By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul
The coolest place to pedal in Bangkok, the newly renamed “Happy and Healthy” bike track around Suvarnabhumi Airport is aiming to be the first of its kind in the world.
An inflatable Sky Wing made of recycled PET bottles offers a shady area under which to relax.
First opened in March 2014, the 23.5-kilometre two-lane cycle track was created by Airports of Thailand as part of its corporate social responsibility programme. Costing Bt28.5 million, it was developed from an earthen barrier around the airport perimeter bordering an irrigation canal into an all-weather slip-resistant track, paved with rubberised asphalt concrete. Back then it was called the “Green Bike Lane” and was named one of the world’s best airport bike paths by CNN.
There are several bike tees and racks around the food and beverage zone.
Closed for six months late the following year, it reopened at the beginning of 2016 with a new name – the Sky Lane – and was more biker-friendly than ever with a 1.2-kilometre loop for joggers and kids learning to ride as well as new rest areas, restrooms and snack stalls. Now run in partnership with Siam Commercial Bank, it was also more technological with “Snap Bands” embedded with GPS and radio-frequency identification technology showing cyclists’ location for added security in case of accident.
“Our aim was to make the bike lane the best in Thailand, a place where cyclists can ride happily, healthily and safely while making new friends,” says Prasong Poontaneat, chairman of the Board of Directors of AOT.
In March, the track was once again given a new name – “Charoensuk Mongkholsuk” or “Happy and Healthy” – this one graciously bestowed by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, who attended the official inauguration on November 23 and led a bike procession.
A jogging track runs parallel with the 1.6-kilometre bike lane.
“‘Happy and Healthy’ is the motto of this bike lane that makes everyone physically and mentally stronger,” says Prichaya Pibulsonggram, project manager of the bike lane and division head of Bike.SCB. “This bike lane isn’t only a place for cyclists to exercise but also serves as an area for children and adults from all walks of life to get together.”
The Sky Bridge is designed to resemble a bird’s nest.
Today the 23.5km bike lane incorporates the best of world-class standards, with a blue lane for general bikers and a purple lane for more experienced cyclists with signs every 250 metres along its entire length. The 1.6km bike lane also features a parallel running track of the same distance and a bike lane for children. In addition, the project is well-equipped with facilities, comprising a parking space with security system, a 1.2km Sky Bridge linking the car park and bike lane, an emergency medical centre, shops selling and renting bicycles, bicycle equipment and accessories, and food and drink to accommodate both cyclists and members of the public. Further space for 3,500 cars is available at AOT near the bridge.
The health station is run by Samitivej Hospital.
“This newly refurbished bike lane is really unique It features three rest areas and the planes taking off and landing nearby add to the atmosphere,” says Prichaya. “The technology we use makes everything much more convenient for the cyclists, such as the free blue snap used for identification as they come and go to the bike lane and for use as prepaid card used for food court and bicycle shops. Moreover, we have a Snap application that can be downloaded at the app store or from Google Play and a QR code for buying goods and services electronically. It is also environmentally friendly with solar-powered lights on the bike lane and plenty of garbage bins, so no one has an excuse to litter.”
Kids have fun at the pump track.
“The solar-powered LED lighting allows cyclists to ride at night. And the bike lane also boasts the Sky Bridge, which is designed like a bird nest with a beautiful spiral, and an inflatable Sky Wing, which is made of recycled PET bottles. There are 60 bike tees that can hold five bicycles each as well as bike racks,” he adds.
Children are not forgotten, with a special Kid’s Track near the parking lot that has both a 1.2-kilometre track and a pump track for BMX, mountain bike and timber trail with several terrains. There are 30 bicycles, all free of charge, for the kids and a place for parents to watch. The facilities are for children aged 12 and under.
A bike rental shop offers 30 hybrid bicycles and will soon increase its stock of mountain bikes and road bikes. The rental fee is Bt400 for half a day.
“Our staff are on hand to find the bicycle for you together with helmet and lights as well a water bottle,” says Prichaya. “The Sky Wing is used both for special activities and for exercise in the evening, when it’s lit in rotating colours of purple, green and pink.”
“I exercise regularly, usually by running and cycling. A good bike lane really encourages me to go exercise. This place is designed for real cyclists and there are many zones. I like the family zone where families can come and spend their free time together,” commented Artiwara “Toon Bodyslam’ during the press tour.
“We think this bike lane can be better developed and become the No 1 facility of its kind in the world, not just in Thailand. Nowhere else can you find a cycling course of its length so close to the heart of a major city, and with such a safe and comfortable cycling environment. And the development this time will make it bigger and better than ever,” says Dr Vichit Suraphongchai, SCB’s chairman, adding that Prichaya is planning to build a mountain track and a pump track for adults in the near future.
Pedal to the metal
- The “Happy and Healthy cycle track at Suvarnabhumi Airport is open daily from 6am to 8pm.
- Admission is free.
- Find at more at Facebook.com/skylanethailand/ or www.Bike.SCB.