Car-free plan for CBD and Civic District 'will open up more recreational space'

Thumbs up for trial from experts, cyclists; motorists say it won't affect them greatly

Participants walking past the National Gallery Singapore during the SG50 Jubilee Big Walk 2015 on Nov 29. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Experts and cyclists have welcomed a pilot scheme to ban cars from the Central Business District (CBD) and Civic District on selected Sundays, saying it will create more recreational space.

Motorists believe it will not affect them greatly as many of the roads are quiet on that day.

The six-month trial by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is slated to start in February and be held every last Sunday of the month. It will see a 4.7km route being closed and given over to cyclists, joggers and walkers.

The concept is similar to Kuala Lumpur's Car Free Mornings, which are held twice a month, along a 7km stretch of road.

Mr Scott Dunn, the South-east Asia vice-president of global engineering group Aecom who was involved in the KL initiative, said car-free days offer a "higher-value use" of roads on the weekends.

"It's a fantastic use of the space to create opportunities for people to interact and to do things that they wouldn't normally be able to do on the streets. You create greater liveability in the city."

As part of the car-free Sundays, there will be full road closures around the Padang and partial road closures along Fullerton Road, Shenton Way and Robinson Road from 7am to 9am.

Following that, parts of Connaught Drive and St Andrew's Road will remain closed until noon, to allow people to walk around "activity zones" planned around the Padang, the URA spelt out in tender documents published this month.

The URA is looking to appoint an events management company to run the car-free programme.

At the Esplanade Park and Empress Lawn, the National Parks Board, the Health Promotion Board and SportSG will organise community and mass exercise activities in conjunction with the event.

Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of interest group Love Cycling SG, said cyclists who ride along the Singapore River and in the Marina Bay area will be able to connect to areas in the CBD and Civic District, making for a "scenic and enjoyable" trip.

Mr Chu said that by giving people an opportunity to cycle in parts of the CBD, some may even be "inspired" to use it as a means to commute to the office on weekdays.

"People will come to see that cycling can happen not just on Park Connector Networks or in parks, but on the roads," said Mr Chu.

Drivers told The Straits Times that the road closures would not be a hindrance. Bank employee Ken Chen, 27, who occasionally frequents the Marina Bay area on weekends, said the bulk of the road closures happen earlier in the morning, and will not affect him. As the Marina Bay area is well connected, Mr Chen said he could "take other routes" to get to where he wants to go.

While most pedestrians said they would enjoy walking in the car-free areas, some said it would not make a difference whether the roads are free of vehicles.

Communications graduate Joel Chan, 25, said: "It'll probably appeal to runners, but the window of time may be too narrow to attract casual pedestrians to enjoy a walk in the city centre."

•Additional reporting by Joanna Seow

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline Car-free plan for CBD and Civic District 'will open up more recreational space'. Subscribe