Car-Free Sundays didn't set the tills ringing much

Car-Free Sundays drew thousands into the heart of the city, but did not translate to more takings for many of the establishments there. They reported a low to no noticeable rise in footfall, and some were even unaware of the six-month programme.
Car-Free Sundays drew thousands into the heart of the city, but did not translate to more takings for many of the establishments there. They reported a low to no noticeable rise in footfall, and some were even unaware of the six-month programme. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

A car-free zone drew thousands of people to the heart of the city on the last Sunday of each of the past six months.

But the vibrancy injected by Car-Free Sundays did not translate to more takings for many of the businesses in the Central Business and Civic districts.

Of the 14 businesses and attractions The Straits Times contacted, only three were aware of the six-month trial of car-free Sundays, which ended last week.

Aimed at promoting a car-lite society, the initiative closed roads in the districts, transforming the area into a pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly precinct for activities.

"I wasn't actually aware of this," said Ms Cindy Yeo, 26, manager of Sushi On Wheelz at CityLink Mall. "I haven't noticed any difference in crowds in the past six months."

Mr Aaron Barzaga, 25, a stall assistant at a Japanese yakitori stall in Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, said he did not notice more patrons on the final car-free Sunday last Sunday.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said in June that the initiative would take a two-month hiatus after the trial ends so that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) could review public feedback, before resuming in October. The URA has not decided how long the extension will last.

Mr Wong had said that response to the programme had been very positive, with "a few thousand" people taking part each month. He added that the idea could be expanded to include the heartland.

Some establishments in the city area, such as the National Gallery Singapore, said they benefited from the increased footfall.

The gallery had organised programmes in line with the initiative, including yoga sessions at its Padang Atrium. "We saw positive participation and comments from visitors, some of whom were attracted to make return visits to the gallery," said Ms Suenne Megan Tan, its director of audience development and engagement.

"We see the opportunity to extend the programme beyond sporting activities to include more cultural activities ," she added.

Meanwhile, Lau Pa Sat saw footfall rise minimally, by 5 per cent.

"Sunday morning for Lau Pa Sat is usually not as vibrant in comparison to weekdays. Going forward, it will be good to see more events and activities to increase the liveliness of the Central Business District," said Ms Jacqueline Lim, assistant director of Renaissance Properties, which manages the food centre in Raffles Quay.

Suggestions on how to improve Car-Free Sunday included holding it later in the day. Cycling and walking activities started from 7.30am and ended around noon, although an area along Connaught Drive continued to be open for activities till 7pm.

Mr Woon Taiwoon, 42, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG which has attended all the Car-Free Sundays, said he had received feedback that the event was held "too early" in the day.

"It would be nice to have it in the evening... It won't be so hot so it would be a good time," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Car-Free Sundays didn't set the tills ringing much'. Print Edition | Subscribe