Pedestrians, this road's all yours next Saturday
A SECTION of Orchard Road will go car-free and become a pedestrians' paradise once a month, as part of efforts to breathe new life into the iconic shopping belt.
The 660m stretch from shopping centres ION Orchard to Ngee Ann City, or between the Scotts Road/Paterson Road junction and Bideford Road, will be closed to all vehicles on the first Saturday of every month, billed as Pedestrian Night, starting from next month.
Shoppers can then roam the street without worrying about honking drivers, who will be barred from the road between 6pm and 11pm.
The Orchard Road Business Association (Orba), which is behind the six-month trial, hopes it will revitalise Singapore's premier shopping street, which is facing stiff competition from new shopping haunts in Marina Bay as well as suburban malls.
With the road closure, Orba chairman May Sng said people can experience a different side of Orchard Road.
"(They can) enjoy other activities in this vibrant lifestyle destination and have fun," she said.
The street will be turned into a hive of activity.
For the inaugural Pedestrian Night next Saturday, people can play street tennis and watch music performances. There will be a mass yoga session and a Christmas carnival has been planned till the end of the year.
On Pedestrian Nights, buses that ply the affected road will skip two stops and be diverted to Grange Road and Orchard Link.
Sections of Orchard Road are closed annually for big events like the Christmas celebrations on Dec 25 and the Fashion Steps Out fashion show in April.
In other major shopping cities like London and Tokyo, the closure of sections of road happens routinely on certain weekends.
Orba, which represents more than 60 members, including multi-label retailer Club 21 and mall operator CapitaMalls Asia, mooted the idea of making Orchard Road a no-car zone as recently as 2012.
Mrs Sng said stakeholders have been worried that shoppers who drive to town will be put off by traffic disruptions.
"But (now) we want to test this regular slot and communicate to drivers...that they should not avoid Orchard Road," she said.
Even though a previous attempt to close Orchard Road once a month in 1989 lasted only a few years, organisers are more optimistic that it may work this time round. After all, road closures in Haji Lane, Club Street and Circular Road on weekends have been a hit with regulars.
The new Pedestrian Night may prove to be a draw for shoppers such as Lawrence Lim.
The business-development manager, 38, who lives in Serangoon North, said: "I can usually get most of my shopping done in the neighbourhood malls, but if there are fun events in town, I wouldn't mind making a trip down to check them out."