Since Car-Free Sundays began in February last year, thousands have flocked to the city each time on bikes or e-scooters to experience wheeling about without congesting, smoke-emitting, noisy vehicles.
Contrast that image with an office worker scowling as he leaps out of the way of an e-scooter hurtling silently past him on the footpath, its rider equally intent on getting to work.
These are just two faces of the rapidly changing nature of transport in Singapore.
Advances in technology have thrown up more attractive ways for people to get around, and are a boon to the Government’s push to be less dependent on cars, although the road has been fraught for some.
A significant milestone in the car-lite drive was reached last Tuesday when Parliament passed the Active Mobility Bill.
It spells out punitive measures for errant riders but, more importantly, it legitimises the use of bicycles and personal mobility devices or PMDs – a catch-all term to describe devices like e-scooters, hoverboards and unicycles – as a mode of transport.
After years, bicycles can now officially go on footpaths as well as the usual cycling paths and shared paths. The same will also go for PMDs.
E-bikes, on the other hand, have been consigned to the roads, and cycling paths and shared paths – and riders face stiff fines or jail terms if they do not comply.
The new law comes at a point when Singaporeans from all walks of life are embracing these new-fangled mobility devices.
We now see elderly uncles zooming to the kopitiam on e-bikes, the disabled whizzing about the heartland in motorised wheelchairs, and in the city, professionals in crisp, pressed shirts zipping around on e-scooters.
No wonder, as the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) director of active mobility Tan Shin Gee puts it, Singapore is making “good progress” on its journey to be more cycling friendly.
But how close are we really to reaching that vision of a car-lite Singapore?
In five to 10 years, the LTA hopes there will be about four times the number of people cycling or using PMDs to get around.
The authority, which is spearheading the drive to go car-lite and reduce reliance on the private car, tells Insight it is working at boosting safety and connectivity for cyclists.
This active mobility push – encouraging people to travel by bike, PMD or even walk – is “essential to Singapore’s transition to car-lite mobility, centred on public transport”, the Government said in Parliament last week.
The idea is for people to choose that option to get to the bus or train for the rest of their journey.
This car-lite push is helped along by technological developments – with the rise of private car-hire apps and autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, which could soon ply the roads as buses and taxis.
At present, only 1.5 percent of all trips are done by bicycle, but Ms Tan hopes this will rise to 4 to 6 per cent.
To put this in context, Taipei – considered one of Asia’s more bike-friendly cities – has cycling take up about 6 percent of all trips.
Says Ms Tan: “We are making good progress. But this is not something you can change within a short span of time.”
The LTA has been progressively beefing up Singapore’s cycling infrastructure in the last few years, and simultaneously launching educational and promotional campaigns to convince Singaporeans that two wheels are better than four.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is also carrying out experiments to see what would work here by running a range of pilot schemes, such as organising monthly Car-Free Sundays, using Ang Mo Kio to test new ideas for cycling infrastructure and ongoing trials with autonomous vehicles.
“A lot of experimentation is needed for us to find solutions that suit our own circumstances,” says URA chief executive Ng Lang.