Cycling policies to improve Mobility and Health in Thailand

Context of Transport Climate Action

The current modal share of cycling in Thailand is very low, but it seen as an important means of transport and healthy recreation, both in rural and urban areas.

The Climate Change Master Plan 2013-2050 includes ‘low carbon infrastructure’, modal shift and travel demand management as key transport strategies. The National Transport Master Plan (2011-2020) and the Environmentally Sustainable Transport Master Plan (OTP, 2012) for Thailand propose measures such as the:

  • Development of the network and facilities for cycling
  • Promotion of non-motorized transport (NMT) and improvement of transport connection
  • Bike-for-rent/borrow project in urban area

The Cabinet has adopted a Resolution on ‘Supportive Systems and Structures for Walking and Cycling in Daily Living’ in which nine Ministries are assigned tasks and responsibilities to promote NMT with the National Health Commission Office of Thailand,.

Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha in October 2014 spoke about the ‘government policy to promote the use of bicycles as means of exercise oras a daily commute vehicle’, which ‘helps to improve people’s health and reduce air and noise pollution’.

The ‘Bike for Mom’ event in August 2015 attracted almost 30,000 cyclists. Bangkok Metropolitan Authority’s ‘City of Happiness’ policy includes various public transport and NMT measures such as 10,000 shared bikes and speed limits on shared roads. Cycling is popular in social media: there are over 100 Facebook websites directly or indirectly related to cycling, with approximately 1 million followers (GIZ, 2015).

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Description

Cycling short distances can replace motorized trips from cars and motorcycles, thereby reducing GHG emissions, local air pollutants, noise and congestion. It also helps making public transport more attractive, thereby increasing its catchment area and further promoting low-carbon, sustainable transport.

This ‘shift’ is promoted by the development of cycling infrastructure including bike lanes in Bangkok and other cities and provinces. These can be painted on the roads and sometime have physical segregation. Guidelines for design of NMT infrastructure along new major roads are being developed. Measures also include bike parking, traffic calming, and education.

The recently completed Bangkok Non Motorized Transport (NMT) feasibility Study (OTP (Ministry of Transport), 2014) provides a blueprint for 140 public transport stations that can be upgraded to facilitate interconnectivity and NMT accessibility

There are currently 50 bike sharing stations in Bangkok, and it is planned to expand them to more stations.

Implementation

Implementation of this action includes:

  • Developing the network of cycling lanes (of various types) in Bangkok
  • Taking into account the local weather conditions (very important to encourage more people to go by bike) with the provision of trees and shade
  • Many trips are between 0.5 and 2 kms and currently there are some 50 stations (with more planned)
  • Other interventions around public transport stations such as secure bike parking
  • Improving parking management and enforcement
  • Policies related to design standards for roads in order to include NMT and driver road safety
  • Events, campaigns, educational measures to increase awareness of the benefits (health and environmental) of cycling.

Policy and master plan development is done by the Ministry of Transport (Office of Transport Planning and Policy) and local government is responsible for implementation. Part financed by Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) the budget for the provision of bike lanes in municipalities are supported by the Ministry of Sport and Recreation budget ( fiscal year 2015-2016), the Departments of Highways and Rural Roads and local budgets.

Challenges include:

  • Current infrastructure conditions make cycling as a means of daily transport unsafe and inconvenient.
  • NMT suffers from low public image (even though cycling, particularly for fun and exercise, is enjoying rising popularity among middle classes)
  • Road space allocation is predominantly done based on car-oriented planning
  • Zebra crosswalks are absent or hardly visible, and not respected by motorists nor enforced by the traffic police
  • Cycle lanes are being considered and built on some major roads and sidewalks, however these presently don’t connect the origins and destinations of trips well and are often blocked by vehicles, street vendors or stationary objects.
  • Key issues is include difficulties safely to cross the street or highway or to make a right-turn; and carrying a bike up on a footbridge to do so is a challenge few cyclists are willing to take.
  • Most currently planned and constructed bike lanes are primarily intended for sport and recreation purposes rather than to encourage commuting by bike and are disconnected from the main transport network.
  • Bicycle theft, and absence of bike parking facilities at many public transport stations are also barriers to the take up of cycling.
  • A hot and humid climate, for most of the year, is not conducive to NMT (walking or cycling), particularly at mid-day.
  • The current use of cycling infrastructure is not monitored; and data is limited.

Benefits

Cycling is low carbon and switching any trip from a motorized mode to cycling will deliver CO2 reductions. The GHG emission reduction potential for Bangkok and Thailand is still to be estimated but it is expected that increasing cycling will is an important part of a broader NAMA for urban transport, (to be submitted to the UNFCCC).

  • Improved health and general fitness
  • Better access to transport for all groups of society (equity)
  • Better use of road space, as bikes take up a lot less space and addressing car-dependency
  • Decreasing air pollution as cycling produces no local or GHG emissions
  • City liveability

Potential for scaling up

A fully integrated network of high quality and convenient cycling infrastructure, including safe intersections, requires consistent short and long-term planning, finance and supporting policies. Sometimes hard choices regarding allocation of road or parking space will be required. All interested parties and stakeholders need to discuss jointly the necessary and desired interventions in order to be able to implement incremental improvements over time. Currently the Thailand Cycling Club and various other organizations are already working on this through policy discussions, events, information gatherings.

Scaling up from initial pilot areas to 140 areas around public transport stations in Bangkok is foreseen, as well as replicating the experience in other Thai cities.

International exchange with other cities facing similar challenges can help improve knowledge and experience.

Selected references

OTP (2014) A project study on promotion of non-motorized transport (NMT) and improvement of public transport connectivity for sustainable and environmentally friendly transportation. Executive Summary.

Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP, 2012): Sustainable Transport Systems Development Master Plan for Mitigating Climate Change, Summary. Bangkok: Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP), Ministry of Transport.

National Health Commission Office of Thailand (2012): Health Assembly 5/Resolution 1 ‘Supportive Systems and Structures for Walking and Cycling in Daily Living.’ Bangkok: National Health Commission Office of Thailand.

Raha, U., K. Taweesin (2013) Encouraging the use of non-motorized in Bangkok. The 3rd International Conference on Sustainable Future for Human Security SUSTAIN 2012. Procedia Environmental Sciences 17 (2013) 444 – 45

Wirot S., Pitchaya P. (2015) Bangkok Public Bicycle System: A case Study of Pun Pun Bike Share. Proceeding from the 3rd Thailand Bike & Walk Conference, April 2015

Chutima, G. (2015). Cycling & Walking promotion in Thailand. Presented at Realising Energy Efficiency Potentials in Thailand’s Transport Sector, August 3, 2015, Bangkok.

http://www.thaicyclingclub.org/

GIZ (2015). http://transportandclimatechange.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/List-of-online-bike-community-in-Thailand-by-GIZ-TCC.pdf

PROJECT INFORMATION

Location:

Asia, Thailand

Start:

2014

Finish:

On-going

Tags:

Thailand, Mitigation, Cycling, Policy, Finance

Organizer/s:

Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Health,

Contact/s:

Ms. Chutinthorn Mankhong (Ministry of Transport) chutinthorn.p@gmail.com Mr. Tali Trigg (GIZ) tali.trigg@giz.de