Saturday, October 17, 2009

Confusing road names in Singapore

Dear Mr. Tan,
I have decided the Land Transport Authority must have a secret agenda of thwarting criminals. The road design in Singapore makes a quick getaway, or getting anywhere for that matter, nearly impossible.

As a transplant from the flat grid of Los Angeles, navigating the illogical, too-many-named or too-few-named streets here is maddening. What genius decided one neighborhood should have Springleaf Rd, Springleaf Ave, Springleaf Heights, Springleaf Gardens, Springleaf Drive and Springleaf Link?

When your friend says he lives on Springleafe Ave, you remember Springleaf, not avenue drive or road, it takes you longer to find the correct street than it does to reach the neighborhood. Couldn’t the designer have thought of a few more names?

Never mind that Singapore doesn’t have a Spring anyway, but the Springleaf theme could have been taken further and you could have distinguishable street names like Palm frond, Pandan leaf, etc.

Okay, so maybe some developer who never studied urban planning really liked the name Springleaf, and he doesn’t know the difference between an avenue (should have trees on either side), a road or a lane (narrow, lacking a median or shoulder).

But numbered streets should be straightforward, right? Wrong! Firstly the streets aren’t straight, secondly, there is no apparent order: 1 is not followed by 2, and so on. Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 crosses Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, 4, 5 and 6. It is a total maze.

Not only are there too few names, there are too many names too, for the same road! Balestier turns into Lavender which turns into Crawford. Kallang turns into Victoria which turns into Hill St. and the list goes on.

If there is any logic to the road design in Singapore, it is a perverse logic. Which is why I think the aim must be to prevent people from getting around easily.



  1. The streets in Ang Mo Kio do have an order. Avenues 1, 3, 5 etc are numbered south to north and Avenues 2, 4, 6 are numbered east-west. Although the roads are not straight, there's a logic behind the numbering.

    I have to agree - the naming conventions in the newer estates are too confusing!!!

  2. REX comments as follows,

    Ang Mo Kio road naming, yes it is not that bad, they follow compass-direction generally, as Eveline said.

    As for road names changes after big traffic junctions it is common in Singapore, some of them make sense because it identifies with the general area. E.g Kallang road is closer to the old Kallang airport, kallang Gasworks etc, whereas Victoria St leads all the way to Victoria memorial hall, and Fort Canning Hill, so changes to call it "victoria st" and Hill street, are ok because the road spans entirely different suburban locailities.

    Now here is some thing that beats me:

    Have you been lost in Toa Payoh, one of the oldest estate in Singapore?

    It took me a very long time to figure out that Lorong 1, Lorong 6 and Lorong 7 are one and the same road, set up in a circular ring which encapsulates most parts of this mature estate. In other countries, i have seen them name such road configurations simply as "XXX Ring". I wish that 40 years ago, they should have named Lor 1, 6, and 7 with a generic name "Toa Payoh Ring Road". If necessary they could go further with TP Nort Ring and TP South Ring, that would have been even more helpful.

    And secondly the urban planners have utterly no sense of proportion calling a huge road like Toa Payoh Lor 6 a "lorong". TO my knowledge, "lorong" has connotation of "small lane", e.g "Lorong Stangee" in Katong, whilst Jalan is for bigger roads like "Jalan Eunos". There is no consistency, some lorongs are bigger than jalans and vice versa. Very user unfriendly, legacy system, like the poorly designed MS Word, we just have to live with it there is no other option.


  3. I use to hang out in Toa Payoh during my school days and now I have been staying here for the last 6 yrs, and I have just figured out that it is a concentric circle "urban" planning format that they have used... but the naming of the Roads does not explain...much!


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