Cycle Commuting

Today, I led the most healthful morning.

I woke up at 715am, after around 7 hours of sleep, went for breakfast (this is rare), and borrowed a bicycle to cycle around the Nanyang Technological University campus for a pilot run for a school project.

I had to borrow a bicycle because I don’t own one. I borrowed it from John, a fellow student. I don’t own a bicycle because my confidence in cycling is maybe 3 out of 10. After having ridden on the Death Road in Bolivia (which I swear I will post in due course), my confidence increased from 1 to 2. And after today, maybe it has risen to a healthy 3. Honestly, it’s only a half-truth to say that I can ride a bike. It takes some serious guts to cycle in a constrained area (like the pavement or sidewalk) where other people are walking and cycling and pushing strollers. Let’s just say I have inconsistent control of the bicycle. I’m very thankful to be alive and to have hurt no one in the 1 hour I was away on the roads.

For a total novice at cycling, I found it pretty manageable (save for a few minor heart beats skipped) to cycle from Pioneer MRT to NTU. In the morning, I found the weather favourable for cycling. And that is after stepping out of my air-conditioned room in Hall 8. It could be exceptional weather today, but I doubt morning temperatures go much higher. Even when there was sunshine on the pavement, it was intermittent because there was a lot of shade provided by the trees and buildings in the area.

The main problem I had, which really isn’t a problem if you are better at cycling than I am (not a very hard thing to accomplish), was the narrow pavements. When there was no one else sharing my pavement, I felt perfectly comfortable cycling in a straight line. But once a figure appears in my line of vision. That’s it. My bicycle goes crazy and windy. I am so sorry to all the commuters I have frightened. I think there were 5. But towards the end of my journey I got the hang of it and just kept telling myself to keep calm and maintain a straight path. Breathe Su, breathe.

Slopes in NTU are more manageable than I expected and generally, people around Pioneer have very good bicycling and pedestrian etiquette. That is always good news. It isn’t surprising after you see just how many people cycle around Pioneer MRT station. It’s a surprisingly large number and I’m surprised there aren’t even wider pavements for them. There was even a double-deckered bus (service 192) whose driver very graciously waited for me by the pedestrian crossing although I was at least 2-3 metres from the crossing. Also, most people responded well when I rang the bicycle bell to alert them of my presence. The only real scary part was the roundabout in NTU (which leaves much to be desired for pedestrians), but even then most motorists are very patient and always wait to see what I am going to do next before they make their move. Of course, being the scaredy-cat or timid cyclist that I am, I waited for at least 5 cars to make their turns before daring to make mine. I survived! You don’t have to be Tour de France pros to cycle. This morning I have more to work on for my project.

Commuting via cycling is the future of sustainable, liveable cities. One day my dream of a bicycle culture in Singapore may realise and we’ll be seeing pretty bikes (like these PUBLIC bicycles) around the city. I remember walking past PUBLIC bikes in San Francisco and wishing I owned the entire catalogue. It’s like a Vespa or a VW Beetle, without the fuel consumption. Plus, you really get to exercise with these bikes and feel the breeze upon your face. If someone as afraid as me could ride on the pavements, there’s really nothing else to be worried about. What’s not to love about non-motorised transport, really?

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