For Katrijn de Ronde, ferrying her small children around on the back of her bicycle in Singapore is surprisingly doable. Here's the inside scoop on how to use your bike as an alternative mode of transport.
We’ve been turning our minds to ditching the car and trying good old fashioned pedal power! If you love bike riding, you’ve no doubt discovered Singapore’s great cycling spots and possibly ride as a mode of transport as well as for leisure. But having a baby or young child on board brings a new set of responsibilities to cycling in Singapore – it’s not as scary as it might seem! So, if you’re thinking of swapping your fossil-fuelled transport for a set of human-powered wheels, the Singapore government supports you – the Land Transport Authority is building a network of cycling paths in Singapore to make getting around on a bicycle a viable alternative to cars, trains and taxis (don’t forget, travelling in taxis with kids comes with its own set of safety precautions). So, from the best places to ride, to helmet rules and how to handle the heat, here’s everything you need to know about bike riding in Singapore with your little one on board…
Safety, rules and regulations
Just as new drivers have to get used to Singapore’s traffic, new cyclists also need to pay careful attention (and maybe avoid peak hour traffic). It is very important to have good control over the bicycle before venturing out onto roads shared with other types of vehicles. However, I have often been shown great courtesy when cycling, especially when I’m carrying the children (including one man who blocked traffic with his car and then got out to photograph us).
The laws for riding a bicycle in Singapore are straightforward:
- Ride on the left of the road and wear a helmet (both rider and passenger).
- If you’re carrying children, use proper seats.
- When riding after dark, you need to have a white front light and a red back light fixed on your bicycle frame (you can find these easily at bicycle shops).
- Cyclists may use the bus lanes, but not the footpaths (although many do).
- You are not allowed to bring a bicycle onto public transport, unless it’s foldable and then only during off-peak hours.
But how do you manage the heat?
It’s not so bad! Riding a bicycle generates a lovely breeze, so it is actually one of the nicest forms of transportation in Singapore – much cooler than walking, and not as icy cold as the air conditioning on the bus. Sweat, however, cannot be avoided, especially if you have to cross a hill or two.
Luckily, if you’re riding your bike to work after dropping off the kids, many of the larger offices in Singapore have showers on site. Another option is to use the facilities at one of the many sports centres located around the island before heading into work. And if you’re not going to work, then jump in the shower at home (or go for a swim!).
Don’t I need a lot of expensive gear?
It’s easy to spend a small fortune on a high-end bicycle and flattering cycling shorts, but it’s not necessary. Giant sells basic mountain bike-style bicycles for around $200 and cycling can be done in normal casual clothing (but not flip-flops). Do make sure the bicycle has a few gears to make uphill treks easier. You’ll also need a helmet for yourself and your passengers, and sturdy child seats. After that, off you go!
Tell me more about kids’ seats and helmets!
For tips on head gear, see our guide to getting the right helmet for your child. And seats? There are no hard and fast rules in Singapore about kids’ seats other than that you should use “appropriate” ones. Given the road conditions and terrain, cargo bikes and cycle trailers are not a viable option. That leaves the front-mounted seat attached to the steering column and the rear-mounted seat attached to the back of the bike. These seats are suitable from when the child can sit up unaided (and the ride should not exceed the time period that your child is able to sit up!). Front-mounted seats are typically suitable for children up to three years of age and rear-mounted seats for children up to six years of age, depending on the weight of your child. Most rear-mounted seats come with full back and foot rests. Be sure to check if there’s a strong, adjustable harness. Many children fall asleep on the bicycle, and the younger ones tend to squirm quite a bit.
Where can I practise?
Singapore has loads of park connectors and cycling paths. Use Google Maps to plot your routes, but don’t forget to check the terrain as well – I once found myself going steeply uphill through the NUS campus with 20kg of child hanging off the back of my bicycle! Here are three possible cycling routes:
East Coast Park is an old favourite with a lovely 20km stretch along the sea (check out our full guide to East Coast Park for families too). If you’re looking for a longer route (or a more quiet one), you can follow the Changi Park Connector onto the Changi Coastal Track, which leads to Changi Beach Park – a prime plane spotting location.
If you prefer the river to the ocean, there is a lovely route starting at Robertson Quay, following the Singapore River. After rolling out of Alexandra Linear Park, follow Commonwealth Avenue for a few hundred metres, before hopping over to the Ulu Pandan Park Connector at Buona Vista MRT station. This will lead you all the way to Bukit Batok. This route showcases many of the Public Utility Board’s great ecological and biodiverse water systems in Singapore.
However, if you’re looking for countryside, head over to Kranji. Here, you’ll be cycling on normal roads, but in very light traffic. It is the perfect way to explore this remote piece of Singapore, visit a few farms and have a lovely lunch at Bollywood Veggies.
Pulau Ubin is another family favourite, and the bum boats from Changi are happy to ferry bikes over for a small extra charge. Cycle hire is also available once you get to this gorgeous patch of jungly green. Some of the tracks are quite bumpy so pick your trails wisely! Check out our guide to Pulau Ubin before setting off on your adventure.
For more ideas, have a look at the National Parks’ Board Park Connector map. (Note: these also include more sporty routes, like Kent Ridge’s mountain bike trails!) Or have a look at these great bike rides in Singapore for families we scouted out earlier!