Orchard Road scramble-crossing trial gets pedestrians' thumbs up on first day

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Yesterday was the first time shoppers could cross the Cairnhill Road-Orchard Road intersection diagonally. The trial, to make the shopping precinct more pedestrian-friendly, will take place every weekend and public holiday until Jan 28. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The first day of the scramble-crossing trial in Orchard Road was well received by pedestrians, as many enjoyed the convenience and time saved.

The trial that started on Saturday (Dec 16) was the first time that shoppers could cross the Cairnhill Road-Orchard Road intersection diagonally, and the first such experiment in more than a decade.

It was announced by chairman of the Orchard Road Business Association, Mr Mark Shaw, three weeks ago, in an attempt to make the precinct more pedestrian-friendly.

The trial will take place every weekend and public holiday until Jan 28.

Traffic wardens stationed at the junction provided guidance and encouraged those who were hesitant to cross, as many were unaware it was the first day of the trial.

Ms Siti Zanariah, 33, a sales supervisor who works at the Robinsons at The Heeren, said: "It's great that shoppers will now be able to walk in any direction they like, and might be more encouraged to walk across Orchard Road. Previously, some would stay on only one side."

Additional time was given for pedestrians crossing from H&M to Victoria's Secret shops after the 30 seconds for the diagonal crossing were up, as that stretch was the most crowded when The Straits Times visited the area in the afternoon.

Customer service employee Airene Tan, 38, liked the concept of the scramble walk, and suggested it could be applied to other busy junctions too, such as the one next to Wheelock Place.

Others, such as Singapore Institute of Technology undergraduate Chuah Peixin, 23, said that while the walk might be good for pedestrians, it might pose some inconvenience to drivers.

"I saw some cars almost getting into an accident, but it might just be because it's the first day, people are still getting used to it," she said.

The previous trial at the junction of Orchard Road and Bideford Road lasted six months, starting in 2006. Its aim was to test the potential of a scramble crossing with light projections becoming a feature of Orchard Road.

However, the project was dropped, as the trial, done in the evening on Fridays, Saturdays and eve of public holidays, "indicated it would not meet our objective of generating buzz and interest", said the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), in response to queries from The Straits Times.

STB added: "The upcoming scramble-crossing trial at the Cairnhill Road-Orchard Road junction is fundamentally different from the 2006/07 scramble walk in intent and operationalisation, as it serves a more functional purpose, that is, to make it easier for pedestrians to access the various activities on both sides of Orchard Road."

Mr Shaw said last month that the results of the trial will determine whether it will be expanded.

Dr Seshan Ramaswami, an associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, said the innovation might give Singaporeans a reason to visit Orchard Road.

"But, like the car-free experiments before, I don't think this will radically transform the attractiveness of that once-premier shopping belt."

However, more entertainment and service offerings, such as small auditoriums, spas and unusual restaurants, are offerings that cannot be competed away online, and are things that Orchard Road malls should consider implementing, added Dr Ramaswami.

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