Cycling Singapore's East Coast Park
The East Coast Park or ECP as the locals call it is one of my favourite parks to cycle in Singapore, particularly because it’s one of the most scenic coastal routes for an early morning ride to catch the sunrise from Bedok Jetty. The park itself is well maintained, has designated routes for runners and cyclists, skaters, or rollerblades; and stretches 15km parallel to the beach.
I was first introduced to the ECP over a decade ago, when I joined one of the most highly anticipated running events on the island – the annual Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon. The full race runs from the city through the ECP, to Changi and all the way back to the main city centre. Of course, I didn’t really get to enjoy the park and the scenery very much, since I was trying my best to complete the 42+km run without collapsing from heat exhaustion ☺
The East Coast Park was built on entirely reclaimed land with a man-made beach, where swimming is allowed, as well as overnight camping (permit required). Available amenities include a skate park, barbecue pits, chalets and food centres, so it’s worth noting that the weekend crowd does grow substantially closer to noon.
Over the years, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve cycled in the ECP. It normally forms part of my long weekend morning rides, week day post-work night rides and the occasional scorching afternoon rides. My most preferred time is early morning, when there are still remnants of moonlight left with the sunrise just around the corner as I’m riding through the middle of the park. At that time of the day the temperature is still fairly low and cool, and because it’s the least crowded you can completely avoid a pedestrian obstacle course. Although there are designated paths for cycling, it’s normal for pedestrians to sometimes end up in our lanes and for kids to suddenly dash across either path. Remember that it’s a shared park and weekends are family time for most Singaporeans and other residents there. I’m glad to say that for the most part, park-goers in in the city state are a considerate bunch. Mostly.
The ECP is accessible by car (parking is available at different areas of the park), public transportation (via buses or taxis) or as I usually get there – from the overhead bridge perpendicular to Fort Road at the end of the park near Area A, as I usually start my ride from the city. This bridge was built in 2015 and links the ECP to Gardens by the Bay East. Overall, the ECP is easily accessible from different parts, if you live in the eastern side of Singapore.
This is the start of the ECP and it can also serve as a meeting point for running and cycling groups. From this point, you’ll find the first bicycle shop rental and pit stop. The cycling paths are paved with tarmac and cement-like surfaces, and the terrain is flat pretty much through-out. Be careful though, as there are twists and turns along the lane. The width of these paths varies from 5 feet to what feels like just 3 feet, although these measurements are just my own estimates.
Note: If you do not own a bike, you can choose to rent bikes at the park itself as there are many shops that offer a multitude of bike types. Check out the opening hours as they may not be operating before sunrise ☺. Also, if you happen to encounter some minor problems with your own bicycle and you don’t have the proper tools with you, these shops can offer some assistance like lending bike pumps and helping to patch a punctured tube.
The park is regularly cleaned and swept so you need not worry too much about fallen branches, twigs or sharp pebbles on the cycling path. There is plenty of greenery and shrubbery in the park, so part of your ride is under the cover of large trees. If it does get a bit too hot, there are gazebos and sheltered benches for you to take a break. There are also plenty of rest rooms, bike parking, drinks vending machines, eating places, cafes and fast food joints. You don’t have to worry about going hungry or thirsty during your ride, but I do wish there are more water coolers to refill water bottles.
There are maps all over the park, properly categorised from Area A to G. Signboards and road markers on the path are easily noticeable. You can’t really get lost :-P. I usually ride with the view of the beach and the sea on my right side, with all the park amenities on my left. The route goes past a large playground, Parklane Green, Marine Cove, Rain Tree Cove, East Coast Seafood Centre, Xtreme Skate Park, Bedok Jetty, Bougainvillea garden and all the way to the end of Area G. You can choose to continue riding to Changi via the Eastern Coastal portion of the Park Connector Network, or turn back and continue cycling in the ECP. One of my favourite quick pitstops is the Bedok Jetty, where the sunrise is simply breathtaking. It reminds me a bit of the Huntington Beach Pier in California, where I have fond memories of running and cycling on the sandy beach path ♥☺.
*Scroll down to the bottom for a video of daybreak at Bedok Jetty.
Bedok Jetty is a 300-metre jetty built in 1966 and is the most popular spot for fishing in Singapore. It is also frequented by shutterbugs, cyclists and other park visitors alike, making it a great place for people watching. You can also spot giant metal birds taking off and landing, since it’s so near Changi Airport.
The park is well-lit and the lights are kept on from 7pm to 7am but there are certain sections that do get a bit dark. I always ride with (1) a front headlight to help me see where I'm going, (2) front safety lights to warn other park-users coming from the opposite direction and (3) red rear lights behind my helmet and on my saddle post. Although there is park etiquette and recommended speed limits there, it’s not uncommon to see large group of cyclists whizzing past or coming head on towards you. I’ve also cycled through the park during a full moon past midnight just for the heck of it. It does get pretty deserted so it is nice and quiet. Whenever you decide to ride there, you’d generally want to be visible to stay safe.
The ECP is connected to many Park Connector Networks, making it big enough to cater to different types of cyclists, from those who use it for daily commutes, serious athletes in training, to casual weekend riders. For beginners and inexperienced cyclists, the ECP may be a bit too crowded from the afternoon onwards, so 8am is a good time to start your ride. Just be sure to stay on the left side of the lane and make way for other fellow cyclists. Do signal to others when turning and avoid making sudden stops.
For me, the ECP is a nice safe stretch to clock my weekly mileage and to bring groups of friends who are new to cycling and are still apprehensive about being on two wheels. But don’t just take my word for it. Hop on a bike and experience the ECP yourself!
*For more information on how to get to Singapore by car from Malaysia, and a general review of what it's like to cycle in the island nation, grab a copy of Cycling Plus Malaysia September - October 2016 issue.