Saturday 27 September 2014

Pedestrian Night on Orchard Road

Part of Orchard Road to go car-free once a month
660m stretch of road running from ION Orchard to Ngee Ann City to be pedestrian-only, host community events
By Kelly Ng and Elgin Chong, TODAY, 26 Sep 2014

After two years, plans to make a part of Orchard Road pedestrian-only are finally coming to fruition.

Starting next month, a 660m stretch of the road — running from ION Orchard to Ngee Ann City — will turn into a pedestrian-only street on the first Saturday of every month from 6pm to 11pm.

This six-month pilot of Pedestrian Night on Orchard Road, led by the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), will create a space for community activities. Kicking off the line-up is Tennis Pops Up @ Orchard Road on Oct 4, held in conjunction with the upcoming Women’s Tennis Association Finals, where the public will get to try their hand at playing tennis on the streets and watch demonstrations by pro players.

Said ORBA chairman May Sng: “Pedestrianising Orchard Road adds another dimension to our iconic precinct. Orchard Road will no longer just be a shopping belt, but a vibrant lifestyle destination with an array of exciting activities for all to enjoy.”

In November, yoga enthusiasts can look forward to a mass yoga event with a renowned instructor, while a Christmas-themed carnival will take to the roads in December.

Orchard Road is no stranger to going car-free. Back in 1989, the thoroughfare from Paterson Road to Grange Road was closed to traffic once a month. This stopped after several months when fewer events were held and public interest subsided.

The idea was revived in 2012 as part of ORBA’s proposal to enhance public spaces on the shopping belt. Tourism and architecture experts then lauded major cities such as London, Tokyo and Beijing, where main shopping streets are permanently pedestrian-only, but also advised organisers to study road usage patterns before undertaking the project.

The ORBA said “intensive discussions” with businesses and government agencies started six months ago, and they identified the five-hour window on Saturday evenings as the least disruptive.

However, some retailers were concerned that diverting traffic would cause business to suffer. “(They) are concerned that visitors (who drive) might be put off visiting Orchard Road because they think the precinct is inaccessible,” said ORBA executive director Steven Goh.

Mr Allan Chia, head of the Marketing Programme at SIM University’s School of Business, said the initiative would be a draw for shoppers and tourists, but managing the fallout from the event would be critical.

“For example, how will the congestion be dealt with in terms of pedestrian and vehicular traffic and also car parking? Other issues include security and safety, and maintaining cleanliness of the area,” he said.

Mr Goh said they have communicated to retailers that car parks of the malls along this stretch will remain fully accessible despite making it pedestrian-only, while those taking the buses can alight before or after the pedestrian-only zone.

Based on the Land Transport Authority’s traffic monitoring data, the stretch sees about 2,000 vehicles hourly during this time period. Signage has been put up around the precinct to advise motorists of road closures and route diversions. Announcements will also be made through social media before each Pedestrian Night.

Retailers TODAY spoke to were not confident that the initiative will boost business. Mr Jimmy Tan, who owns a souvenir shop at Lucky Plaza, said visitors to the street events are unlikely to come by his shop. “No one comes to Lucky Plaza these days. And if the road is blocked, drivers will have to drive one round to the car park at the back. Who will do that?” said Mr Tan, whose shop has been around for 18 years.

Mr Raj, who helps out at Dollars & Scent Duty Free Perfume store at Lucky Plaza said: “There’s both good and bad. Good because it might bring more people to our shop. Bad because if they cannot drive here, people say ‘I might go other places, why come here?’.”

Others like Ms Carol Liu, store supervisor of The Wright Gift at ION Orchard, felt it was too early to tell if business would be affected. “It depends on the type of activities (Pedestrian Night) offers. If they can draw a crowd to Orchard Road, it might bring more people to our shop,” she said.

Mr Goh agreed that “creative programming” is key to making the pilot successful. “We are, therefore, very excited to see the different suggestions or proposals from the community,” he said.

