How Is Singapore Planning For Active Mobility?
Published 22 March 2023
How Is Singapore Planning For Active Mobility?
Imagine a weekday evening and you need to go to the nearest shopping centre. MyTransport.SG app indicates that the next bus will only come in 10 minutes because of the peak-hour congestion along the arterial roads. Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could just unlock a bicycle nearby and zip your way to the shopping centre using dedicated bicycle lanes? This Policy Explainer seeks to explore how Singapore is working to realise this scenario, reducing our dependence on motorised vehicles and moving towards a car-lite society.
Why Do We Need Active Mobility in Singapore?
The above scenario illustrates the concept of active mobility, which is defined as the use of non-motorised, human-powered travel modes either as a single trip or in tandem with public transit.¹ Conventionally this refers to cycling and walking, although it can also include riding a scooter, rollerblading or skateboarding. Urban planners are starting to recognise the usefulness of active mobility in resolving various urban issues, such as congestion and carbon emissions.
Indeed, Singapore already has strategies to tackle congestion, like controlling car ownership via Vehicle Quota System and car usage via Electronic Road Pricing.² Nevertheless, roads already take up 12% of Singapore’s limited land space,³ and these are plied by more than half-million private vehicles.⁴ Hence, addressing congestion is still a work in progress. If we were to promote active mobility, we could replace entire short trips that would have been made using cars,⁵ such as grocery shopping, or use it for first-mile-last-mile journeys between home and public transit stops.⁶
Additionally, transportation contributes significantly to overall greenhouse gas emissions. In Singapore, the percentage of household-based emissions attributed to transport has jumped from 20% in 2000 to almost 30% a decade later.⁷ If we could substitute entire car journeys with active mobility, emissions would drop. Other countries have shown that this is possible. A study of seven European cities found that substituting just one commute per day from driving to cycling for 200 days a year would cut about 0.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, representing a substantial share of average per capita emissions from transport.⁸
Literature also highlights other benefits of active mobility in improving personal and public health,⁹ as well as creating attractive, user-oriented public spaces that can improve the standard of living for the city’s residents.¹⁰
Active Mobility Planning in Singapore
Considering the advantages, it is no wonder that Singapore takes active mobility seriously. This is underscored by the fact that we do not have one, but three documents outlining our plans for active mobility – the Land Transport Master Plan 2040, the Long-Term Plan Review, and the Walking and Cycling Design Guide.
Land Transport Master Plan 2040¹¹
Road and public transportation planning in Singapore is primarily within the purview of the Land Transport Authority (LTA). In 2018, they released the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 (LTMP 2040), which aims to achieve the following core objectives by 2040:
i. “20-Minute Towns” – all intra-town journeys should be at maximum 20 minutes;
ii. “45-Minute City” – 90% of all inter-town journeys to be completed within 45 minutes; and
iii. 90% of all journeys, both intra- and inter-town, to utilise modes of transportation other than personal vehicles, termed as “Walk-Cycle-Ride” journeys.
The bulk of the plan outlines various projects to enhance each pillar of the “Walk-Cycle-Ride'' tripartite in order to achieve the core objectives. For example, there will be more covered linkways, about 150km of them, that connect housing estates and neighbourhood amenities to public transit stops. There is also a target of 1,000km of cycling lanes by 2040, accompanied with more bicycle parking facilities installed at every public transit stop for first-mile-last-mile journeys.
Meanwhile, the rail network will continue to be expanded, with three MRT lines slated to be progressively opened by 2030, so that 80% of all homes will be within 10 minutes of an MRT station. LTMP 2040 also calls for Transit Priority Corridors (TPCs), where stretches of main arterial roads would have dedicated bus-only lanes and other measures that prioritise public transit and active mobility flows over private vehicles.
Long-Term Plan Review¹²
While LTA focuses solely on land transport matters, it is the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that formulates long-term land use plans for the entire island and develop codes regulating urban development. In 2022, URA released the Long-Term Plan Review (LTPR) that aims to chart Singapore’s infrastructural development for the next 50 years.
Concerning transportation infrastructure, LTPR largely corresponds with LTMP 2040, as it features in broad strokes the rail network expansion plans, Transit Priority Corridors, and cycling lanes. However, LTPR also extensively showcases plans to bring workplaces closer to home. Office spaces in the Central Business District (CBD) is envisioned to be only for in-person meetings and collaboration, while personnel offices could be moved out to shared workspaces in industrial nodes closer to the neighbourhood towns. This allows for the freed-up CBD spaces be re-zoned to facilitate mixed-use developments and residential infilling. Meanwhile, community amenities like parks, gyms, libraries and community centres will also be increased in the neighbourhood towns. All these parks will be connected to one another through 500km of new park connectors built by 2030.
