Every morning, Vijaya Segar starts his day with a dash – across a busy six-lane road to get to his office.
The suspense starts the moment he steps out of his parked car in Jalan 14/58. For a few spine-chilling moments, we see him standing still on the shoulder of Jalan 222. There, his eyes search for a break in the oncoming traffic coming from his right.
Signal lights at the Jalan 14/48 and Jalan 222 intersection will usually stop the flood of vehicles coming from Jalan 229 and Section 51A.
But after four years, Vijaya has become a “pro” when it comes to predicting when it is safe to cross. During off-peak hours, he usually makes it to the middle divider after a five-minute wait. The narrow grassy patch then becomes a supposedly safe haven for Vijaya until he can find a lull in the traffic coming from Jalan Templer to make it across to his workplace.
This dicey daily morning game can come to an end if there was a pedestrian crossing at either the intersection or the bus-stop situated near the Shell petrol station.
“This road is not safe at all for children to cross,” said Siti Haliza Manap, Vijaya’s colleague.
Siti herself has had to cross that road for the past 30 years.
“Getting across always takes time. And then we always have to be quick because there is always oncoming traffic,” said Siti, who turns 62 this year.
Though a majority of the roads in Selangor and Federal Territory have pedestrian crossings, some streets have either been missed out or the lines are not strategically placed.
A heart-stopping experience was seen along Jalan Universiti, right in front of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC).
After dropping off his niece for a post-operation check-up, Baskaran Narayana, from Klang, almost became an accident statistic when two cars narrowly missed him.
After making it across, the visibly relieved 50-year-old admitted that in his haste to get to his car parked in Jalan Dato Mahmud 11/4 to retrieve a document, he had misjudged the oncoming traffic.
Witnessing Baskaran’s near-miss were two medical officers from UMMC.
Like many other hospital staff, they habitually walk to the restaurants along Jalan Dato Mahmud 11/4 for lunch or tea. There is a pedestrian crossing along the road, but it is nearly a kilometre away.
Jalan Universiti and Jalan 222 are not the only roads where the absence of strategically placed pedestrian crossings have put the lives of pedestrians at risk.
Jalan Utara, where the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital is located, is another example.
If a pedestrian is coming from Jaya Shopping Centre and wants to go to either Brickfields Asia College or the Istara Condo, he will have to pass these destinations to reach a zebra crossing 300m away and then double back.
One Istara Condo resident said he usually chose to cross the road just before or in front of the apartments because it was too tiring to walk more than half-a-kilometre after a long day at work.
While the fit and healthy can still leg it, these are not options for Xavier Bastien, 90, and wheelchair-bound Abu Manan Idris, 82.
The average walking speed estimated by Public Works Department (PWD) is 1.22 m/s at pedestrian crossings when setting the timer for the lights. Xavier and Abu move slower than that.
Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) Engineering Department director Shafie Ismail said the public could send in requests for pedestrian crossings anytime to the council’s complaint unit through its 24-hour hotline at 03-7954 2020.
“Our team will then study the road condition. If there is a need, we will act,” he said.
A guide on geometric design of roads by PWD states pedestrian crossings may be warranted at factories, schools, athletic fields, business districts or where abnormal hazards or inconveniences to pedestrians would otherwise result.
The guideline also states that any area with a pedestrian volume of 50 people and a traffic volume of 1,000 vehicles at peak hour qualifies for a pedestrian crossing.
At a recent ceremony to officiate the launch of two new routes in the state’s free bus ride programme, Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali spoke of future plans for seamless, inter-connecting pavements that would enable not only the public but young children and senior citizens a safe place to walk and cycle.
This criteria, said Azmin, would be something developers would have to adhere to before their plans were approved by the council.
Making the roads friendly for pedestrians is also part of a 2012 assessment system to come up with a Low-Carbon City framework by Green Tech Malaysia and the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry (KeTTHA).