Expect more pedestrian havens to spring up

Expect more pedestrian havens to spring up
Keong Saik Road at night.

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.

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."


This article was first published on July 3, 2015.
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