Walking and Cycling Design Guide¹³
Cognisant of the overlap between future land use plans and land transport plans on active mobility, LTA and URA collaborated in 2018 to develop the Walking and Cycling Design Guide (WCDG) to guide private developers on installing active mobility infrastructure in their premises.
WCDG provides comprehensive specifications to developers on active mobility infrastructure, such as cycling lanes, park connectors, pedestrian/bicycle crossings and bicycle parking designs. The guide also states the bicycle parking provision requirements that developers must meet as part of their Walking and Cycling Plan submissions. Additionally, developers are also incentivised to incorporate other end-of-trip facilities like bicycle servicing, lockers and showers.
So, What Does This All Mean for Me?
Promoting active mobility is more than just allowing bike-share companies to set up operations and drafting a code-of-conduct regulating interactions between various road users. On top of that, it requires the foresight in building the right environment that makes walking or cycling feasible for the public, which is what the three documents seek to achieve.
Planning for more covered walkways shows that the government recognises the multi-modal nature of active mobility that includes walking as well as cycling. Expanding rail networks and improving bus efficiency would increase feasibility of public transport journeys, which in turn creates an opportunity for the first-mile-last-mile journeys to be done by foot or on bicycle. Dispersing workplaces and other amenities to the heartlands makes everything closer to home, making them more accessible by active mobility. Lastly, prescribing guides for private developers encourages standardisation on the various typologies of active mobility infrastructure.
Notwithstanding the commendable efforts, there remains room for improvement. Perhaps, one of the most influential factors discouraging active mobility is the hot tropical weather that Singapore experiences all year round. While having more covered walkways help to make active mobility journeys more convenient, the authorities could do more by mandating a greater variety of end-of-trip facilities. Currently, the WCDG stops at only incentivising other forms of end-of-trip facilities other than bicycle parking. This leaves a possibility for other facilities like showers or lockers to be made a requirement for future developers.
Singapore considers the promotion of active mobility seriously because of the various advantages that it can confer, like overcoming congestion and reducing carbon emissions. This can be seen by the creation of three separate documents that aim to tackle the various aspects of active mobility, so that its promotion can be done holistically. Even though there may be opportunities for further augmentation, what is clear is that the dream of a car-lite society in Singapore that primarily relies on public transport and bicycles is rapidly becoming a reality.
¹ Koszowski et al., “Active mobility: Bringing together transport planning, urban planning, and public health,” in Towards user-centric transport in Europe: Challenges, solutions and collaborations, eds. Beate Müller and Gereon Meyer (Switzerland: Springer, 2019), 149-171. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-99756-8_11.
² Walter Theseira, “Congestion control in Singapore,” International Transport Forum, 2020, https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/congestion-control-singapore.pdf.
³ “Motor vehicle population by vehicle type,” Land Transport Authority, 2022, https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam/ltagov/who_we_are/statistics_and_publications/statistics/pdf/MVP01-1_MVP_by_type.pdf.
⁴ “Road network,” Ministry of Transport, 2023, https://www.mot.gov.sg/what-we-do/motoring-road-network-and-infrastructure/road-network.
⁵ Timothy L. Hamilton and Casey J, Wichman, “Bicycle infrastructure and traffic congestion: Evidence from DC’s Capital Bikeshare,” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 87 (January 2018): 72-93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2017.03.007.
⁶ Yichun Fan and Siqi Zheng, “Dockless bike sharing alleviates road congestion by complementing subway travel: Evidence from Beijing,” Cities 107 (December 2020): 102895. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2020.102895.
⁷ Bin Su, B. W. Ang and Yingzhu Li, “Input-output and structural decomposition analysis of Singapore’s carbon emissions,” Energy Policy 105 (June 2017): 484-492. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2017.03.027.
⁸ Brand et al, “The climate change mitigation impacts of active travel: Evidence from a longitudinal panel study in seven European cities,” Global Environmental Change 67 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2021.102224.
⁹ Warburton et al, “Health benefits of physical activity: The evidence,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 174, no. 6 (2016): 801-809. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.051351.
¹⁰ See note 1.
¹¹ “Land transport master plan 2040,” Land Transport Authority, 2022, https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/dam/ltagov/who_we_are/our_work/land_transport_master_plan_2040/pdf/LTA%20LTMP%202040%20eReport.pdf.
¹² “Long-term plan review,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, 2023, https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Planning/Long-Term-Plan-Review.
¹³ “Walking and cycling design guide” Land Transport Authority and Urban Redevelopment Authority, 2018, https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Guidelines/-/media/BD725DB201DB496A93569C8072DD9FD0.ashx.
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