Stretch of Orchard Rd to be closed on 'pedestrian nights'

Stretch of Orchard Rd to be closed on 'pedestrian nights'
The 660m stretch of Orchard Road from Ion Orchard to Ngee Ann City will be shut in the evening on the first Saturday of every month, in a six-month trial.

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."

jermync@sph.com.sg


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