For a moment there, all the government’s exhortations to turn Singapore into a car-lite city seemed to be falling on deaf ears.
So long as the MRT system continued breaking down and going from Point A to Point B continued to be much faster by car than by public transport, Singaporeans were going to continue hankering after cars, even if it meant taking out a big loan to buy their own set of wheels.
But lately, changes seem to be afoot. Here’s why there’s hope yet.
Use of mobility devices and cycling is on the rise
Once upon a time, the government was rather sceptical as to whether Singaporeans would ever start to seriously consider cycling as a mode of transport. People complained about the hot weather and reckless road users.
But over the past few years, the number of people using personal mobility devices and cycling has risen steadily.
The government has even gone all fine-city on us by proposing a whole bunch of new offences targeted at people who ride recklessly ride their mobility devices on footpaths. It also looks like electronic bicycles will soon need to be registered—let’s just hope they don’t try to impose COE on them too.
The number of cycling paths and park connectors has steadily risen, which has enhanced access to MRT stations. Folding bicycles and some personal mobility devices are now allowed on the MRT, although we’re still waiting for them to relax the rules further.
Singapore might never truly become a nation of cyclists, but we know there’s at least one guy who goes to work on his unicycle, something which was unheard of 10 years ago.
Car sharing is on the rise
Sure, there are people who buy cars because they think it will help them get chicks.
But there are many, many Singaporeans who prefer to sit in a car rather than taking the MRT simply because it gets them to their destination faster, and without armpits in their face. They don’t even care if they’re not the ones who own the car.
That’s why car sharing has become a lot more accepted in recent years, hence the success of Schoolber, a service which connects school-going kids with parents who can drop them off in the morning. Just about everybody has tried Uber and GrabCar, while UberPool lets people save even more by sharing the car with other passengers.
2017 will see the launch of Singapore’s first electric car-sharing programme, which means people will be able to pick up cars at designated stations, drive them home and then return it to a designated lot close to their homes. Similar programmes already run in cities like Paris and Copenhagen, and we say it’s about time we got our own.
Mentalities are changing
Ten or twenty years ago, the only people who commuted by bicycle were labourers or old uncles. These days, people who are able to commute using mobility devices are met with envy, since they no longer have to use the bus and MRT system.
Just a few months ago, I met a guy who had ridden his electric bicycle all the way from his home to the City Hall area. Everyone was a little jealous he didn’t have to fork out the cash for a cab or endure a long bus and MRT ride home.
While people used to aspire to be car owners because it was the only way they could avoid taking public transport, there are now more alternatives than ever that can reduce commuting time and reliance on the MRT and bus system. And some Singaporeans, at least, are embracing them.
Do you think Singapore will ever become truly car-lite? Share your views in the comments!