Trial to pedestrianise roads receives mixed reaction from residents
Many support projects in Woodlands and Havelock Road, but some sceptical
When she speaks to residents living near Kampung Admiralty, Sembawang GRC MP Mariam Jaafar never fails to ask about a 200m stretch of road that has sparked some contention in her ward.
In a six-month trial that began on Feb 20, barriers were put up along a segment of Woodlands Ring Road between Woodlands Drive 63 and Woodlands Drive 71, converting one lane into a path for pedestrians and cyclists.
It is one of two pedestrianisation trials the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has embarked on in the heartland, and one of 60 road-repurposing projects being explored.
The pedestrianised roads can be used for both walking and cycling and are part of Singapore's push to go car-lite.
Transport experts say the trials in Admiralty and Havelock Road near the Bukit Ho Swee area are a positive step.
But they have been met with a mix of support and scepticism from residents.
"(When it comes to) supporting walking and cycling, Singapore is not as mature as some other cities both in terms of our roads and society, so there's a question of readiness," said Ms Mariam. "Thus, we appreciate that the approach is to trial and learn, using temporary, low-cost changes. It's important to me that the design process is participatory."
She said LTA chose the stretch of road in her ward due to a high concentration of elderly residents there.
LTA said the trial in Woodlands gives residents and students from nearby schools, including Minds Woodlands Gardens School, more space to walk and cycle.
It has also made access to Kampung Admiralty, Admiralty MRT station and other amenities more convenient and safer.
"Motorists will still have the choice of using alternative roads such as Woodlands Drive 42, Woodlands Drive 52 and Woodlands Drive 65," LTA said, noting the trial has not had significant impact on traffic conditions.
Meanwhile, reception to the project in Havelock Road has been mainly positive.
A stretch of road there was selected for the trial, which will also last about six months, as the walkways cannot accommodate pedestrian traffic during peak hours and may be unsafe for elderly residents.
LTA said the trials in Woodlands and Havelock Road can be made permanent earlier with support from the community.
Whether or not the trials succeed, they will give the authorities valuable data on how pedestrians and drivers react to a more pedestrianised environment, said National University of Singapore's Associate Professor Raymond Ong, who researches transport infrastructure.
Ms Mariam said the next step will be a network of connected walking and cycling paths.
"Then you have to make people want to walk and cycle. They must see personal benefits, whether it is to their health, their travel time or their pockets. The pandemic actually is a great impetus for this," she said.
Pedestrianised Woodlands Ring Road trial gets mixed reactions
Since barriers were put up along a stretch of Woodlands Ring Road, turning one lane into a pedestrian path and the other into a bus-only lane, Mr Ramesh Kunju Krishnan has felt much safer walking around his neighbourhood.
"Previously, the walking path tended to be congested. Delivery riders use the same path and we have a lot of elderly in the area. I have seen a number of close encounters where pedestrians were nearly knocked down," the 49-year-old marine surveyor said.
A cyclist who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, 52, was happy that residents now have more space to exercise.
"It is dangerous for cyclists if we cycle on the road. But if we cycle on the footpath, it is quite narrow," the self-employed man said in Mandarin.
But some residents say the trial has done more harm than good.
"Very few people walk along that stretch of road in the first place. But there is a lot of vehicle traffic. So this project will make nobody happy," said one resident, who commented on a Facebook post by Sembawang GRC MP Mariam Jaafar.
The Straits Times visited the area several times last month and observed only a handful of people using the pedestrianised road each time.
While there are large signs and markings on the bus-only lane, some motorists still use it.
Mr Fauzi A. Rahman, 45, who lives at Block 649 Woodlands Ring Road, right next to the pedestrianised road, said closing the road to traffic has caused confusion and inconvenience to drivers.
"I feel a ring road should be a (complete) circle," said Mr Fauzi, who works in IT.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been receiving positive feedback, with calls to introduce features, such as benches, greenery, cycling paths and covered linkways, to make the area even more conducive for walking and cycling.
A covered linkway connecting Kampung Admiralty and Block 649 will be built, but only if the pedestrianisation is made permanent, LTA said.
Ms Mariam said there have been a few complaints of traffic congestion and has asked LTA to look into it. - THE STRAITS TIMES