Stop! Walkers crossing

A file photo of pedestrians using the new zebra crossing in Chulia Street during the ‘Pedestrian is King’ campaign.

A file photo of pedestrians using the new zebra crossing in Chulia Street during the ‘Pedestrian is King’ campaign.

‘Pedestrian is King’ drive needs greater awareness to make island more pedestrian-friendly

IN the inner city of George Town, Penang, you will find two pedes-trian crossings with beacons that blink round-the-clock and large “STOP” signs drawn on the road.

These crossings in Chulia Street and Farquhar Street do not have traffic lights and pedestrians can just walk through at any time — assuming that motorists will let them.

The crossings were set up by the Penang Island City Council for its ‘Pedestrian is King’ campaign which was aimed at making the island pedestrian-friendly.

Launched on Nov 23 last year, the campaign was developed as a five-year project to improve Penang’s walkability. But the effort has proven to be futile because many people do not know about the campaign.

Based on a recent council survey, 80% of Penangites do not feel safe when using a zebra crossing and 42.3% agreed that there was a need to change the motorists’ mindset and attitude on pedestrian issues.

Many pedestrian crossings have instead become hazardous, especially the one along Farquhar Street between the St George’s Church and the Penang High Court.

My colleagues, especially court reporters and photographers, often complain about how they were nearly hit by motorists who zoom by without stopping for them at the crossing.

I, too, have experienced such close calls. Once I was waiting at the Farquhar Street crossing when a motorist stopped to let me cross. As I walked onto the crossing, another car sped by and almost hit me.

Seeing that its ‘Pedestrian is King’ campaign was a bust, the council decided that stricter enforcement was needed to make motorists more aware.

Any motorist who fails to stop while a pedestrian is using a crossing or when the traffic lights are red could be fined RM300 under the Road Transport Act 1987.

Councillor Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, who is in charge of the campaign, said the council had tried various methods to educate motorists but stricter enforcement in the form of a higher fine would be more effective.

He added that the pedestrian crossings were being closely monitored and if needed, traffic lights could be installed.

Police have also identified seve-ral busy roads with pedestrian crossings where they will keep a lookout for errant motorists.

I’m all for stricter enforcement as well as making Penangites more aware of this campaign through TV, radio and social media.

Let’s work together to make sure that the pedestrian is ‘king’ on the island.