Property developers’ role in car-lite push

By Valerie Kor / EdgeProp Singapore | September 4, 2020 7:00 AM SGT
PLQ park connectors - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Paya Lebar Quarter’s Walking & Cycling Plan has come into fruition, with cyclists and pedestrians using the wide through-block shared paths regularly (Photo: Samuel Chua/The Edge Singapore)
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - On any given day, cyclists ride on the wide paths alongside pedestrians at Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ). About 100,000 sq ft out of the 1.8 million sq ft total gross floor area at the mixed development is dedicated to these paths, as well as public spaces and lush greenery.
They also link the development to nearby park connector networks (PCNs). When it rains or gets too hot, cyclists and pedestrians can use a sheltered overhead bridge — equipped with lifts long and wide enough to fit bicycles — to access PLQ’s retail mall, three office towers and three private residential blocks. Employees who cycle to work at PLQ’s offices can park at private bicycle lots and use nearby shower facilities, complete with hair dryers and lockers, to freshen up before going to the office.
These cycling-friendly provisions were first detailed in PLQ’s Walk & Cycling Plan (WCP), part of developer Lendlease’s Traffic Impact Assessment report and development applications to LTA and URA in 2016.
PLQ was one of the first mixed-use developments required to submit a WCP, says its general manager, Audrey Balakrishnan. “We worked very closely with the relevant authorities during the design and approval process,” she adds.
end of trip cycling facilities - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Employees who commute to work on bikes can park at private bicycle lots and use end-of-trip facilities to freshen up (Photo: Samuel Chua/The Edge Singapore)
A WCP must be prepared by a professional consultant, together with the appointed architect, to show how the development will apportion space to walkways, pedestrian and cyclist crossings, as well as end-of-trip facilities, such as bicycle parking lots, shower rooms and lockers.
Since 2016, a WCP has been required of large-scale commercial developments, schools and business parks. It was expanded last year to also include residential properties, medical facilities and hotels of a certain scale, as part of Singapore’s push towards becoming a carlite nation. Roads currently take up 12% of land in Singapore. Since February 2018, the annual allowable car growth in Singapore has been reduced to zero.
To help developers, LTA and URA have also jointly produced a Walking and Cycling Design Guide, outlining specifics such as widths of footpaths, road markings to encourage safe behaviour, and suitable lighting.
PLQ’s Balakrishnan says that providing car-free areas, which allows for alternative modes of transport, has contributed to the mixed use development’s liveability and connectivity.
bicycle parking - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Indoor bicycle racks at PLQ mall (Photo: Samuel Chua/The Edge Singapore)
At the same time, the developer is working with cafe operators along the cycling path in PLQ to build a fitness community. There are also activities organised in collaboration with the Health Promotion Board and Virgin Active in PLQ.

