Slew of activities lined up for first CBD car-free day

TOH EE MING Today Online 17 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — The authorities are pulling out all stops for the first car-free Sunday in the Civic District on Feb 28, organising sports activities, earlier opening hours for museums and guided heritage tours to woo visitors.

The flurry of activity kicks off a six-month pilot that will see the roads around the Padang, together with Fullerton Road, fully closed to vehicles from 7am to 9am every last Sunday of the month.

St Andrew’s Road and part of Stamford Road will be closed until 12pm while Connaught Drive will beclosed until 7pm. Shenton Way and Robinson Road will be partially closed, creating a car-free walking, running and cycling route of approximately 4.7km.

Jointly organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Land Transport Authority, National Parks Board, National Arts Council, Health Promotion Board and Sport Singapore, the pilot, announced at the end of last year, is part of the Government’s efforts to drive a “car-lite” culture.

While the line-up for the full six months was not revealed, the programme will comprise fitness, cultural, family and food options.

In a media briefing today (Feb 16), Mr Andrew Fassam, senior director of urban design at the URA said: “The event is not just for sports and fitness groups, it also presents a great opportunity to celebrate the cultural district, and for family and friends to come down and spend the morning in the city exploring the area.”

Noting more here are taking up cycling, he added: “We are putting in effort to build up the cycling infrastructure ... to make it easier and safer for people to cycle to work … It’s a cultural change, but we’re slowly getting there.”

The public will be able to take part in group running sessions and mass aerobics workouts with Zumba and Bollyrobics fitness routines, or try their hand at different sports such as 3-a-side Basketball and Mini Tennis. Two food trucks will be stationed in the area and museums such as the National Gallery Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum, and Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall will open earlier at 9am.

A children’s zone at Esplanade Park will also be set aside for them to do origami, sketching or learn about plant propagation, while there will be street performances with lion dancers, stilt walkers and martial arts performers. Thirteen bus services will be affected, added a URA spokesperson.

For those keen on trying out cycling as a means of commuting, they can pair up with a buddy from cyclist interest group Love Cycling SG, to explore routes from the heartlands to the city area. Those without their own bikes can contact bicycle rental firms on URA’s website to rent one, and collect them on Connaught Drive.

Food outlets in the area TODAY spoke to were hopeful the initiative would bring them more customers, though they are taking a wait-and-see approach before rolling out any plans.

Mr Joseph Paul, general manager of French cafe Angelina, said that he would consider opening earlier for breakfast and brunch crowd if the initiative brings in “good foot traffic.” He said: “(Currently), we get a slightly later crowd, as people start coming in about 10.30 am to 11am.”

Added Mr Jesse Vergara, outlet manager of Australian bistro Dimbulah Coffee at CHIJMES: “We already see about fifty cyclists regularly coming down on Saturday mornings … Hopefully this would might further boost business around the area.”

Nearby Duxton resident like Mr Tong, 54, who works in IT, said this would give him the incentive to cycle more, as he tends to cycle at night to avoid traffic. “Many senior residents also stay nearby … It would encourage a healthy lifestyle for them,” he said.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong wrote in a blog post today that it would take “tremendous effort and time” to make this vision of a car-lite Singapore a reality. He added: “But if we want a future city that’s cleaner and greener, and provides an even better quality of life, we must start to make changes now.”

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