Individuals and community groups can with their ideas and feedback.

* Walk on Orchard Rd? It's a tight squeeze
By Lester Hio, The Sunday Times, 5 Oct 2014

It may be dubbed "Pedestrian Night" on Orchard Road, but it ended up being a tight squeeze for some who came to walk free.

Around 3,000 visitors turned up to experience a 660m stretch of the shopping belt clear of road traffic yesterday evening.

But instead of cars and buses, they encountered barriers which pushed them to one side.

The space was instead reserved for a series of activities, including exhibitions by Singapore Tennis Association junior players and a concert.

"It's a bit too crowded," said 39-year-old housewife Lim Cze Yie, who came with her three young daughters aged two to eight.

Many went with the flow and enjoyed the road tennis on offer. Mr Nader Tadros, a Canadian citizen who works in sales, was one of the first few who stepped onto the road once the event kicked off at 7.30pm.

"We got so excited when we heard there was going to be tennis on Orchard Road," said the 42-year-old Singapore PR and tennis fan, who took along his nine-year-old son Julian and five-year-old daughter Tahlia.

Yesterday's event is part of a six-month trial by the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) to add another dimension to the iconic shopping stretch.

On the first Saturday of every month, part of the road from ION Orchard to Ngee Ann City will be closed off to vehicles from 6pm to 11pm.

Other Asian cities with famous shopping areas - Ginza and Harajuku in Tokyo, Insadong in Seoul and Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong - have routinely become car-free zones on weekends.

Some who turned up early yesterday, however, found they could not enter after 6pm - the event started only at 7.30pm - to give organisers time to set up the area.

So crowds gathered along the side of the road and eagerly streamed in once the barriers were lifted.

"We will be gathering feedback from the public, stakeholders and partners from this inaugural Pedestrian Night to improve the experience for future runs of the event," said Orba executive director Steven Goh.

"For safety reasons, we could not let pedestrians on the road while the setting up was in progress.

"We are pleased with the buzz generated from the first Pedestrian Night. We also hope that public awareness of Pedestrian Night will continue to grow and more people will come to enjoy future runs."

Pedestrians got to enjoy massages, listen to live music, play tennis console games and pick up coaching tips.

"We are not really tennis fans, but we wanted to expose them to different things," said Ms Alice Ng, as she watched her daughter get her face painted.

"We would rather experience such an open-space event than just shop," added the 38-year- old clinic manager.

Briton Kieran Vye, 47, an advertising executive, was excited about being able to wander about on Orchard Road. "It's a beautiful city space, and I'm glad we're making use of it," said the Singapore permanent resident.

For next month's event, organisers have planned mass yoga sessions on the road.

Stretch of Orchard Rd to be closed on 'pedestrian nights'
Plan for car-free zone once a month aims to revitalise shopping belt
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 26 Sep 2014

A SECTION of Orchard Road will go car-free and become a walker's paradise once a month, as part of efforts to breathe new life into the iconic shopping belt.

The 660m stretch from shopping centres Ion Orchard to Ngee Ann City, or between the Scotts Road/Paterson Road junction and Bideford Road, will be closed to all vehicles on the first Saturday of every month from next month, billed as Pedestrian Night.

Shoppers can then roam the street without worrying about honking drivers, who will be shut off from the stretch between 6pm and 11pm.

The Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) which is behind the six-month trial, hopes the move will revitalise Singapore's premier shopping street, which is facing stiff competition from new shopping haunts in Marina Bay as well as suburban malls.

With vehicles out of the way, ORBA chairman May Sng said more people can spill onto the road and experience a different side of Orchard Road.

"(They can) enjoy other activities in this vibrant lifestyle destination and have fun," she said.

The street will also be turned into a hive of activity.

For the inaugural Pedestrian Night on Oct 4, for instance, revellers can play street tennis and watch music performances. Other events such as a mass yoga session and a Christmas carnival have also been planned till the end of the year.

