Review pedestrian-bike path plan, Penang city council told

Several pathways around Komtar and along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling have been painted green to indicate these pathways as shared pathways for cyclists and pedestrians. — Picture by K.E. Ooi
Several pathways around Komtar and along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling have been painted green to indicate these pathways as shared pathways for cyclists and pedestrians. — Picture by K.E. Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 23 ― The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) should look over a plan to implement shared pedestrian-cyclist paths on the narrow roadways here, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey said today.

The DAP assemblyman who is strongly against the initiative, argued that the plan was unsuitable to be carried out in Penang at the moment due to the narrow sidewalks which will leave pedestrians with no space to walk it cyclists are also using the same paths.

“If we make pedestrians walkways accessible for cyclists, pedestrians won’t have a place to walk especially if motorbikes might also start a culture of riding on sidewalks,” she told Malay Mail Online.

She predicted motorcyclists will also start using these pathways, which will endanger pedestrians especially the elderly, people with disability and children as they will be unable to avoid oncoming cyclists.

“Once motorbikes and cyclists start a culture of riding on sidewalks, it will take a lot of enforcement, effort and public education to change behaviour and prioritise pedestrians,” she said.

Yap said once cyclists are told they are allowed on pathways, they may be confused on which were to be shared and which not; and in the end, will just use all including those reserved for pedestrians.

She proposed that the left lanes of roads be widened and designated for motorbikes and cyclists instead.

“At the moment, our roads are designed for cars, not for motorbikes, cyclists or pedestrians,” she said, noting that many of the current roads are narrower than the standard guidelines.

She stressed on the need for a review and redesign of road intersections by the council’s traffic engineers, pointing out that they catered more to vehicles than pedestrians.

Though shared pathways have been implemented in Australia and Japan, she said Japan tried to change it due to collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists but weren’t able to do so due to protests by the cyclists.

“It is different in Australia, the cyclists have the proper etiquette and they know to get down from their bicycle and walk when they came across pedestrians but here, we don’t have such etiquette, in fact, here cyclists might try to squeeze by pedestrians without stopping,” she said.

She said the only way to encourage cycling is to review the detailed design and safety of intersections, and improve the condition and connectivity of small roads.

“We should not prioritise straight and main roads for cars, but look at intersections and small roads for cyclists and pedestrians,” she said.

Activist Daniel Soon concurred with Yap and said the council needed to first put strict rules and enforcement in place, upgrade the infrastructure and put a speed limit for bicycles before implementing it.

“There must be some kind of rules in shared pathways that cyclists must abide to because we must safeguard the pedestrians and visually impaired people won’t be able to see them coming,” the executive director of the St Nicholas Home for the visually impaired said.

He said the blind usually walk in the middle of walkways and won’t be able to dodge cyclists on the same shared pathway.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad idea but they need to come up with rules and also upgrade the infrastructure to put in lay-bys for cyclists to stop and allow pedestrians to walk first,” he said.

Recently, several pathways around Komtar and along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling have been painted green to indicate these pathways as shared pathways for cyclists and pedestrians.

When contacted, MBPP infrastructure and traffic standing committee chairman Mohd Bakhtiar Wan Chik said the council already made a decision to implement shared pathways in June last year, before he was appointed as a councillor.

But with the mixed responses received by the council, all painting on the remaining pathways will be put on hold for now.

“We held an unofficial meeting yesterday and decided to leave those painted pathways there as a trial for three months pending feedback from the public about it,” he said.

Mohd Bakhtiar said 3m-wide pathways will be wide enough for pedestrians to share pathways while walkways that are less than 1.5m wide will not be designated as shared pathways.

The shared pathways plan is part of a bicycle lane masterplan that will allow cyclists to cycle from the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas down to Bayan Baru, Jelutong, parts of George Town, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah and then up to Straits Quay in Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah, he said.

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