A SOUTH African urban planner based in Kuala Lumpur is of the view that Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s security fences in the city are not serving their purpose.
“These are a perfect example of a design failure,” said James Speirs.
“People have torn down the fences in some parts of the city, creating a gap to get through,” he noted.
Speirs had lived in numerous cities in the world and travelled extensively. He currently lives in Brickfields.
After living in Kuala Lumpur for almost six months, he concluded that the city government gave a lot of importance to motorists.
“I have seen tactile paving that leads up to a zinc fencing, a wheelchair ramp that slides straight into a concrete pillar and steel fencing that goes nowhere.
“He said this showed pedestrians were not given much attention in city planning.”
Speirs, who specialised in low-tech solutions to urban problems, said the city authorities relied on high-tech solutions to solve a low-tech problem.
“In the city, especially a township like Brickfields, you have escalators, lifts and bridges to move pedestrians when all that it actually needs is traffic lights,” he said.
Speirs cited the three bridges in Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad as a waste of resources.
“What is interesting is that the township is branded as a TOD (Transit-Oriented Development) with a dependable transit system and streetscaping elements to discourage vehicle dependence and congestion.
“The monorail, the LRT and KTM Komuter lines are all meeting here because it is a transit hub, but transit hubs are dependent on adequate pedestrian infrastructure and are not meant to be car-centric,” he said.
He added that security fencing in Brickfields was a clear sign that the design was flawed.
Instead of building multi-million ringgit bridges, he said, the city could have more traffic lights.
“In Cape Town, South Africa, the city uses audible traffic lights for the visually-impaired to cross the road and they are perfectly safe.
“That is one of the benefits of low-tech solution designs; we focus on mobility issues, making sure it is wheelchair-friendly, easy for parents with babies in prams as well as for cyclists,” he said.
Speirs, who used a bicycle as his primary transport in the city centre, said Kuala Lumpur had a long way to go in its aspiration to be among the top 20 liveable cities in the world.
“I often host people from other countries when they visit Kuala Lumpur and when I ask them if they will return, they say no.
“The problem they have as a tourist, without personal transport, is the difficulty of moving around in Kuala Lumpur.
“From the moment you get off the ERL (KLIA Express) at KL Sentral, you need to get into a car to go places.
“It was reported that Malaysia is ranked No.3 globally, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of Automotive Demand, with 93% car ownership.
“And the country also has the highest incidence of multiple car ownership globally, with 54% of households having more than one car,” he added.