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Car-Free Sunday back with extended routes, longer road closure hours

SINGAPORE — The usually quiet streets of Telok Ayer came alive yesterday morning with the return of Car-Free Sunday SG, as cyclists arced through the conservation area, while passers-by posed for photographs and thronged the Thian Hock Keng Temple for a slice of history.

Car-Free Sunday back with extended routes, longer road closure hours

Car free Sunday at Telok Ayer on Oct 30, 2016.

SINGAPORE — The usually quiet streets of Telok Ayer came alive yesterday morning with the return of Car-Free Sunday SG, as cyclists arced through the conservation area, while passers-by posed for photographs and thronged the Thian Hock Keng Temple for a slice of history.

A focus on history was a draw in yesterday’s seventh edition. It had returned after a hiatus of more than two months — with new community-driven activities and an extended route that incorporated Telok Ayer.

For example, the activities included volunteers ferrying the elderly around the Civic District in specially built trishaws. The rain held off, but the winds provided a cool respite for cyclists and joggers.

Regular participants such as Mdm Amelia Ching, 61, felt that the extended route, with more roads in the Central Business District also fully closed to vehicles, provided a chance to “appreciate the surroundings”.

“Usually, the stretch in the CBD ... there’s nothing much to see,” said Mdm Ching, who runs a higher education academy. “It’s a good idea to also close off more roads fully, so it’s better for cyclists who don’t have to worry about safety.”

Another regular, Mr Jason Lee, 56, who was with his long-time university friends and avid cyclists, felt that this edition was more “fun” and had more “historical value”.

“In the past, (the route) was more of a concrete jungle, but today there’s a mixture of old and heritage sites to (visit). Now, we stop to take more pictures,” said the art programme director. “This place gives a better feeling because of its ambience.”

Several cafes made special arrangements to catch the morning crowd. Mr Franck Hardy, 46, owner of My Awesome Cafe, said his staff came in as early as 7am to bake croissants and bread to catch the “first big wave”.

While the cafe typically opens at 9am on Sundays, it opened an hour earlier yesterday and rolled out a special breakfast set at a cheaper rate of about S$10. “In our first hour, we had 100 breakfast orders,” he said. “We’ve never had a Sunday like this.”

Others, however, felt that there could be more publicity in advance to draw more spillover crowds from the Padang area. They said that the authorities had approached them to collaborate only a week earlier.

Ms Cindy Leong, 32, owner of The Cold Pressed Station, acknowledged that Car-Free Sunday SG had brought more buzz to the area. The store had specially opened from 8am to 3pm and rolled out a new drink for the occasion.

“Youngsters don’t usually drop by here, unless they are the (drinking crowd),” she said. “At least now in broad daylight, I see Singaporeans exploring, taking pictures.”

It was still a bit “quiet” for her, and she hopes for potential tie-ups with yoga companies in future, so they can hold sessions at the Telok Ayer stretch to attract the younger crowds.

At Thian Hock Keng Temple, volunteer Darren Lim, 43, who led the tours there, said the public’s response was encouraging. “During the week, you don’t usually see locals; more than 80 per cent are tourists, so it’s a good chance for Singaporeans to learn about the temple,” he said.

Echoing his views, volunteer guide Victor Woo, who led a two-hour tour for 20 participants, felt that it was a good way to breathe life into the stories of Singapore’s immigrants and pioneers, especially for the younger generation.

“Nowadays, everyone is on their handphones,” he said. “Hopefully, (with more partnerships), more people can get the knowledge and pass it down to their grandchildren ... so that our history won’t go down the drain.”

He suggested that future tours could also be held at conservation areas such as Chinatown and Beach Road, though he admitted that diverting the bus routes might be difficult. Toh Ee Ming

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