Singapore is chalk full of amazing transportation options including a comprehensive subway and bus system, cheap taxis in comparison to other countries, and wide sidewalks for walking. However, biking is in my opinion the best way to get around Singapore. The average Singaporean will think you’re crazy to bike through the city but I’m here to say that I am a full time biker in Singapore.
This post will focus on how to bike within the city center of Singapore. I’m not talking about hobby bikers with race-bikes going for a ride on the weekend. I’m talking about those that want to bike full time, commute, and get from point A to point B in Singapore. This post is for you.
Singapore Biking culture
The biking culture in Singapore is virtually non-existent. People do not bike in the city because the city was never designed for bikes. Most Singaporeans commute to work with the MRT (subway) and the bus. Some will drive to work or full time take ride hailing like Grab. Biking is by far the least used method of transport in Singapore.
Additionally, most Singaporeans list far away from the CBD so biking is not realistic especially biking through the Singaporean heat. Therefore, if you say that you bike to get around Singapore, you’ll probably get astonished and confused looks.
The pandemic has definitely changed things and people are biking more than they did in the past but this is more around leisure biking. I’m talking about biking on trails along the coast of Singapore as opposed to actually biking to and from work.
My experience biking in Singapore
I think biking is the best way to get around for most big cities. I bike full time in places like New York, London, and Frankfurt just to name a few. All of these cities have great public transportation systems as well but it just can’t compete with biking.
Singapore is not a bike friendly city but after getting familiarized with the city, I think biking is the best way to get around. I bike full time through Singapore and pretty much never use the MRT or the bus system. Not only does it provide me with decent exercise after a solid gym session at my favorite gym in Singapore, but it is definitely the fastest way to get around the city.
For the purpose of this post, it will talk exclusively about biking within the city; within the traffic of the city. I bike full time and I think it only really works if you live in the CBD area. I largely keep my biking radius to about 4km within the CBD of Singapore. This covers most of the hotspots in Singapore as I rarely venture out of this bubble. Singapore is a small city after all. For example, biking from Tanjong Pagar to Orchard (4km) is about as far as I go. Everything else, I would either take a cab or ride the MRT.
This post does not talk about hobby bikers. If you are looking for a long bike ride on the weekends to Sentosa or along the East Coast, this is not for you. You don’t need to know much because that type of biking has always been around in Singapore and is totally doable.
Singapore is a car first country
First thing is first, Singapore is not a bike friendly city. When Singapore designed its roads and traffic system, bikes were absolutely never part of the equation. The roads and traffic system in Singapore is probably one of the most optimized traffic systems I’ve seen in the world and why Singapore probably has the least traffic jams I’ve seen of a city this size. There’s a reason they tax the hell out of cars so those that can afford it want to drive comfortable on a road without huge road jams.
Biking was never factored into the equation and adding bike lanes to the main roads of Singapore would surely slow down the traffic flow. This is probably never going to happen if I had to put money on it.
After all, Singaporeans hate being outdoor so biking through the heavy traffic of the city is not something anyone considers. The MRT and bus system in Singapore is also very comprehensive which means biking is even less appealing.
Bike sharing programs in Singapore
If you don’t want to buy your own bike, there are numerous bike sharing programs in Singapore. The most popular bike sharing programs are:
- SG Bike
- Hello Ride
SG Bike was the first bike sharing program to make it onto the scene in Singapore and were followed by Chinese startups HelloRide and Anywheel which have very similar business models and essentially the same bikes.
Ride sharing is quite cheap in Singapore compared to other big cities with a 30 minute ride costing S$1. You can sign up for unlimited week or monthly programs for a very good rate as well.
Once you have your app, you can unlock your bike and ride it anywhere around the CBD. You’ll have to drop the bike off at designated parking areas which the app enforces because you’ll need to photograph a QR code from that designated area. There are plenty of bike share areas in Singapore so this shouldn’t be an issue.
