Make S'pore a city for people, not cars: Minister

Cultural shift needed for 'car-lite' future that will make country more liveable, sustainable

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong (centre) visiting car-free zones at Kampong Glam and Liang Seah Street.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong (centre) visiting car-free zones at Kampong Glam and Liang Seah Street.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Singapore needs a "cultural shift" towards a "car-lite" future that will make it more sustainable in the long run, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

If Singapore keeps building more roads and making way for more cars in the next half-century, he predicted: "We would literally have a city for cars rather than a city for people... That would be a terrible outcome."

Referring to the ongoing SGfuture dialogues, in which the public is invited to share its ideas for Singapore's development, Mr Wong said: "One of the ideas that resonated tremendously with the participants, young and old, was a vision for a car-lite Singapore. And I think that's a very important national shift that we must strive to achieve."

Mr Wong, who was on a visit to car-free zones in Kampong Glam and Liang Seah Street, cautioned against being over-reliant on cars.

He said: "Over the last 50 years of development, we have built more roads; we have designed our city to accommodate more cars. And if you were to just project that trend for the next 50 years, I don't think it's going to be sustainable.

"It's not just about becoming a more environmentally friendly environment... It is about becoming a more attractive, a more liveable and a more people-friendly city."

Mr Wong said that Keong Saik Street and Armenian Street could become the next car-free zones.

There are currently 11 such streets here, including Haji Lane, Bali Lane and Club Street. These close to traffic during certain hours on weekends. From Feb 28, parts of the Civic and Central Business districts will also become pedestrianised zones on the last Sunday of each month, in a six-month trial.

Car-lite planning has even extended to new roads. The upcoming North-South Expressway will have lanes reserved for buses, as well as a cycling path and pedestrian walkway along the entire route.

Mr Wong hopes such a car-lite mentality will catch on in the heartland. "We want this to be not just about the city centre," he said. "We want potentially car-free weekends or more pedestrianised streets also in the neighbourhoods. But this can work only with ownership and participation by the community."

Architect Cai Bingyu, 32, who attended a dialogue yesterday, does not plan to own a car.

"We have a convenient public transport system, and car COEs (certificates of entitlement) are so expensive," he said. "A city should be more for people than vehicles. I'm glad we're moving in that direction."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'Make S'pore a city for people, not cars: Minister'. Subscribe