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Saturday, Nov 1, 2014

Singapore

Pedestrian Night gets more room to breathe

The Straits Times | Saturday, Nov 1, 2014

The first edition of Pedestrian Night earlier this month saw tennis players "taking over" a stretch of Orchard Road.

Expect a more comfortable stroll down Orchard Road this Saturday, with more space to roam, when part of the iconic shopping belt goes car-free again.

After complaints of overcrowding during its “first outing”, organisers of the monthly Pedestrian Night promise more breathing room this round.

While the four-lane main road was entirely taken up by street tennis matches last month, the mass yoga event on Saturday will take up only three lanes.

This will allow 20 per cent more walking space, said the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba), which is staging the events to inject more buzz into the shopping belt.

More ramps will also be built over barricades to allow people to get on the street quickly.

“It’s not only about getting more people to come walk around but also making it more comfortable for them to get around,” said Orba’s executive director Steven Goh.

More security personnel will be on hand to control the crowd and ease the flow of people.

The 660m stretch from Ion Orchard to Ngee Ann City will be better lit.

There will also be walkways to lead revellers onto the main thoroughfare.

Organisers decided to make the changes to ensure that the car-free zone is also hassle-free and pedestrian-friendly.

Sales manager Christina Kee, 37, who was caught in the tight squeeze at last month’s event, said freeing up space for pedestrians will make the experience more pleasant.

“I hope we won’t have to jostle for space, be stuck among all the sweaty bodies, and can get a chance to see what’s happening and enjoy the activities.”

Pedestrian Night runs every first Saturday of the month from 6pm to 11pm.

There will be four more such nights after Saturday.

This Saturday’s event, billed as Yoga Beat at Orchard Road, will feature 1,000 participants who will stretch and pose to hip hop beats and live music.

Last month’s street tennis drew some 3,000 people, leading to complaints not only of overcrowding but also of the long waiting time while organisers closed the roads and set up the courts and stages.

Orba says it will work faster. Instead of the 90 minutes it took last month, it will complete the set-up in an hour.

The organiser of the mass yoga, lululemon athletica, has been told to minimise the props and infrastructure so as to unclog the crowded streets.

“While it may be a yoga session, we don’t want to exclude anyone and cordon off the area for those who are not doing yoga,” said lululemon athletica’s spokesman Felicia Sun.

“People can still hang out, see what is happening on stage and enjoy the music.”

But the key measure of the pedestrianisation lies in the sales registers of the retailers, and they have yet to see a clear spike in business.

Mr Kelvin Lee, who works at a perfume shop in Lucky Plaza, said: “People come more because of the novelty of walking along the road and enjoying the activities but it doesn’t really help us if people are not coming to our shops.”

jermync@sph.com.sg

WHAT WILL CHANGE

1 More walking space Instead of the main activity taking up all four lanes of the road, this Saturday’s yoga event will occupy just three lanes.

2 Better crowd control There will be more security personnel to guide people.

3 Faster set-up The set-up process will be cut by 30 minutes, to an hour.

4 Fewer props There will be fewer props and infrastructure will be kept simple.


This article was first published on October 30, 2014.
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