Barriers to make outdoor dining safe in Geylang?
Roadside dining is big in Geylang.
But is it at risk of disappearing when cars and trucks plough into coffee shops, threatening the safety of patrons?
What can be done to make it safer for patrons?
In the last month, there were three accidents in the Geylang area. (See map on facing page.)
So what can you do when stall owners have permission to set up tables for outdoor dining and the roads are busy?
Set up barriers near roadside eateries to ensure customers have a safe dining experience, said Mr Lim Biow Chuan.
Mr Lim, who is in the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said: "Dining should not be allowed, unless measures are there to ensure that the diners are protected.
"Businesses should also ensure that their premises are safe for their diners. Safety for dining customers should be paramount."
But who should initiate it?
Mrs Michelle Li, 42, the owner of SN City Seafood Restaurant, said it should not be up to the businesses.
"I had thought of putting up safety barriers around the area, but that is in the hands of the authorities, not mine."
After the accident on Sept 10, customers told Mrs Li that they worry for their safety.
She said: "I have had customers coming to me and saying the place is too dangerous, and that something should be done about it.
'SCARED TO DEATH'
"My customers were scared to death when they saw the car crash into the coffee shop."
The coffee shop does not deploy tables or chairs on the road.
They would expand only as far as the road pavement to avoid endangering customers.
Mr Omar Rafi, 50, an office administrator, said the authorities and business owners should step in to ensure the safety of patrons.
Mr Omar, who said he sometimes travels to Geylang for lunch or dinner, said: "If such accidents were to happen once in a long while, it would not be so serious.
"But three accidents in a month is not something that should be overlooked."
His solution: "Coffee shop owners should install some form of protection or a barrier of sorts to protect their customers.
"And more checks should be done on drivers in this area to ensure that drivers are not under the effect of alcohol or anything that may cause them to lose control of their vehicles."
Beyond barriers, the police should rein in bad driving, said Mr Ben Tan, the owner of the Geylang Lor 9 Fresh Frog Porridge coffee shop, where an accident happened last Friday.
Mr Tan, 45, said: "The government should do something about the reckless drivers in these parts.
"If someone chooses to drive under the influence of alcohol or without enough sleep, nothing that I do can prevent such an accident from happening."
He said the only way to solve the problem is to trace it back to its roots: the drivers.
Motorists also have to be extra careful whenever they drive on the lane next to kerbs.
"There may be many activities on the footpath next to the kerb, such as pedestrians walking or waiting to cross the road, passengers waiting for buses or taxis, or in these cases, alfresco dining," said adjunct associate professor Gopinath Menon from the Nanyang Technological University's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
And with alfresco dining being a part of Singapore's culture, totally removing them is not easy, he added.
When The New Paper spoke to patrons and business owners in the area on Monday, many said they were aware of the risks.
One diner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chong, said: "I am already used to eating in these types of areas.
"Roadside dining is very common in Singapore, and I don't see any reason why that should change."
Spate of crashes
Four people were taken to hospital after a car ploughed into a row of tables and chairs at the Geylang Lor 9 Fresh Frog Porridge coffee shop at about 11pm.
The three diners - including a man in his 60s who was dragged for about 3m - and the driver were conscious when they were taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
A blue Suzuki Swift crashed into a crowded coffee shop in Geylang, injuring a diner and disrupting two birthday celebrations.
Cargo assistant Mohamad Faizal, 30, was flung about a metre away and injured his left knee in the accident that took place at the SN City Seafood restaurant at Geylang Lorong 7 at around 7pm that day.
A white lorry mounted a kerb and ended up on the walkway in front of the 99 Duck Neck restaurant between Geylang Lorong 11 and Lorong 13.
None of its customers and staff members were hurt in the incident.
But a Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman told The New Paper that a man in his 60s was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital as a precautionary measure, even though there were “no obvious injuries”. TNP understands that the man was the lorry driver.
Five people were taken to the hospital after a taxi crashed into the alfresco dining area of Georges Mad Bar and Grill in Siglap.
The taxi had spun out of control after colliding with a car. It then crashed through a wall of the East Coast Road eatery. The five casualties were taken to Changi General Hospital and were discharged on the same day
Guidelines for outdoor dining
TNP reported in May that under the Street Works Act, shop owners have to keep five-foot ways, public walkways and public streets clear, so as not to impede the movement of pedestrians.
It is understood that the maximum fine under the act is $2,000. Repeat offenders may have their licences revoked.
But outdoor dining areas are allowed if they follow guidelines set out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
A URA spokesman had said outdoor refreshment areas (ORAs) are outdoor extensions of the indoor dining areas of F&B establishments.
The spokesman said in other areas, small-scale ORAs may be considered along the covered walkways if they do not compromise the safety of patrons, obstruct pedestrian movement or cause inconvenience to surrounding residents.
- Shaffiq Alkhatib