On Pedestrian Nights, buses that ply the affected thoroughfare will skip two stops and be diverted to Grange Road and Orchard Link instead.

Sections of Orchard Road have been closed annually for big events like the Christmas celebrations on Dec 25 and the Fashion Steps Out fashion show in April.

In other major shopping cities, including London and Tokyo, the shutting of sections of road happens routinely on certain weekends. In Beijing, the Wangfujing shopping street is permanently closed to traffic.

ORBA, which represents more than 70 members including multi-label retailer Club 21 and mall operator CapitaMalls Asia, has previously mooted the idea of making Orchard Road a no-car zone, as recently as 2012.

Mrs Sng said stakeholders have been worried that shoppers who drive to town will be put off by traffic disruptions.

"But (now) we want to test this regular slot and communicate to drivers... that they should not avoid Orchard Road," she said.

Even though a previous attempt to close Orchard Road once a month in 1989 lasted only a few years, organisers are more optimistic that it may work this time round. After all, road closures at Haji Lane, Club Street and Circular Road on weekends have been a hit with regulars there.

Ms Melissa Ow, assistant chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board's Experience Development Group, said: "It's about creating new social spaces for people. Pedestrianisation has become something commonplace... There is greater familiarity and confidence that this is something which will take off."

The new Pedestrian Night might prove to be a draw for shoppers such as Mr Lawrence Lim, 38. The business development manager, who lives in Serangoon North, said: "I can usually get most of my shopping done in the neighbourhood malls, but if there are fun events in town, I wouldn't mind making a trip down to check them out."

What to expect on Pedestrian Night

OCT 4: Tennis Pops Up@Orchard Road
- Street tennis at 10 mini open courts.
- Exhibition matches by professional players.
- Music performances by local band Jack and Rai.
NOV 1: Mass yoga hosted by Lululemon Athletica
3,000 people to practise yoga to the tune of hip hop and R&B music performed by local musicians.
DEC 6: Christmas carnival

Revving up Orchard Road over the years

1989: First attempt to pedestrianise Orchard Road. After several months, interest waned and fewer events were held. It was eventually discontinued in 1992.

1995: Five older malls were given facelifts to compete with newer ones in Orchard and the heartlands. Lucky Plaza, Wisma Atria, Paragon, Park Mall and Tanglin Shopping Centre were retrofitted and refurbished to bring shoppers back, at a cost of at least $28 million.

2007: Plans for a $40 million facelift for Orchard Road announced by the Singapore Tourism Board. Completed in 2009, the revamped Orchard Road featured new benches, lamp posts, recycling bins and repaved walkways.

2012: Fashion Steps Out @ Orchard Road opened for the first time, kicking off an annual event where Orchard Road becomes a glamorous catwalk for the chic and fashionable.

Shoppers, retailers look forward to street events
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 26 Sep 2014

SHOPPERS and retailers are looking forward to the upcoming Pedestrian Night at Orchard Road, which they say will make the area more vibrant.

Many are excited by the range of street events that will be organised for the designated night, which will happen on the first Saturday of every month, from 6pm to 11pm, starting next month.

Said Mr Tan Lubin, 27, a church worker: "If the event is something I'm interested in, like basketball or soccer, then I'll definitely head down."

A range of activities have been planned for the monthly event, including street tennis, music performances, a mass yoga session and Christmas carnival, which will take place on the stretch of Orchard Road from Ion Orchard to Ngee Ann City that will be closed to vehicular traffic.

Other shoppers such as Ms Maria Tan like the idea for a different reason.

"It'll be fun to be able to walk along a road that's normally full of cars," said the 47-year-old housewife.

Retailers, in particular those operating food and beverage outlets, are expecting more business on Pedestrian Night.

