April 14th, 2011


Yes, the mention of Singapore rockets me back to my first genuine job after graduating from uni, designing 24 storey flat blocks for Snr. Statesman Lee and his cronies. It's also where I heard Jan Gehl speak, a moment that set me on the circuitous path to where I am now, in academia, rather than practice. Singapore is where I saw a shiny new Flying Pigeon in a shop for 125 Singaporean dollars. I never bought a bike while I was there, but would borrow my flat mate's and head out to do laps of the airport, on the back of small bunches of guys who must have wondered how I was holding their wheel (Natalie, that was a dog awful bike—but thanks for the permanent loan). It was a somewhat harrowing ride out to the airport. Lots of traffic and a shoulder that narrowed and pressed you up against barrier walls. The whole island, from what I could tell, was not very bike friendly.

From left: Bicycle enabled pedestrianism; "Sign la? What sign?"

Back in the city it got far worse indeed, especially around where I lived, with drains at the edge of the road roughly the width of a coffin and about 6 feet deep. It would appear they have since made them safe. In 94, they were lethal. And I kid you not, that bus drivers would try without fail to edge me off the road into them. I must have 9 lives.

Just some of the dozens of bikes Vangaurd have sold to Singapore's most discerning

Given the horrendous conditions for cycling back them, I'm incredulous to learn now, that a global bike store, The Bike Boutique, provides a secure bike station right in the city these days. Are yuppie bankers commuting to work in Singapore too? Next my mind is awash with questions. Can you take bikes on the MRT? Can you ride around the cafe strips lining the quays? Can little old guys still carry five hundred newspapers, or 500 durian on the back of a bike? Are those old guys' legs really as skinny as I remember? All shall be revealed when I hit Singapore on Sunday 1 May. I'm most looking forward to meeting the people behind Vanguard Bicycles. They run a design firm, that sidelines in tickety-boo restorations of messenger bikes.