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Developers must take in needs of non-motorists from July

Push for Walking and Cycling Plan applies to places with high pedestrian and cyclist traffic

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An artist's impression of Paya Lebar Central, a mixed development. Its developer Lendlease has worked with the LTA and URA on a design that will enable cyclists, pedestrians and the emerging forms of personal mobility to co-exist.

Singapore

DEVELOPERS erecting new buildings or planning major redevelopments to their existing buildings will soon have to submit plans that show how they will take into account pedestrians' and cyclists' needs in their development designs.

Starting in July, this requirement will apply to places with high pedestrian and cyclist traffic, namely shopping centres, offices, business parks and schools; it may be extended to other property types later.

This "Walking and Cycling Plan" (WCP) will have to be submitted along with the development applications which developers submit to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for approval.

Most developers welcomed the change announced on Tuesday, and expressed support for the government's drive to encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport for their daily commute.

However, some hope that the government can give concessions for the gross floor area (GFA), so that the additional amenities they provide under the WCP will not eat into their saleable floor area.

The WCP will not be needed for applications that have already been granted provisional permission or for those which obtain the LTA's clearance for traffic-impact assessment any time up till July 1.

This means existing developments will not be affected. Requiring the WCP at an early stage will reduce the need for plans to be adjusted later in the development process, the agencies said.

The LTA and URA cited some elements developers can consider:

  • Direct pedestrian and cyclist access from nearby public-transport facilities and adjacent buildings, for example, in the form of covered paths and crossings;
  • Minimising conflict between pedestrians and cyclists on one hand and motor vehicles on the other through signage or "traffic calming" features at points where people board and alight from vehicles, such as at car-park entrances, drop-off points and taxi stands;
  • Providing enough bicycle parking spaces and amenities for cyclists such as shower rooms and lockers;
  • Designing barrier-free access and routes for use by children, the elderly and the disabled.

While there is no set list of "musts" to be fulfilled for approval to be obtained, the hope is that developers will give more thought to what they can do if they want their applications approved.

In a statement, LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said: "Often, we see pedestrians and cyclists having to negotiate traffic across driveways or service roads before entering a development. There is also room to improve signage systems and supporting facilities such as bicycle parking, as these facilities can play an important part in creating a seamless experience for pedestrians and cyclists."

While some developers contacted by The Business Times said they needed more time to evaluate the rules before commenting, others welcomed the move.

Liam Wee Sin, deputy group chief executive of UOL, said he is excited about how the proliferation of cycling in Singapore can inspire new architecture and aesthetics in the city-state.

But he said he hopes that if and when the WCP extends to residential projects, the authorities will grant some GFA exemption, as the additional amenities will take up space that the developer cannot sell.

Nonetheless, UOL is going ahead to provide its project, Riverbank @ Fernvale, with 50 bicycles for residents to use, complete with parking amenities, despite the project not enjoying GFA concessions.

Cushman & Wakefield research director Christine Li noted that facilities such as showers, lockers and changing rooms cannot be exempted under existing guidelines.

"This means developers will have to set aside additional GFA for such non-revenue generating facilities. Perhaps this could be tweaked to give more incentives to the developers to incorporate these complementary facilities," she suggested.

Others also welcomed the move. Richard Paine, Lendlease's managing director of mixed-used development Paya Lebar Central, said the firm has worked with LTA and URA in developing its plan to enable cyclists, pedestrians and the emerging forms of personal mobility to co-exist. This will be launched when the development is completed in late 2018.

Simon Yong, chief development officer for Asia at CapitaLand, said that most of the company's pipeline projects have already received planning approvals and so are unaffected by the rule, but that it has long integrated design provisions that promote connectivity in its properties.

Westgate mall in Jurong, for example, has direct connections to both the Jurong East MRT and bus interchanges. The mall's open design also connects to neighbouring infrastructure through walkways and access points for visitors.

Across Singapore, CapitaLand has provided for more than 500 bicycle bays in 16 properties to promote green mobility; around 190 of these are in the civic district and the central business district to cater to tenants and employees who cycle to work. CapitaLand's own corporate headquarters in Capital Tower has shower facilities.

Cycling activist Francis Chu, who heads the Love Cycling SG group, said he hopes to see facilities such as separate building entrances for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to ease congestion, central shower facilities and designated bicycle parking lots for employees at workplaces.

A little can go a long way; it shouldn't take too much effort or money for buildings to be more bicycle-friendly, he said.