Linking developments to car-lite estates and paths

Property developers have a huge role to play in Singapore’s car-lite goal, says assistant professor Raymond Ong at National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “An inclusive development that caters for walking, cycling, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles can be made ‘future-proof’ and adaptable to the eventual car-lite goal,” he adds.
Other developments with WCPs that have come into fruition include Funan mall and Eunoia Junior College, according to an LTA representative. Within Funan, a 200m indoor cycling path links to a shared path along North Bridge Road, allowing cyclists to ride right through the mall. It also has 166 bicycle bays, the highest among CapitaLand developments.
PLQ park connector paths - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Pathways at PLQ is linked to cycling paths surrounding the development (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
One of the key requirements of a WCP is to show how pedestrians and cyclists can safely access surrounding PCNs or cycling paths, be it existing or upcoming networks. LTA has announced in March that Singapore will have 1,320km of cycling paths and park connectors by 2030, which is three times the current network length.
On the existing PCNs, one can cycle from East Coast Park to Gardens by the Bay, and up north to Rower’s Bay and Seletar Aerospace Park on part of the 150km Round Island Route. The whole route will be fully completed by 2035. There is also the 36km Coast-to-Coast Trail that connects Coney Island Park in Punggol to Jurong Lake Gardens. However, these routes are more commonly used for leisure rather than commute.
To encourage cycling as a mode of transport, wider, car-free paths in upcoming neighbourhood towns are in the works. HDB has recently unveiled the design of the future carlite town of Tengah, which showcases how residents can walk, cycle and ride safely on the ground level while roads will run beneath the town centre. During HDB’s August sales launch of Build-To-Order flats, 1,044 units at Tengah were launched.
The infrastructure at Tengah will complement that of the car-lite precinct of Jurong Innovation District, one of five gazetted by the LTA. The other four are Marina South, Kampong Bugis, Woodlands North and Bayshore. All property developments in these future carlite precincts will require developers to submit a WCP.
tengah car lite precinct - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Roads run beneath the town centre, while on ground level, residents can walk and cycle away from cars (Photo: LTA)
Designing car-lite precincts at non-mature greenfield sites, such as Tengah, is relatively easy, but the true challenge lies in prime or mature estates where the road, parking and footpath networks are already established.
But as demonstrated in the mature estate of Ang Mo Kio, modifications can still be made. Currently being redesigned as a walking and cycling town, the government has widened footpaths, introduced more cycle ramps and painted the cycling paths red to clearly set them apart.
A 2.6km walking and cycling corridor is also being built between Yio Chu Kang MRT Station and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. The first portion is completed by converting the space under the MRT viaduct between Yio Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio MRT Stations to a sheltered shared path. The corridor will be completed in 2022 with elevated paths and flyovers to create safe paths, away from roads.
Ang Mo Kio joins the ranks of established cycling towns of Tampines, Sembawang, Changi-Simei, Pasir Ris, Yishun, Punggol, Jurong Lake District and Bedok. Within the next four to five years, the HDB towns of Woodlands, Toa Payoh, Geylang and Queenstown will also see more than 40km of cycling paths being built into existing infrastructure.
Towns in the north will also be connected to the city via the North-South Corridor, a 21.5km expressway that will be completed around 2026. Cyclists can use the cycling trunk route running along the North-South Corridor for a safer journey.

Reclaiming roads post-Covid-19

Post-Covid-19, there is a possibility of relooking current space utilisation. In an addendum to the President’s Address on Aug 27, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung has said that since the pandemic has normalised working from home and staggered work hours, underused road lanes could be reclaimed and converted to cycling and bus lanes.
Cycling has become more prevalent since travel restrictions were imposed in Singapore to stem the spread of Covid-19, with bike-sharing operators SG Bike and Anywheel reporting higher ridership and longer trip usage from February to July.
However, it remains to be seen if this will result in a permanent culture shift of more people commuting on bikes. Walter Theseira, associate professor and transport economist at Singapore University of Social Sciences, observes that Phase Two of opening has seen “a return to traditional forms of transport such as trains, buses, and driving, even with continuing concerns about Covid-19 transmission risk in public transport”.
park connector network map - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The current park connector network in Singapore. There will be 1,320km of cycling paths and park connectors by 2030, which is three times the current network length (Photo: NParks website)
It boils down to the distances between workplaces and homes, which for many people, are still simply too far to cycle, he says. “It is obvious that many public housing estates are not within a comfortable distance to the CBD or Orchard Road by bike. Improvements in dedicated bicycle path connectivity might help here to shorten the bicycling distance — along safe and separated paths,” he adds.
Rather than thinking of transport modes as mutually exclusive, Theseira says, it is better to understand that the same people can use both types of transport. “Anyone with screaming children waiting for a taxi or booking a private-hire car in the rain will tell you that cars are still efficient for certain situations,” he explains.
However, if walking and cycling becomes more accepted, it could result in the automatic inclusion of basic WCR-friendly [walk, cycle, ride] facilities in new property developments, much like how nursing rooms have become standard in malls over time, says Theseira. Such provisions by developers will in turn make cycling more comfortable and convenient in Singapore.
In the long term, constructing active mobility infrastructure and shaping greener transport modes through economic and social incentives or disincentives are necessary to create a carlite environment that is sustainable for our future generations, says NUS’s Ong.
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