Miss Monica Morales, 30, manager of Calamansi, a fruit juice store at Paragon shopping centre, said she expects customers to drop by the shop after trying out the physical activities such as tennis and yoga.

Mr Chieng Puay Chui, 66, who sells ice-cream from his cart outside Ngee Ann City, said that the Saturday crowd is already quite big.

"I will see how big the crowd is on the first month. Hopefully, I will have to bring more ice-cream to sell next month," he said in Mandarin.

Others, however, are adopting a wait-and-see approach. Said Mr Steven Teng, 61, owner of Allkind Cameras Electronics at Lucky Plaza: "It's hard to say if it will bring people back, since they will go to the bigger, more popular shopping centres anyway."

The road closure could mean inconvenience for some residents in the area, especially those who live in Nutmeg Road behind Lucky Plaza.

Housewife Helen Gwee, 62, who lives in Jalan Jintan off Nutmeg Road, said the monthly event may pose a "slight inconvenience" as she will have to drive along a longer route via Mount Elizabeth road.

Still, a Pedestrian Night can only be good for Singapore as a tourist destination, said Mr Jeremiah Wong, marketing communications manager for Chan Brothers Travel.

"Street parties in other countries are prevalent, and there are always fun things to do. Opening Orchard Road up like this will help promote Singapore as a more dynamic and fun destination," he said.

Food, fun and freebies on Pedestrian Nights, please
By Lester Hio And Marissa Lee, The Straits Times, 27 Sep 2014

KEEP it free and unstructured.

That was the message from most passers-by when asked what they want from Pedestrian Nights in Orchard Road.

Many hope a carnival atmosphere will sweep through the shopping district when it closes to vehicles, according to a straw poll of 50 people conducted by The Straits Times in Orchard Road during lunch hour yesterday.

From next Saturday, 660m of road between ION Orchard and Ngee Ann City will be pedestrianised from 6pm to 11pm every first Saturday of the month for six months in an initiative by the Orchard Road Business Association.

"Make it festival-like with a good mix of food, performance, crafts and unique stuff," said Mr Lim Ah Hock, 55, a sales manager.

"Perhaps there should be a theme every month and vendors follow the theme."

Others were more conservative.

"No foam parties," said Mrs Yeo Sin Lai, 42, a housewife.

Volunteer worker Cindy Kua, 58, said events should not be "too obscene" - with "no scantily-clad dancers" - and focus instead on learning.

"It should be something educational, like cultural exhibitions. Or even orchestras and theatre performances," she said.

Performances and concerts were popular choices, with both locals and tourists saying they would like to see free gigs.

Tourist James Davidson, 33, who is from Newcastle, Britain, said: "It'll be cool to have many small performances - like magic shows or buskers - instead of one big performance on a large stage."

Ms Veani Ram, 34, hopes that Pedestrian Night can be as interactive as the Georgetown Heritage Fest, held annually in her hometown of Penang, Malaysia.

"We could have fun cooking demonstrations, like how to make roti canai, and arts activities like kite-making," said Ms Ram.

Lecturer Kok Leong Yuen, 31, said he wants to see "something organic" and not a "corporate marketing spiel", adding: "Singapore has enough retail."

The majority want to have Orchard-level fun without Orchard-level costs.

"We want freebies, not Orchard Road prices," said accounts manager Peggy Ho, 50. "Orchard Road is already so expensive."

Shop till you drop strolling down Orchard
Will having a no-car zone reap rewards? Businesses certainly hope so
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 27 Sep 2014

IN ONE week's time, shoppers won't have to give two hoots about honking vehicles when walking along Orchard Road - from Ion Orchard to Ngee Ann City.

That is because the area's businesses have managed to get approval to turn the famous thoroughfare into a no-car zone for five hours in the evening, on the first Saturday of every month.

The reasons for the move are simple: Competition from other malls and falling interest in one of Asia's most popular shopping belts. The stretch has been feeling the heat from other shopping haunts in Marina Bay and even suburban malls, said retail expert Lynda Wee.

