It’s an absolute no-brainer for central business districts to close up a few appropriate routes for car free morning during weekends. Community bonding, space rejuvenation, increasing business activities, these are the parallels of active mobility. Though, they are to be argued from urban design context (e.g., distribution of land usage and network, etc.). Arguably, it could be better to close up alternative streets like the Super Blocks in Barcelona to give road space for a better utilization of public space.
I managed to join the 2nd edition of Car Free Sunday after procrastinating for a while. Well, which I will just term it Car-Free Morning as it’s only the morning few hours, similarly to Car Free Sunday in KL (Previous Blog Post HERE). I think Car-Free Morning is a great idea for the city center of any size. This has been going awhile in Penang, KL, and Ipoh and it’s not necessarily to close up all routes however just the ones for sufficient public space activity. Back in KL CFM, I have observed how the bi-weekly activity (monthly activity back then) has allowed various groups to showcase their talents on the streets. Be it DBKL marching band team, OCBC Corporate Cycling team, Antique Bicycle Interest Groups, Modified Bicycles, etc… it’s the great blend of stakeholders and activities that made public space great!
But Singapore Car-Free Morning was a different experience. I didn’t manage to join the first edition but only the recent 2nd edition. It was said that the closed routes are extended, spanning from National Gallery all the way towards Ann Siang Hill. Honestly, the flag off area in front of National Gallery is perfect as there are a lot of open spaces around the Padang which allowed various stationary activities or booths to be held. But the routes do seem a bit too scattered.
I suppose the car free morning is managed by an event management company (which I’ve forgotten the name). From security, logistics, activities, and publicity, it all seems to be well managed. Among the highlights are the Bamboo Car, Mr. Lee’s Bike Train, Cycling Without Age and two clueless T-rex on wheels! Again, Car-Free Morning is more than just having routes closed and promoting active mobility (cycling, jogging, rollerblading, etc.). There were various engaging activities such as cross fit exercise and Zumba dance. Also, the open space beside Padang was hosting ActiveSG where different portable sports game stations are placed.
It’s also very encouraging to see NParks having a booth to engage the public to gather feedbacks on safety cycling, as well as collecting contacts for an upcoming community engagement session. What impressed me during the Car-Free Morning was how well equipped the event organizer was. There were four traffic facilitators at every corner of a junction! At the certain intersection, it seems like there was more event personnel than riders alone! There was also a support car to ‘sweep’ the closed routes as they were about to open.
So how can we improve Singapore Car Free Morning?
Honestly, in terms of traffic diversion and event experience, I have nothing to complain about. There were variety of booths and events, however more could be done to increase the activities on the car free routes. For now, it looks like a clear highway with full of cyclists, unlike KL Car Free Morning where marching bands will slowly stroll around the route with a significant proportion of non-cyclist users wandering at a slower speed. The Car Free Morning in Penang (Occupy Beach Street) feels more like an open space carnival instead since it had only one long street closed off.
More Activities, More Stakeholders, More Locations
We can imagine more street activities that are appealing to different stakeholders. We can use this opportunity of public space to bind different segments of society and encourage the occassion of idea exchange. For example, leading the disable ones for a run or a bicycle ride via tandem bicycles. What about Human Scale Chess Set? What about Dogathon? The ideas can keep going. But I would wish Car Free Morning to be more than just the CBD area. What if every neighborhood that doesn’t have a town center to have a car free route? This is even obvious for places like Geylang as many foreign blue collar workers have their off days and would appreciate a generous space for them to congregate.
A snapshot of the activities around the Padang during that weekend. It was also a long weekend (Deepavali Public Holiday) hence turn out rate was considerably low.
Another interesting shot, the mobile AED Segway, just so in case if anyone needs an AED anytime on the road.
The 2nd edition Car Free Day is held every last Sunday of the month and will be ended the next year 2017 April. Here’s the video footage from my action camera throughout the ride!