Two weeks ago,I was invited by NParks to attend the re-opening of Bishan park. I was keen to attend because it was closed for 2 years for a major transformation from concrete canals to a beautifully re-created river, ponds and many other interesting amenities.
Spanning 37 hectares on one side, you can head down to the river, stroll along the water’s edge and enjoy the vast biodiversity; fishes, turtles, dragonflies, waterhen and a handful of majestic purple herons. Across busy Marymount Road, you are spoiled for another 27 hectares of green amenities. There are two huge thematic playgrounds, science at work cleansing water and above all, one of my many favourite cycling haunts across the two parks kept intact.
It would be great to have 2 underpasses for seamless access from one side to the other without having to dismount and cross at traffic-junctions.
The night before, I was all excited; prep my bicycle to go green the following day. Come morning, I cycled to Dakota station, took my foldie onboard the train, alighted at Bishan station and pedalled my way to the opening ceremony site. It was crowded and security was tight. PM was the GOH. I was pleasantly surprised to have Poo Kiong, NParks as my host. PM spoke amidst a noisy background and I had to strain my ears trying to figure out what he said. We are still a long way from being courteous to just shut up and listen whenever someone is making a speech.
After the opening ceremony, PK led me to follow PM’s entourage as we made our way to the water edge.Recycle Hill, the highest point, looks awesome from a distance. Soon, we back tracked, pass the dog run area and adjourned for a break in a cozy, outdoor restaurant. With all the trees and lush, it was temperature cool.
I settled for water and before long, the CEO of NParks walked me forward to meet PM. There were just 3 of us. Poon introduced me as an avid cyclist. PM stooped, with his hands extended, gripping both handlebars of an imaginary road bike. I explained I am not the Saturday, ‘man in lycra’ road cyclist but rather a Sunday recreational cyclist. My group cycles on NParks park connectors, side roads and an occasional pavement when squeezed (to stay alive!). He immediately put one finger to his lips and went….shush, then laughed. Staying alive is paramount, I protested. Vehicular roads in Singapore are not safe and most motorists, especially taxi-drivers, do not think we belong.
I lauded NParks for doing a good job connecting the island through the concept of park connectors. Today, there is already 150km of PCN. Soon, it will be more exciting with the Round-Island-Route of 150km and another 26km along the Rail Corridor (the old railway tracks). By then, a visitor can enjoy a 3 day cycle inclusive of 2 nights along this route.
Somehow, the conversation drifted to my peeve of 5 years. PM, I said: “the most scenic tourist route today along the Singapore river on a bicycle can set you back by $10,000”. Why so, he asked? We have to go through 5 underpasses from Alexandra Road to the Esplanade. At each underpass, there is a sign that reads “NO RIDING Fine $1,000 Please push your bicycle across the underpass”. “Is it because it is too narrow”, he asked? I replied saying it is big enough to take a moving MRT train on each side, save for the underpass at Anderson Bridge. Cyclists, both young and old, loafed to dismount and push unless safety is compromised.
I cited the busiest corridor fronting the Marina Bay as “bicycle friendly” (sign reads: ‘cyclists please slow down and give way to pedestrians’), thanks to Benson Phuah, CEO Esplanade.
He pause momentarily, then asked: “how much are you prepared to pay to go through these underpasses”. A dollar, I said. Better still, free for senior citizens; I am getting there. We roared. Bicycle ERP soon?
I lamented that while our infrastructure, events (eg F1, Flyer, IRs, PCNs) are wonderful and crowd drawing, some of our older policies are blunt and out of step. He nodded, and then said: “maybe you should write to the forum page, Straits Times; reception could be better there!”. We laughed. Poon smiled; bùshì wǒ de wèntí (not his portfolio). Those senior civil servants within earshot steamed!
PM was ‘belly’ good in his element. With so much laughter, I felt totally oxygenated, cycled home then after.
Han, Jok Kwang
P/S: We just completed our 4th Charity Ride on 25 February, 2012 which coincides with the opening of the North Eastern Riverine Loop; an impressive continuous loop of almost 30km. It is probably the most scenic part of Singapore with the route skirting round the water edge and our made-man reservoir. Refer towww.nparks.gov.sg/eguides Thanks for your support and that of friends. We raised S$56,436 for the School Pocket Money Fund.