One thing to note is that the bikes are small. They look like children bikes if I’m honest! If you’re over 178cm, you might feel that the bikes are too small and too uncomfortable. I am 183cm and the bikes are nowhere near big enough for me. The seat doesn’t go nearly high enough for me to extend my legs properly so the rides are generally uncomfortable.
Where to buy a bike in Singapore
First thing is first, how do you get a bike in Singapore?
Very easy. There are countless ways to purchase a bike in Singapore. The cheapest ways to get a bike is through Shopee or Carousell. I found many Dutch style bikes for just $150 SGD which had good reviews and looked like there was promise. Of course, that type of price for a new bike is still a bit suspect to me so I didn’t bother with it.
I ended up buying a bike at Decathlon. This French brand has numerous locations in Singapore with their flagship store in Orchard selling high quality Dutch bikes. They even have an on site bike servicing shop to help you set up your bike or provide any repairs that are needed. I ended up buying the Elops Holland bike which is the perfect city bike for Singapore.
This only cost me $320 SGD which is actually cheaper than what the same price costs in Europe. Less demand in Singapore! I also added on the bike basket (a must) and a lock for an additional $30 SGD.
Singapore weather and biking
One of the main things to consider when biking in Singapore is the weather. Singapore is tropical and on the equator so the temperatures here are very hot for most of the year. When it’s not super hot, it’s probably rainy season and you need to content with flash rainstorms. All of these things are not bike friendly.
First thing is first, biking in hot weather is not for everyone. If you’re commuting by biking, you will most likely sweat. This is why I prefer to bike in Singapore for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time. I know that after 20 minutes, it’s very likely I will be sweating, even if it’s not super hot outside. I also sweat much more than the average person so everyone’s different.
If you need to wear a suit or something uncomfortable to work, then you need to factor this into your biking commute as you’ll probably be sweating profusely by the time you get in. A lot of office buildings in Singapore have a shower you can use which I know plenty of people take advantage of when they arrive in the mornings.
Wearing something comfortable and breathable for your morning commute and then putting on your work attire is probably the best approach to take.
Thankfully, the roads in Singapore are very flat. It’s probably the flattest city I’ve ever biked in so you won’t need to exert much force while biking meaning you might not sweat as much as someone like me.
How to bike in Singapore
Again, this post is focused on talking about how to bike in and around Singapore city. There are plenty of bike trails and parks along the cost which is biking heaven but this post is not talking about that. If you want to bike in the CBD of Singapore with car and foot traffic, you need to be prepared and understand what you’re getting into.
If you’re just starting our your biking life in Singapore, I will advise you how to do it safely. These are the things that I learned while biking in Singapore and how I would teach someone to do it now, knowing all of what I know.
Biking on the sidewalk
For the entry biker, I would start by biking on the sidewalks. The sidewalks around most of Singapore are plenty big enough to fit pedestrians and bikers. In fact, many of the new “bike paths” that have been created in new years just divide a sidewalk into two.
Start slowly by biking along the sidewalk with pedestrians in front of you. Using your bell is an effective way to have people move over for you to bike. People in Singapore are probably the nicest pedestrians I’ve ever come across because a simple flick of my bell will have people move to one side. Don’t be too aggressive with the bell though as that’s not appreciated either!
Some sidewalks in the CBD are very small however. The area around Chinatown or Tanjong Pagar road have very small sidewalks that are not appropriate for biking. You’ll quickly get stuck behind pedestrians with nowhere for them to move so you can bike through.
Bike on the yellow lines on the road
Once you’ve become comfortable biking on the sidewalks, now it’s time to bike on the main road. Yes, you can bike on the roads in Singapore so don’t let anyone tell you differently.
The only difference is that Singapore has the least friendly bike roads possible. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, bike lanes are not factored into Singapore’s traffic system so you need to bike very carefully.
