SINGAPORE: Authorities are planning for more car—free weekends around Singapore and this will involve pilot projects to close off roads on a more regular basis in areas like Haji Lane in Kampong Glam and at Club Street / Ann Siang Road in Chinatown.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed this in his latest blogpost on Saturday.
He said one indicator of liveability in a city is the extent in which its dwellers embrace car—free zones.
Mr Khaw spoke about how many big cities have made a conscious decision to be more pedestrian—friendly — for example, in New York’s Times Square, London’s Trafalgar Square and Tokyo’s "Pedestrian Haven" in Ginza.
In Singapore, Mr Khaw pointed to several examples such as Albert Mall, and more recently, the Samsara Sunday Fair held at Haji Lane.
He said organisers had pushed for road closure at Haji Lane from midnight to 5pm, and took care of all the logistics, from the design of banners to crowd control measures.
Visitors, he noted, had a great time, enjoying the many outdoor activities like hand painting and juggling performances. And, they did not have to watch out for traffic.
"All had a car—free carefree weekend and what a change! Particularly wonderful was that the shopkeepers did all of that by themselves," said Mr Khaw.
But the minister noted that it’s not always easy to close roads as the interests of motorists and other stakeholders in the neighbourhood have to be accounted for.
He said Singapore can take "small incremental steps" to test out this initiative and grow more converts.
"The Haji Lane weekend example shows how we can create small car—free areas in the city which are welcome by businesses and visitors," he said.
Mr Khaw added small sections of road closures over weekends or evenings do not affect arterial roads and motorists.
And where there is a local community champion, he said Singapore can do more — for instance, promote cycling.
"If more local communities step forward, the reality of more car—free carefree weekends will materialise faster," he said.
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