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ORCHARD ROAD: Can it be a pedestrian street?

Shoppers vie for space on Orchard Road. A business group wants to make part of the road a pedestrian walkway regularly. (PHOTO: DESMOND LIM)

Publication Date : 15-10-2012


Drivers think turning Orchard Road into a pedestrian street is impractical, but tourists and pedestrians are keen to see this happen.

For a better shopping experience, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) is planning to propose to the authorities that a 600m stretch of Orchard Road be closed to motorists regularly to create a pedestrian walkway.

This is one of six suggestions in Orba's long-term proposal, The Sunday Times reported yesterday.

The proposal, Orchard Road 2020, will be submitted next year.

The others include having more parks and leisure spots, better signage and curbing the bird problem. Orba is also hoping that the pedestrian crossing at Paterson Road can be reopened for street-level crossing.

Shoppers who spoke to The Straits Times yesterday said creating a pedestrian segment in Orchard Road would allow shoppers to navigate the area safely, without the need to figure out the many underpasses.

"In the UK, lots of shopping areas have been 'pedestrianised' over the past three years. And it has been a different shopping experience for me," said tourist Linda Harrison, 50, from England.

"You don't have to be looking left and right for the cars. You can just walk and shop at your leisure," she added.

"For drivers, it meant that they had to drive a little bit longer, but in no time, they got used to it."

Harrison was trying to get from Shaw House to Wheelock Place, but ended up at Ion Orchard instead.

She was not the only tourist who got confused while walking in the underpasses.

Arill Kairill, 23, who works at the Garrett Popcorn kiosk at Wheelock Place, said he gets about 10 queries for directions each weekend.

"It is easier to recognise the roads than the underpasses," he said.

"After giving them directions, some still get lost and come back and scold us sometimes. There are just too many directions to take in the underpass."

The owner of the Oomph! Juice Bar kiosk in front of Lucky Plaza, Shandy Siak, 44, said having a pedestrian street will make it easier for tourists to get around.

"When shoppers get thirsty after walking, they can buy drinks from me," she said. "Motorists can take alternative routes to get to their destinations."

But motorists are not thrilled about the suggestion.

"If they close the roads, it will create bottlenecks around the Orchard Road area and cause congestion," said business manager Adrian Tan 35, who drives to Orchard Road once a week.

He said there are four lanes in Orchard Road, and they were not originally built to serve pedestrians.

This is unlike other countries with pedestrian streets, where there are only two to three lanes that are already built for that purpose, he added.

Freddie Chew, 39, an assistant vice-president for operations, felt that a pedestrian walkway would not be feasible given Singapore's weather, which is rainy and too hot.

Chew, who has a baby daughter, said: "I'd rather bring my kid around in the comfort of the air-conditioned underpass."

Retired teacher Tan Kim Hock, 74, said: "As a pedestrian, I'll definitely be glad, but the drivers will be upset.

"So the question is, 'Who do you want to benefit?'

"As the saying goes, when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody."


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