SINGAPORE – A HIGH-DENSITY CITY WITH SPORTING CHARACTERS
Chapter 4: Park Connector Network
Over the past 25 years a network of paved trails lined with plantings and ornamental trees has been gradually laid out across much of the city-state of Singapore, providing structural links between its city parks. These so-called park connectors, which are typically located along water canals, rivers and parkland areas, serve as convenient recreational zones for joggers, walkers, cyclists and inline-skaters. At present, Singapore provides its residents with an impressively large number of approximately 65 park connectors, reaching a total length of 300 kilometres of free-of-charge recreational space.
These park connectors are fairly popular with local residents. On weekday evenings, in particular, park connectors located close to large HDB-public housing estates are mostly packed with joggers, walkers and cyclists. Thanks to Singapore’s pleasant night temperatures – typically ranging from 25 to 28°C – and the generous lighting operating hours of the park connectors, this city-wide trail network has also become a popular activity zone for late night sports enthusiasts; on weekdays the trail lights are only switched off between midnight and 5am, while on weekends the local authorities leave them on all night.
The so-called park connectors are fairly popular with local joggers, walkers, recreational cyclists and bicycle commuters.
Tampines Park Connector in the outer eastern district of Pasir Ris is a typical park connector built along a water canal.
The Ulu Pandan Park Connector in the western district of Clementi. Singapore residents preferably utilize their local park connectors at dusk.
The Alexandra Parade trail along the Singapore River is popular with bicycle commuters. Yet it is the only viable path that connects the affluent inner-eastern districts with the central district and the financial centre.
The Park Connector Network in Singapore
Although Singapore residents seem to value the quality of the city’s park connector network, it has not become a globally acknowledged ‘green’ product that the city-state presumably hoped for. That is, Singapore clearly struggles to create a park connector identity that is internationally recognisable.
In an effort to keep up with the shifting global media attention towards Eco-Cities and Sustainable Cities, Singapore has been promoting its park connectors to potential international tourists by investing into native advertising articles aimed at readers of newspapers and magazines. It is not clear, however, whether a cost-benefit analysis of this investment reveals the expected outcomes. Given the fact that the average length of stay for international tourists in Singapore is around 3.5 days and that countless tourist attractions are on offer in this city-state, it is difficult to imagine that attraction-seeking visitors to this World City can be wooed into utilising and romanticising about the somewhat generic-looking bitumen trails scattered across the entire island.
Besides, Caucasian tourists have most probably seen similar trails in their own country (for many decades recreational trails along rivers and creeks have been the defining urban design features in most European, North American and Australian cities). And the conventional tourists from Asia, on the other hand, rather opt for shopping malls and entertainment parks while visiting Singapore for a few days (Asian tourists accounted for 75% of the 15 million international tourists who visited Singapore in 2014, according to official figures). To put it simply, for the typical international tourist Singapore’s park connectors may lack the necessary visual appeal as well as novelty factor.
Brain injury alert! An unexpected obstacle for tall joggers and cyclists along the Kallang Park Connector in Bishan.
A number of park connectors also display some structural weaknesses. For one thing, they consist of too many flow-disruptive obstacles, such as signalized traffic lights at road crossings and ‘Dismount and Push’ signs installed at underpasses and overhead bridges. Furthermore, abrupt discontinuation of designated trails can be very inconvenient for older residents as well as speed-loving recreational cyclists.
By and large, however, Singapore’s park connectors can be hailed as a success story. The urban planners have succeeded in incorporating this extensive network of trails into the city’s layout, demonstrating the government’s determination to allocate vast urban areas for recreation and sporting purposes in this land-limited compact city and to continuously improve the trail network’s functionality.
Cyclists get confronted with large numbers of irritating ‘push your bicycle’ signs when riding on park connectors, such as the Siglap Park Connector in the south-eastern district of Marine Parade.
Motorized traffic crossing a park connector is a reoccurring nuisance in the densely populated eastern district of Bedok.
Overpasses along park connectors regularly disrupt the cyclists’ rhythm. Fines are extraordinarily high in Singapore; hence, cyclists are advised to better push their bicycle!
In Punggol a new generation of running and cycling trails are squeezed between the man-made river stream and the recently built apartment flats. This large residential district in the north-eastern outskirts has been touted by the Singapore government as a model for high-density, high-rise districts in the 21st century.
>> READ next chapter “Recreational and public cycling”