles are not allowed on the upper deck of a bus or to be placed on the staircase leading to the upper deck.