Motormouth: Car-Free Sunday is less compelling than Free-Car Sunday

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Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1710761219792 Motormouth+ +Car Free+Sunday+ +Featured[Image credit: Land Transport Authority]

The LTA special event to promote Singapore’s car-lite goal is a good one, but it probably leaves most motorists unmoved.  

According to our Land Transport Authority (LTA), Car-Free Sunday 2024 (17 March) promotes Singapore’s car-lite goal by creating greater public awareness of the benefits of walking, cycling and riding public transport as sustainable ways to travel.

The turnout appeared to be worth the multi-partner effort by the authorities to put the event together after a four-year hiatus. The Straits Times reported that more than a thousand people took to the designated roads around the city centre which were specially closed on that Sunday morning. 

The visitors were said to include cyclists, joggers, skaters, skateboarders, and families on foot, plus representatives from the Government, all of whom likely enjoyed the music, food, drinks and activities made available in an unusual urban setting with no cars in sight. 

However, at the end of the, uh, day, Car-Free Sunday is a novelty which provides a fun day out for the participants but is neither practical nor necessary. 

If the authorities really want to drive home the car-lite point, they could make every last Sunday of the month car-free in the Civic District. 

But it would be difficult to manage the cost and logistics of staging the monthly event (e.g. closing the roads, diverting traffic and controlling the crowds), and to meet the challenge of finding enough partners/sponsors to keep the event interesting every time.  

In any case, Car-Free Sundays won’t be as impactful as the Friendly Streets initiative, also by LTA, which permanently repurposes selected roads around popular amenities to make them safer and easier for pedestrians and cyclists, at the expense of driving/parking convenience.

I’m one of the many drivers who are inconvenienced by the community-driven Friendly Streets around Tiong Bahru Market, one of my favourite hangouts, but as a serial walker who enjoys clocking thousands of steps each day, I understand the rationale for pedestrianising certain streets. 

What I don’t know is the automotive target audience of Car-Free Sundays. There must be motorists among them, but how many of these drivers actually leave their precious cars at home just to make their way down to the event on public transport or whatever wheeled, non-motorised device they prefer? 

Put another way, how many car owners actually went car-free on Car-Free Sunday?   

It’s one thing to let people play/walk/cycle freely on closed-off roads where they normally wouldn’t be able to. But it’s another thing to make motorists seriously consider bicycles, buses, and trains as feasible, or bearable, alternatives to their personal cars for getting to wherever, whenever, be it for business or leisure. 

Car-lite works best as an option if lucky you have a car in the first place, which would allow you to connect the dots to your destinations with all the modes and nodes of transport at your disposal, in the way/route you want, at the price you’re happy to pay in terms of time, cost and convenience.  

I think that most motorists are unmoved by Car-Free Sunday. On the other hand, Free-Car Sunday would drive them crazy because they paid so much for their rides.  

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1710761389439 Motormouth+ +Car Free+SundayFree-Car Sunday might become a free-for-all in Singapore.

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