Interview: Chris Robb, organizer of the OCBC Cycle Singapore 2013

What have you observed about the growth of the cycling scene in Singapore?
Cycling has absolutely exploded in Singapore over the past five years. That’s across all categories whether it be road bikes, foldies, fixies or any other groups.The emergence of a large number of cycling clubs and teams has also been great to see. That’s cyclists who meet on weekends and ride together – that element has grown massively in Singapore and continue to grow. More Singaporeans are also traveling to other countries to cycle. Weekend cycling trips to the likes of Bintan,  Malaysia and other parts of the world are proving hugely popular.

What are the three key factors that make a cycling city? 
The first key factor is having that established respect between motorists and cyclists. Cyclists must be able to feel comfortable riding their bikes on Singapore roads for us to truly be considered a “cycling city”. A lot of cycling cities have a countryside close by where cyclists can easily escape to in a short ride. That’s obviously challenging in Singapore but places like Bintan and Malaysia are still very much accessible for the weekend cyclist. A cycling city also needs to accommodate its cyclists in a social sense. A big part of a cyclist’s ride is the socializing afterwards. Singapore is really suitable in that regard. There are thousands of hawkers and cafes all over the place to pull in off the road, park your bike and sit down for makan or coffee.

What role can the local cycling community play in helping the cause?
The cycling community can play a big role here by respecting the fact that they must share the road with other parties. There are countless stories of run-ins between motorists and cyclists on Singapore roads. If we’re going to improve the situation, cyclists need to take the moral high ground. Someone has to because the vicious cycle happening now will get us nowhere. With regards to legislature, we need to continue educating the public and working in collaboration with the government. The government is putting some great infrastructure in place, such as the off-road park connectors, and cyclists must take advantage. We need to recognize that we’re in a tight space here in Singapore and work with what we have.

What are the core safety rules—both on the road and in terms of equipment and gear—when it comes to commuting primarily on wheels?
There are a number of rules but it’s often the simplest ones that are the most effective. “Keep left” is a simple one to remember. A lot of it comes down to common courtesy. Realize that you need to share the road responsibly. It’s essential that you select a bike that fits you. A general rule is that you can touch the ground with your feet while sitting on the bike seat. Wear a helmet at all times and make sure you wear fluorescent clothing so you’re highly visible to all other road users. If you’re riding at night, make sure you use lights. Before any ride, make sure that your tires have sufficient tread and if you’re setting out on a long ride be sure to stay hydrated. And know your limits!

Tell us about the “Respect” campaign.
This is the third year of our Safe Cycling Campaign. In previous years, we’d used “Sharing Saves Lives” and “Share the Road”. This time around we wanted to use a tagline that was short and simple, something that would resonate with our audience. Respect is also a key ingredient if we’re to improve the current relationship between motorists and cyclists on the road. Both parties need to show mutual respect. We launched this year’s campaign at CHIJ (Kellock) in front of 900 young schoolgirls, with OCBC Pro Cycling Team member Timothy Lim and Singapore national cyclist Dinah Chan staging a safe cycling clinic. Reaching a young audience is crucial for us this year and we plan to stage similar workshops at other schools this year. We produced 1,800 official safe cycling jerseys and thousands of decals, the bulk of which we gave out at our annual Safe Cycling Day on 24 February. The ‘Respect’ tagline will be showcased by the thousands wearing the jerseys and displaying the car decals, and we also have various marketing channels to promote the campaign.

What’s your favorite cycling path?
I love riding in Mandai, crossing the water and passing by the vegetable farms.  Out behind Seletar Airport is also a great ride. Basically, anywhere peaceful!

The OCBC Cycle Singapore 2013 happens April 26-28 at the F1 Pit Building.

Need a powerful hybrid bike for a cycling trip in Bintan? See our review of the Storck Multiroad.