Text by Quratul-Ain Bandial of The Brunei Times. Residents in the capital are looking forward to the first car-free Sunday in downtown Bandar tomorrow, saying the initiative from the Municipal Department will help revive Bandar as a centre for community activity.
Dubbed ‘Bandarku Ceria’, the initiative will see the area spanning the Royal Regalia to the Waterfront a car-free zone from 6am to 10am every Sunday. Some roads from Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium to the capital will also be closed to give space for cycling and jogging routes.
The Municipal Department said the move will allow small vendors to do business, encourage more physical activity and reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
Hjh Kemariah Hassan, a restaurant manager in the capital, said she hoped car-free Sunday would attract more people to Bandar to support local businesses which typically see slow trading on the weekends.
“During the week, we usually get business from the lunch crowd from the banks and other offices located in Bandar. But after 6pm and on the weekends Bandar is so quiet,” said the 42-year-old.
“Sometimes we will get business from the foreign workers who have their day off on Sunday, but I hope this car-free move will make downtown more of a weekend destination for Bruneians.”
Through Bandarku Ceria, members of the public are encouraged to use the spaces available in the capital for recreation, cultural, family and community activities, turning Bandar Seri Begawan into an urban park that can be enjoyed by all, through activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, aerobics and sales.
“Brunei really lacks public spaces where people can gather and meet. Young people just hang out in malls and parking lots and are chased away by police when it gets late. Wouldn’t it be better to have places where we can hang out that are safe, fun and pleasant?” said Lina Abu Bakar, a local university student.
She said the popularity of places like Taman Jubli proves that Bruneians are in desperate need of more public spaces.
“It’s a very small park but since they renovated it, it’s always full of people every day exercising, spending time with their families or doing group activities. It has been the venue for a few food festivals. Why can’t Bandar be like that?”
Tomorrow’s first car-free Sunday will feature pop-up sales, a handicraft corner, street artists, exercise activities and market stalls.
Taxi driver Abdul Sukarni added that Bandarku Ceria could help promote tourism, especially since Bandar Seri Begawan was declared an the ASEAN City of Culture for 2016-2017.
“There are several tourist attractions here already that I take my customers to, such as the SOAS Mosque and Kampong Ayer, but it is not very lively. It makes Brunei seem very old-fashioned,” he said.
“If we can make this a big weekly market with lots of vendors, not just Tamu Kianggeh, it could be great for people like me working in the tourism industry.”