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Photo credit: Youth.SG/Phang Jing Lin

On the road to a car-free Orchard Road

Will turning Orchard Road into a pedestrian-friendly place make it better?

Phang Jing Lin


Published: 20 April 2017, 12:00 AM

It seems like Orchard Road is still losing its shine, despite efforts to encourage more people to shop there. The shopping district’s vacant units, empty malls, and low sales are pressing issues that have been talked about many times over the past few years.

At the annual Tourism Industry Conference on Apr 13, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran shared plans to explore turning Orchard Road into a car-free, pedestrian-only area in the future.

But, would it revive the sluggish shopping district?

What’s going on?

The government is looking into reclaiming a lane along the current five-lane Orchard Road, in line with plans to make Orchard Road a pedestrian-friendly shopping paradise.

 

A car-free orchard road may open up more spaces for street activities like pop-up stores and events.
Photo credit: Youth.SG/Phang Jing Lin

 

The Singapore Tourism Board is also planning to implement a scramble walk at a major junction near Cairnhill Road and Bideford Road, much like the well-known scramble crossing in Tokyo’s Shibuya district.

 

Can you imagine a Shibuya-like crossing at Orchard Road?
Photo credit: Joshua Damasio via Flickr

 

Similar plans to transform roads and shopping districts into walking streets for shoppers have already been implemented overseas. For instance, the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane, Australia, is one successful example of a pedestrian mall, where shoppers can walk around freely.

 

Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall is one of the most famous pedestrian malls, hosting more than 26 million visitors a year.
Photo credit: VisitBrisbane.com.au

 

However, some Singaporeans felt that a car-free Orchard Road may not work well.

Amber Qua, 19, felt that the changes may be inconvenient for some shoppers, especially when it’s crowded.

The Ngee Ann Polytechnic student said: “This change may make it more difficult for elderly and handicapped shoppers, who are sometimes driven around by their friends or family, to navigate Orchard Road. The government has to take note of their welfare if they want to make the changes.”

Similarly, Orchard Road resident Evina, 21, feel that being car-less may not necessarily be the best plan.

Evina said: “It’s good for people who shop at Orchard Road, since it will be more convenient. But for people living around Orchard Road, it will be troublesome if they plan to shop for groceries or heavy items.”

On the other hand, others felt that such plans may benefit the shoppers. Reclaiming one lane along Orchard Road may improve the crowd flow in the area, which can be quite congested on weekends and during festive seasons.

Tok Xinyu, 27, felt that the car-less initiative may promote a greener and healthier society.

“This is a positive message towards being an environmentally conscious society. It encourages more exercise from walking too,” said the market researcher.

Gwendolyn Tan, 22, felt that this idea can help to ease the crowd in Orchard.

The media and communication student said: “I think it is a feasible idea. Orchard Road is getting too crowded, especially with Singapore’s rising population and ever-increasing number of vehicles. It will be a good idea for cars to park outside the city and use public transport to go into the city, to minimise the crowd.”

What’s your take?

1. Do you think that making Orchard Road car-free is a good idea? Why?

Tell us what you think by leaving a comment on our article or social media platforms! Submit the best response by June 20 and win a $10 Coffee Bean voucher!


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