Walk on Orchard Rd? It's a tight squeeze

Walk on Orchard Rd? It's a tight squeeze
Jack and Rai entertaining crowds at the first Pedestrian Night on Orchard Road.

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.


This article was first published on Oct 5, 2014.
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