Saturday, 4 July 2015

Streets for People: Expect more pedestrian havens to spring up

Streets for People will support vibrant public spaces by allowing temporary car-free zones
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2015

Party people who dream of turning their streets into car-free pedestrian havens will now have a helping hand.

A new scheme launched yesterday will hook them up with the right authorities to get the green light, and give them access to safety barriers needed to close roads temporarily to traffic. On top of that, they can apply for up to $5,000 in funds to get their plan moving.

"We want to see more streets being turned into public spaces for the community to enjoy," said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a blog post yesterday announcing the launch of the Streets for People programme.

Have you been to any of the existing car-free zones? Love to have more such spaces? Urban Redevelopment Authority has...
Posted by Ministry of National Development on Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The caveats are that applicants must reside in the area where they hope to set up a pedestrian zone, or operate a business there, and they must show that the project is backed by the community.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which runs the scheme, hopes to help others replicate the "success" seen in Circular Road, Haji Lane and Ann Siang Hill since 2013, when they were made car-free on weekends, said chief executive Ng Lang.

One area that might gain from going pedestrian-only is Keong Saik Road near Chinatown, home to many hip eateries. Ms Carmen Low, who co-founded raw food cafe Afterglow, said business owners there have had informal talks on the idea.

"If the Government can support us with licence clearances and so on, it would definitely make things easier," she said.

The logistics involved in closing roads to traffic can be a major headache. Such problems were among the key issues faced by Singapore River One, a not-for-profit agency set up to manage Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, when it started turning Circular Road traffic-free. Getting parked cars out of the area was a major concern, said marketing and communications manager Darius Goh.

He said the experience showed that official support with traffic enforcement can help.

The lack of traffic on weekends is appreciated by Club Street resident Rachel Liddington, 33, who has had close shaves with cars in the past.

The graphic designer also enjoys the ambience in the pedestrianised zone: ''It feels like somewhere like Paris. With all the tables and chairs out, it has a real 'town square' kind of feel.''



Proposals for the new Streets for People scheme can involve either regularly planned closures or one-off events. Both shopping strips and quiet neighbourhood back lanes have provided the stage for such community events.


The first Pedestrian Night series, in which the shopping street was closed to traffic on the first Saturday night of each month, ran from last October to March this year. From 6pm to 11pm, as much as 70 per cent of Orchard Road was hived off for activities such as street tennis and mass yoga. But while it drew around 50,000 people each night, the shops in the malls did not get much of a business boost. For the next series of Pedestrian Night, which kicks off tomorrow and runs until December, only about a fifth of the road will be set aside for mass activities. The Orchard Road Business Association wants to move the focus away from events and give pedestrians more space to stroll, in the hope that they will enter the malls too.


Door to Door, a group of volunteers with "an interest in public spaces", has organised two street festivals in the Everton Park public housing estate, where trendy cafes sit alongside old-school shops. The first, on May 1, was a hit with residents, who approached the organisers to hold another - on June 20. The event included free haircuts, face painting and kampung games, as well as performances by community circus group Bornfire to mark World Juggling Day. Door to Door has a how-to guide on its website to help volunteer groups organise their own street festivals. "We are looking to see if we can hold another some time soon," said Mr Sean Gwee, one of Door to Door's members. But it will not be at Everton Park again. He is considering Jalan Besar, saying: "Residents and businesses there are already very used to road closures because of the stadium."

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