Government to build Asia's longest cycling route
Thailand will construct the longest bike lane in Asia, spanning 184.8 kilometres and crossing five Central Plains provinces, over the next three years.
Transport permanent secretary Soithip Traisuth confirmed Wednesday the government has asked the Transport Ministry to build the 1.5 billion baht track, linking Pathum Thani to Chai Nat via Ayutthaya, Ang Thong and Sing Buri, said Ms Soithip.
The lane, likely be made of a rubber and asphalt combination, will start at Thammasat University in Pathum Thani, and continue toward Highway No 3214 and National Highway No 3477 in Ayutthaya's Bang Pa-in district.
It will then move onward to Highway No 309 in Ang Thong, reaching Sing Buri and finally ending at Chao Phraya dam in Chai Nat.
The construction of the bike lane is intended as a tribute to His Majesty the King on his 88th birthday this year, Ms Soithip said.
The route is part of the government's programme "Return Happiness to Thais", and aims to promote cycling as a way to maintain health and cultivate a love of exercise, she added.
The project will also help promote tourism in the five provinces as the route crosses several tourist hotspots and historical sites, including Bang Pa-in Palace, Wat Pananchoeng and Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Ayutthaya and Sing Buri's Wat Ampawan and Wat Phra Non Chaksi.
The Department of Rural Roads, responsible for route survey and design, is working on surveying the area and designing the route, said Darun Saengchai, the department's director-general, adding they expect to complete the work by December.
Construction of the road will start next year and it will be open and ready for use by 2017, he said.
The trail, which will be three metres wide, has to be designed carefully to ensure it meets safety and engineering standards, Mr Darun said.
For example, bicycle rest spots will be built every 5-10km along the route, while rest spots for motorists on the route will be available every 15-20km, he said.
Health promotion signs will also be put up along the lane, he added.
Protected bike lanes will be reserved for cyclists, he said.
Though the director-general said the work will be carried out to cater to local needs, he did not elaborate on how locals will participate in the project.
Ms Soithip said the Transport Ministry is keen to construct bike routes nationwide and improve transportation infrastructure to promote cycling and walking over motorised travel.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports is responsible for raising funds to construct a total of approximately 3,000km of bike lanes throughout Thailand.
But it's still unclear who will oversee the maintenance, and the lanes have to be built with the highest regard for commuter safety, she said.
Traffic regulations may need to be changed to improve safety for cyclists, including reduced speed limits from 80km to 50km per hour, she said.