SINGAPORE - Car-Free Sundays could become a permanent fixture in Singapore and expanded to a larger area if response to the pilot trials is good.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said this during the first Car-Free Sunday SG on Sunday (Feb 28), which saw roads in the Civic District and parts of the Central Business District closed off to cars.
The pilot initiative is part of a move to transform Singapore into a car-lite country. From now till July, the closure of roads around the Padang will take place on the last Sunday of every month.
Mr Wong, who flagged off hundreds of cyclists and runners in the morning with Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, described the turnout on Sunday as encouraging.
"If you look at the streets, it's full of people (and) vibrant and I think that's what we want our streets to be," he said, noting that many participants were excited.
"We will look at how we can improve for the future editions... And potentially if the response gets even better and we get more people participating, I think we would certainly want to continue beyond the six months and see how we can expand our Car-Free Sunday to a bigger area, potentially even make some of it permanent."
But Mr Wong stressed that this will depend on how Singaporeans respond to the car-free trial.
"It's really to get people used to the mindset that streets and roads can be free of cars. It's not just about closing up the roads, but (also that) the streets can be full of programming that we can enjoy. We can walk, we can cycle, we can come together," he added.
Hundreds of Singapore residents took to the streets on Sunday morning to cycle, run, rollerblade and stroll along the closed roads, which include St Andrew's Road, Connaught Drive and Fullerton Road.
Many were spotted grabbing a bite from the food trucks along the roads, as well as braving the hot sun and taking part in fringe activities such as Zumba, yoga and tennis.
Mr Mitchell Tee, 45, took the train down from Toa Payoh with his wife and two children, aged seven and 11.
"The kids are having fun trying out sports," said Mr Tee, who works with a global non-profit organisation. "I think Car-Free Sunday is a good idea, and would like if they can close off even more roads for the public to explore."
Despite not being a morning person, Mr Darren Sabom, 39, who works in the real estate industry, showed up to run with his friends.
"It's awesome! I hate waking up this early but I woke up today just to support this. I hope they continue to organise it."
Food vendors which participated in the event also sang its praises. Mr Rishikesan, 30, and Mr Syed Mujubur, 32, who collaborated to set up a prata shop at the Empress Lawn, said business was great and their customers came from all over Singapore.
Mr Syed, who runs Thawfeek Cuisine in Bishan, said: "Car-Free Sunday might lose its novelty if it's held every month though, four times a year might be better."
And while many turned up at Car-Free Sunday for the empty streets, couple Jernon Teo and Vicki Thng, both 19, visited for the food options on offer. Among the dishes they sampled were chilli crab nachos, tacos, salted egg yolk fries and laksa spaghetti.
"It's not every day that you can find all this food in one place. We can cycle any time, but this type of food is not always here," said Mr Teo, a student at Catholic Junior College.
For homemaker Cindy Cheng and her husband, Car-Free Sunday was an opportunity for some family bonding as she got to take her three young daughters and a son - aged between one and four years old - out.
"We are an active family, and like to expose our kids to the outdoors as much as possible. The event was up to our expectations and we will definitely come again," said the 44-year-old.
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.