SINGAPORE - Regular road closures in Kampong Glam resumed on Friday (July 22) after a hiatus of more than two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Haji Lane and Bali Lane will be closed at fixed times throughout the week, while Baghdad Street and Bussorah Street will be closed from the afternoon onwards on Fridays and weekends.
Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said in a Facebook post on Friday that the authorities had suspended car-free zones in Kampong Glam, as well as Circular Road and Liang Seah Street, in March 2020.
"With the easing of safe management measures in recent months, we thought it was timely to review this," said Associate Professor Faishal, who added that Kampong Glam's stakeholders "have been working on a plan with guidance from agencies to resume the road closures, and ensure that they are done sensibly and safely".
He said that individuals, businesses and groups such as One Kampong Gelam and Kampong Gelam Alliance had said road closures are a good way to introduce activities into the area.
It had been earlier reported this year that some businesses in the area had encroached onto public roads and walkways without permission, prompting agencies to issue an advisory instructing them to remove their items - such as tables and chairs - immediately.
Dr Faishal said on Friday that the area's stakeholders put together a "comprehensive management plan that promotes public safety and good neighbourly behaviour, while allowing planned activities to take place on the road".
One Kampong Gelam chairman Zaki Ma'arof said that this involved ensuring that businesses were clear about the road spaces that they could use, as well as to ensure that access by fire engines and access to fire hydrants were not blocked even as roads are closed during emergency situations.
Resuming regular road closures was a result of regular discussions between stakeholders and the authorities, he said.
Mr Zaki added: "Families and those with young children and strollers can return, knowing that they can walk freely on the closed roads without worrying about cars."
With restaurants able to extend their seating capacity outdoors due to the closures, customers would spend less time waiting for tables, he said.
When The Straits Times visited Kampong Glam on Friday night, eateries and bars in Haji Lane had put out tables flush with the side of the road.
Restaurant owners said that prior to Covid-19, they were allowed to occupy more space on the road during closures, but different allowances have been approved for different streets from Friday.
For instance, tables on Bussorah Street can be up to 70cm from the kerb, while those on Baghdad Street – which is wider – can go up to 1.5m, said Mr Sumeet Singla, who owns two restaurants in Kampong Glam.
But the car-free lanes are a good first step to restoring the area’s pre-pandemic atmosphere, said the 43-year-old. “People are cycling, parents are more relaxed, it’s a great vibe.”
Mr Mohamad Slim, 40, who owns Byblos Grill on Bussorah Street, said the road closures have been long awaited, adding that he hopes businesses will be able to use more space on the street.
“There are still empty spaces we can fill up, and we want to do so in a safe way,” he said.
Mr Haqiem Ramlie, 21, who was dining with two friends at Kampong Glam Cafe in Baghdad Street, said the area felt more alive with pedestrians on the streets.
“It’s very relaxed, there’s no worry about traffic so it’s pleasant to dine in the open,” said the undergraduate.
Mr Zaki added that the association was looking forward to organising cultural programmes that leverage the conservation area's history, adding that a week-long line-up of programmes will be planned around the Formula One weekend, which begins on Sept 30.
Dr Faishal said that besides Kampong Glam, the Urban Redevelopment Authority will also review plans to progressively resume regular road closures in the city centre.