You’ll see two yellow lines at the edge of the road bordering the sidewalks. These are not bike lanes by any means but they are absolutely where you need to be biking when you’re on the road with other cars. I’ve never experienced cars honking at me while I’m biking on the yellow lines. Cars will drive around you and leave you alone, although they do get much closer than in other countries.
Do not be an a-hole and think you own the road because you do not. Keep things simple for yourself and everyone around you by staying on the yellow lines and just blending in.
Going between the sidewalk and the road
Once you become more familiar and comfortable biking in Singapore, you can alternate between the sidewalk and the road. Often times I will bike on the roads as it is much faster than the sidewalks but sometimes, the roads have too many cars and I know it’s time to go back on the sidewalk.
As you get more familiar with the city, you’ll know where to pick your battles and which part of the road is best (sidewalk or being on the road itself).
Whatever you do, don’t be a crazy biker like you’ll find in other cities around the world. I’m talking about the bikers that bike way too fast zooming in and out of traffic thinking they own the road. The worst examples of this I can remember are the weird bikers in New York that bike way too fast in a crazy condensed city.
In Singapore, biking is the fastest way to get around but this doesn’t give you the right to speed through traffic. Just slow down and let people get where they need to go. If that means you need to wait a few extra seconds so be it!
Dos and Don’ts of biking in Singapore
Here is a quick list and summary of all the things you should do and not do while biking in Singapore. I will be adding to this list as I gain more experience biking through the city!
Follow the traffic lights
Singapore is a culture that believes in traffic lights. You won’t see many people crossing on a red light even if there is no traffic coming. For pure safety reasons while biking, do not attempt to cross on a red light unless it’s very clear no cars are coming your way.
Traffic is fast and abundant in Singapore and cars don’t slow down for anyone. Don’t risk it and do not run a red light. Follow the traffic lights!
Do not bike against traffic if you can help it
Biking with traffic is most advisable in Singapore. There are no bike lanes so if you’re biking against traffic, you are confronting cars head on with very little wiggle room. Biking with traffic will allow cars to pass you while only slightly veering off their lanes.
I’ve biked against traffic in smaller streets on the East Coast which is a bit dicey but doable. I still wouldn’t advise doing it especially since buses will not give you any benefit of the doubt. Biking against the flow of traffic on the sidewalk is okay as long as the sidewalks are big enough to fit bikes and pedestrians.
Do not rely on Google Maps bicycle directions
The biking directions on Google Maps are often times not the most efficient way to get around in Singapore. I’m not sure how the bike directions are calculated because there are no bike lanes to begin with!
I would largely use walking directions and bike according to that. I would still check my directions beforehand just to make sure it’s not going onto any streets that I knew were bad.
Invest in a bicycle phone holder
If you’re new in Singapore and want to bike, I would highly recommend investing in a bike phone holder. These things helped me a lot with the initial navigation throughout Singapore. The phone holder allowed me to use Google Maps hands free which helped me get to where I needed to go.
You can find a bike holder on Shopee for $10 and they attach very easily to your bike. After awhile, I don’t even use the phone holder anymore unless I’m going somewhere out of my comfort area.
Biking is safe in Singapore, just go and try it!
You might be asking yourself is it safe to bike in Singapore? I’ve been biking for some time now and I’m still alive to tell the tale.
I think it is very safe as long as you know your limits and you respect the cars. As I stay in the CBD area, I keep most of my biking within a few kilometers of where I’m staying. Biking from Tanjong Pagar to River Valley for example is a breezy 15 minute ride along the river that I can almost do blindfolded (okay not really). I stay away from really big roads like the Nicoll Highway if I can help it and keep mostly to roads with just a few lanes. Cars will let you bike without giving you any hassle assuming you stay off the main lane.
Of course, Singapore cannot be compared to cities in Europe because there are no bike lanes here and nothing to actually prevent a car from hitting you. I don’t Singapore will ever get to that level so don’t hope for it. As long as you get comfortable with this fact, you will have a great time!
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