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Fewer cars, more people: URA launches programme to turn streets into public spaces

An Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) carpark warden snapping a photo of a car before issuing a summons at a carpark at Serangoon Gardens.

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Thursday launched its "Streets for People" programme, which supports community-initiated projects to transform streets into meaningful public spaces by creating car-free zones.

A car-free zone is a temporary road closure that allows for a street place to be used as a public space. During the operational hours of a car-free zone, access to the street is restricted to pedestrians and emergency service vehicles, while all kerbside parking is suspended, URA said on its website.

Applicants must operate or reside within the area where the project is proposed and demonstrate that their project is supported by the community.

The programme offers varying levels of support, including providing road closure essentials such as safety barriers and signage, and up to S$5,000 of seed funding. URA will also facilitate consultation with relevant government agencies.

The full details on the application for the programme are available on URA's website

Over the last two years, URA has been working with a range of stakeholders to implement car-free zones at various locations and supported a number of external initiatives through its PubliCity programme.

"The success of these projects is a reflection that the public appreciates an environment with fewer cars. We hope that through offering support to community-initiated projects, we will encourage more people to think about the trade-offs in land-scarce Singapore," URA said.

Existing examples of streets that have transformed to public spaces include: a back lane in Everton Park that has been transformed into a temporary public space where street festivals are organised; a regular car-free zone at Circular Road on Friday and Saturday evenings; and a car-free Haji Lane on Friday evenings, and from midday to midnight on the weekends.

On Thursday, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan endorsed the programme on his blog.

"Car-free Circular Road, Haji Lane and Ann Siang Hill during weekends have been a great success," he wrote. "As the streets get closed off, they come alive with activities: tables and chairs spilling onto the roads, diners enjoying a leisurely cuppa, youngsters hanging out at quirky boutiques, and tourists soaking up another aspect of Singapore. People stroll freely and safely. Closed to cars, the streets come alive."

"We want to see more streets being turned into public spaces for community to enjoy," he added.