16 days (more now at time of post) have passed since the bicycle was sent to my doorstep. The tyres are slightly worn but they are still pumped up. Aside from the obvious advantages of having a thrilled yoogz on the bicycle seat right from the start of travelling instead of having a complaining one while waiting for the bus, and of course no need for paying fares when we ride the bicycle to places nearby, it has kept my mind alive and dreaming of a happier city of people who have the bicycle as an alternative transport.
The usual complaint from my mother is on safety, not that she was bent on it much at the time when I should have been disciplined 15 years ago. It is mine too now that I have a little boy and so staying alive becomes a top priority. It is a lot to ask for us to become mostly flat land and hence very cyclist-friendly like Beijing given our natural terrain conditions, but it will be a dream come true to have a relaxing ride instead of one that requires constant mental concentration and a real skill of balance, something that needs practice and a degree of daring personality. There is now hope in the Malayan railway tracks being converted to a green corridor.
With a child in the rear, I now dismount and push on pavements that are next to un-barricaded drains, on narrow pavements when there are pedestrians in front of me, and when there is a slope greater than 45 degrees since there will be a greater chance of losing balance if I ride on slow speed on something more than a gentle slope. I am not sure how my previous school mates who might be urban-planning now are working with the people who authorises land transport to make the people at the environment ministry very happy in this instance.
I am very happy with my bicycle. There hasn’t been a dull day since. I am not fully reliant on it because I still believe in dependence but it sure gave me harmless freedom to explore at no cost and it is priceless to have little Yoogz humming in delight. I would say the most I would go with my bicycle with a child in the rear is 5km with the current pavement conditions. I went a little more than that on the first day because of the initial excitement, but at normal adrenalin levels, cycling to the MRT station, to nearby neighbourhoods and community areas will just be about it. “Be careful, didn’t you see the article in the papers about people stealing bicycles on the streets?” My mom asked, having to discourage in every possible way. I told her there are always parking lots for bicycles and then she gave me a hundred to buy the best bicycle lock in the world. I got one for twelve. It has been 16 days. I have not lost my bicycle. Then I spotted one for just 5 at the NTUC supermarket downstairs.
But I do understand where she is coming from. In Beijing where I stayed for a while, there were bicycle attendants at stand-alone warehouse sized supermarkets like Makro and you would have to pay them for a parking lot and for them to make sure your bicycle is in safe hands. You will have to show the attendant your ticket before he allows you to take your bicycle. That’s new job creation if cycling became so relaxing that people want to do it for short distances on weekends. Then I thought of security cameras instead if just like the ticket issuers of public transport became extinct with the transitlink card, it might be more cost-effective. Like how I was when I was working at a restaurant, when I was thinking up technologically driven ideas which were only applicable with economies of scale, same goes for now when I stopped myself thinking about suggesting autolock systems, but maybe then again, it might be workable if you think of using a system similar to our library locker systems which operate on $1 coin slots. What would you think, if we went a step further by saying riding a bicycle will also require a license in this country. It entitles you to a special token which you can slot into these parking lockers everytime you are at one. The revenue generated can be used to build the barricades and the maintenance of bicycle-friendly pavements that will give enough room for both pedestrians and bicycles, or even to have an additional marking similar to that of East Coast Park’s. Now I know why I like East Coast Park so much.
Then images of the Baywatch, top heavy female lifeguards cladded in red swimming costumes, working on California’s golden beaches came through. With bladers and relaxed cyclists, the mood of life in our neighbourhoods will be naturally uplifted. It will be pleasant hanging around although pace may be slow in the precincts.
I also thought of how necessary it was to have bicycle repair shops or stops made available nearby. I remembered when I was in Beijing, there would be impromptu tyre replacement peddlers during evening rush hour when everyone is heading home from work. Well instead of that, the petrol stations may find another way of making a buck or two if they can start selling replacement tyres and other accessories like bells and funkier bicycle bags next to the airpumps. I remember frequenting petrol stations’ minimarts and toilets often when cycling was a big past-time in my past. They are nice stop-overs and possibly good locations for quick eateries too.
Then it got my brains working harder as I thought that my dress code will have to change, or if I can’t wear what I like anymore. Humidity has a big part to play in it. Acceptance of change by onlookers and hence peer pressure to conform to norms is another big one. I can’t blame them because I was guilty of this myself last Thursday, when I thought a guy in his gym wear was a little more surprising to me than I thought in the setting of an office. He quickly changed to “appropriate clothing”, which still isn’t what you call Singaporean standards as it was a jacket thrown over a black shirt without tie and suit pants. As far as I remember, Singaporean men wear mostly white shirts with pastel-coloured light pin stripes without tie on top of an un-tailored pair of pants. It may be a good idea to set up an appropriate fashion line that accommodates cycling activities. Fabric and fit will be important criteria for a successful one. I find slacks good. Shoes will have to look more stylish.
Then I ran into a month’s cough. Lesson learnt: remember your face mask when there is the dreadful Indonesian sent haze. It developed into bronchitis and it would have further developed into pneumonia if I still held on to God with my pinch of meagre faith, and not seen a doctor. Time lost and costly too as I was supposed to be spending this period of time recuperating the cost of the purchase of the bicycle. I have to wait till it’s perfectly fine again to continue my cycling adventures.
Anyway, it is a pity that they have to be suspended for a month. Please pray for quick recovery and future resistance to time-robbing illnesses. In the meantime, I am focusing on child development and discipline. Have a good night.