"All the modern shopping malls are duplicated in the neighbourhoods and even other cities. Whatever you find in Orchard Road, you can find in the heartland," said Dr Wee, an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Technological University.

Other Asian cities with famous shopping areas - Ginza and Harajuku in Tokyo, Insadong in Seoul and Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong - have routinely become car-free zones on weekends. The Wangfujing shopping district in Beijing has permanently banned vehicles.

In other words, Orchard Road is simply playing catch-up.

But the question remains: Will the pedestrianisation move reap rewards?

History provides a hint, as this is not the first time that Orchard Road has tried this move. A 1989 campaign to ban cars from the area got off to a good start but fizzled out after several months because of waning interest. The street closed 40 times in three years before the practice was discontinued in 1992.

Part of the reason for the failure then was that too few events were being held. But it could also have been a case of right solution, wrong timing.

Things are different now, said Ms Melissa Ow, assistant chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board's experience development group.

"Pedestrianisation has become something commonplace... there is greater familiarity and confidence that this is something which will take off."

This could change in the latest push; the organisers plan to make the weekend walkabout a more sustainable effort and the businesses are fully behind the move.

The Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) has rallied its 70-plus members to get behind the pedestrianisation efforts.

Revellers can expect to play street tennis, take part in mass yoga sessions and a Christmas carnival for the next three editions of Pedestrian Night. Organisers expect some 20,000 to 30,000 people to turn up.

Similarly, people themselves may be more receptive to the walk. Road closures at Haji Lane, Club Street and Circular Road have been a hit with regulars.

But the main challenge is ensuring that the novelty of Pedestrian Night, which will be on a six- month trial, does not wear off. One way the organisers are planning to do this is to make it a free and easy event, rather than one that is planned top-down, said ORBA's chairman May Sng.

"If this takes off and everyone is comfortable... we do not need to have activities. We can just put out tables and chairs and everyone can just picnic there."

The plans are in place and the roads will be closed. Now it is up to shoppers to start walking.

More space, less stress with yoga on Pedestrian Night
By Calvin Yang, The Sunday Times, 2 Nov 2014

Shoppers had a more enjoyable time walking down a car-free stretch of Orchard Road yesterday, even as close to a thousand yoga enthusiasts filled it for the second edition of Pedestrian Night.

Several changes were made after complaints of overcrowding at last month's event, which featured street tennis matches.

Pedestrians The Sunday Times spoke to found the stretch from Ion Orchard to Ngee Ann City less crowded and better lit.

"There is more room to walk around now," said polytechnic student Jeremy Chang, 22, who was at last month's Pedestrian Night.

"People are able to stop and take photos without obstructing those behind them."

While four of the five lanes along the 660m stretch between Scotts Road and Bideford Road were taken up by tennis matches last month, the mass yoga session yesterday occupied only three lanes.

Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) executive director Steven Goh said that like any pilot initiative, Pedestrian Night was a learning experience.

"We will continue to make necessary adjustments to improve the experience of the next Pedestrian Night," he added.

Pedestrian Night, where parts of Orchard Road are closed to traffic to inject vibrancy into the area, takes place from 6pm to 11pm on the first Saturday of the month.

Yesterday's Yoga Beat, a mass yoga session organised by yoga-wear retailer lululemon athletica and Orba, saw some 900 yoga enthusiasts stretching to the hip hop beats of local musicians, including rapper Kevin Lester.

Said participant Angeline Yeo, 28: "I enjoyed myself a lot at the event."

However, the tertiary student suggested it would have been even more fun if people had more time to mingle before the session started.

Organisers set up the stage and put the barricades in place within an hour before the event started.

While most of the pedestrians seemed to have enjoyed themselves, a few shoppers and diners in the area didn't like the experience.

"The music is too loud," said administrative executive Judy Ang, 42.

"It affects the shopping and dining experience here."

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