FOR too long and too often, pedestrians have had to suffer the cramped spaces of the Klang Valley’s many five-foot ways in the battle against the insatiable demand for bigger and wider roads.
At times, where there is a walkway, we find ourselves contorting our bodies to avoid bumping into merchandise or tables and chairs laid out by inconsiderate traders or eateries; not to mention the motorcycles with their piping-hot exhausts parked haphazardly by irresponsible owners.
Let’s face it, for someone able-bodied to call some of these spaces “five-foot ways” can sometimes sound like a joke.
Our walkways and streets can be downright unfriendly.
Although I use my car as much as I can because I love the freedom of driving (when traffic is not atrocious), I also enjoy walking when I have to.
I have always looked forward to visiting car-free zones whenever I am overseas as I find that these people-friendly spaces can serve as a potential oasis to the weary traveller.
It can also bring bring some much needed calm into the lives of those who live and work in a bustling city.
With congestion increasing, reduction of available parking spots in tandem with improvements in public transport infrastructure in the coming years, if you had to walk, wouldn’t you prefer to do it comfortably?
This year, Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL) upgraded the walkways and are looking to designate several places surrounding the iconic Masjid India in the middle of the city as car-free zones, a move which I and no doubt many others would laud as a step in the right direction.
The areas which have undergone the makeover cover parts of Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Medan Bunus, Lorong Bunus 1 river promenade, the surrounding area of Masjid India, Jalan Bunus, Jalan Melayu bazaar and Lanai Seni as well as Medan Pasar.
Outside of the central business district encompassing Bukit Bintang, Imbi and surrounding KLCC areas, only time will tell if DBKL’s bid to reduce traffic in parts of the city will pay dividends.
One thing is certain though, people should be able to get to the aforementioned areas without too much of a hassle thanks to several train stations nearby.
The makeover is expected to breathe new life into the areas and is sure to bring about changes to the surrounding community.
This is an opportunity for DBKL to set the right direction for these areas by making sure they meet a high standard of cleanliness and are well looked after.
This is crucial to prevent these areas from becoming neglected.
I am sure that having such areas in the city will benefit the people in many ways, not just in having more space to walk.
If the places can be made as comfortable as possible for pedestrians (able-bodied or not), people would be able to enjoy the surroundings and there is a good chance that the increase in foot traffic will be a boon for many of the businesses as well as tourism in the city.
It would be a shame if taxpayers’ money and the government’s efforts were to go to waste.
I think that if this project is successful, it could also spark other councils in cities around the country to have more car-free areas.
And while I do have some reservations whether these areas will be be as attractive and welcoming as it is meant to be, I would be glad to be proven wrong.
Let us hope that everyone will do their part to maintain the amenities to ensure these areas will continue to attract the public.
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