Car-Free Sundays to resume in Oct

PHOTO: The Straits Times

CAR-FREE Sundays in the heart of the city will be extended from October and the initiative could even be expanded into the Housing Board heartland.

The six-month pilot, which sees roads around the Central Business District and Civic District being closed off to vehicles on every last Sunday morning of the month, ends in July.

It will take a two-month break for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to review the scheme before resuming in October, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on the sidelines of the event yesterday.

"It has been a tremendous success," he added of the pilot that started in February.

"The response has been very positive," he noted, with "a few thousand" people taking part each month.

URA has not decided how long the extension from October will last.

"We will do another round, perhaps six months or more," said Mr Wong, adding that possible changes include varying routes and expanding the car-free zone for people to walk and cycle. "Hopefully, this becomes a permanent feature of the Civic District."

The Car-Free Sunday event is an important part of Singapore's car-lite vision, he added. "The vision is not just about using cars less but it is also about making public spaces friendly and vibrant so that people can see that there is a benefit in having a car-free zone."

The idea can even be expanded to include the heartland, he noted.

"If there are community groups or organisations that would like to take this idea and implement it in the HDB heartland, we would very much like to do so as well."

At the fifth edition of Car-Free Sunday yesterday, the URA invited people to cook and distribute free food to the participants. It also invited volunteers from Play It Forward, a group which refurbishes old pianos and puts them in public places for the public to use.

Yesterday's event drew first-time participants like Chan Shi Kee, 27, and her three-year-old son Yu Jun.

"My son enjoys it.

"We will definitely come back in the future," said the bakery supervisor.

Cycling advocate Han Jok Kwang, who has attended four of the five Car-Free Sundays, welcomed the suggestion of introducing the event in the heartland.

"The scale can be smaller.

"It will allow more people to enjoy the activities," he said.

Mr Wong also gave an update of the review of public parking rates by URA and HDB yesterday.

While reviewing the carpark charges "can help the move towards a car-lite society", he said the review was prompted by the fact that public parking charges have not been adjusted in 14 years, while the cost of operating public carparks has risen.

He added that the URA and the HDB "should be ready to finalise the details very soon".

"We will make sure that there is an adequate transition time," he said.

tohyc@sph.com.sg


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