Pedestrian crossings not as safe as expected

TRANSIT earlier received a request from a reporter from the Star to comment on walkways and pedestrian bridges in and around KL. The article below reflects the research and reports.

Pedestrian crossings not as safe as expected
17 September 2009 By LIM CHIA YING

PEDESTRIAN bridges, walkways and underground tunnels can be a boon to the community as they help pedestrians safely get across the streets, but are they really safe?

In some cases, these amenities are not well-maintained and are poorly lit at night, posing a threat to the safety of users.

Badly-designed walkways also discourage people from using them.

Quiet: The walkway outside the Pudu LRT station is often deserted at night. Image & caption courtesy of The Star
Quiet: The walkway outside the Pudu LRT station is often deserted at night. Image & caption courtesy of The Star

While pedestrian bridges may not mean much to motorists, pedestrians rely on these structures to get around.

However, there are still pedestrians who prefer to risk life and limb by dashing across the road.

These pedestrians often claim that the bridges are inconvenient to use or are dangerous, especially at night.

During a random survey, StarMetro found that one of these ‘problem’ bridges is located near the Pudu LRT station.

The middle stretch of the bridge was devoid of fluorescent lights and, as early as 7pm, it was already quiet and isolated.

Regular commuter Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, who is also the adviser to The Association For The Improve-ment of Mass Transit (Transit Klang Valley), said he found the walkway from Dang Wangi to the Bukit Nanas monorail station along Jalan Ampang to be dark and made him feel uneasy.

“When a friend of mine from the Toronto Transit Commission [TRANSIT: That friend is Councillor Adam Giambrone, the Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission] was here for a conference, I took him on a tour of the monorail and LRT systems, and we had to use this walkway.

“I could feel that my friend was not very comfortable walking in the dark,” Moaz said.

However, a visit to the site showed that it is now well-lit, indicating that action had been taken following public complaints.

A bridge in Taman Midah Cheras was also dimly lit but conditions have improved. Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai’s political secretary Loh Chee Heng said more lights had been installed and the police were also making regular checks on the spot.

However, one of the locations known to be dark and eerie is the underpass located near the Bulatan Sg Besi.

 Shrouded in darkness: The entrance to the Bulatan Sg Besi (on the left) is grim and uninviting. Image & caption courtesy of the Star
Shrouded in darkness: The entrance to the Bulatan Sg Besi (on the left) is grim and uninviting. Image & caption courtesy of the Star

The photographer who was there to capture photos, also found the tunnel spooky to walk down and said it was lonely, especially after 9pm.

“It is dark and actually quite scary even for a man to walk alone,” he said.

“For the half-an-hour I was there, I only observed one or two persons using the underpass. What is the point of building it when no one is really using it?” he asked.

According to Loh, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) could sometimes be a bit slow in taking action on a reported problem. He added that whenever requests were made for additional lights, excuses ranging from vandalism to the lack of electricity supply were given.

“City Hall sometimes pushes the problem to the private sector, saying that the company sponsoring a bridge is responsible for its maintenance,” he added,

In the distance: The lights at the Pudu LRT station seem to disappear just after the convenience store. Image & caption courtesy of The Star
In the distance: The lights at the Pudu LRT station seem to disappear just after the convenience store. Image & caption courtesy of The Star

According to him, an underpass connecting Section 2 Wangsa Maju to a school in Section 4 had been in a deplorable state for years.

“There are food leftovers and urine stains in the tunnel and people are scared to use it.

“However, the schoolchildren are forced to do so,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun’s secretary Lee Bing Hong said there were a few problem bridges and tunnels in the constituency.

One of the locations he pointed out was the elevated walkway at Jalan Sarawak, connecting the Pudu residential houses to the Kenanga flats and business centre.

Danger lurks: The overhead bridge at Jalan Sarawak is in darkness and without a flash, one would not be able to see it in this photograph. Image & caption courtesy of The Star.
Danger lurks: The overhead bridge at Jalan Sarawak is in darkness and without a flash, one would not be able to see it in this photograph. Image & caption courtesy of The Star.

“We’ve received a lot of complaints from users who claim that unruly youths hang around there. They claim these youths would rob passers-by if there were not many people around,” he said.

He added that drug addicts could sometimes be seen napping on the walkway and, when there was no lighting, it was hard for the users to see if there was anyone lurking on the bridge.

“We were told that the bridge was maintained by RapidKL and the company repaired the lighting when we complained.

“However, the lights were soon vandalised by unscrupulous individuals,” Lee said.

During StarMetro’s visit, we noticed that even the pathway leading to the bridge on the Pudu side was unlit and lined by overgrown grass.

A nearby resident even advised us not to use the bridge, saying that it was dangerous and that there had been several robberies at the spot.

Moaz said that a well-designed walkway or bus shelter should be well-lit, with a high ceiling to give a sense of openness and airiness.

“There should be no hidden corners, uneven blocks or loose wiring.

“Sightlines should be clear and not blocked by advertising, greenery or parked vehicles,” he said.

He felt that while the new bus shelters in the Klang Valley were an improvement, the focus seemed to be on opportunities for advertising space.

“Not all bridges need to be covered or air-conditioned but they need to be designed according to universal design principles and be short and direct,” he said (please refer to graphic).

Earlier this year, former FT Minister Datuk Seri Zulhasnan Rafique had announced a RM100mil allocation from the Federal Government to build sky bridges and covered walkways between buildings in the Golden Triangle area.

He was reported as saying that spending money to benefit the people and enhance the image of KL as a world class city was a good way of stimulating the economy.

While Zulhasnan’s idea may have been well-intended, pedestrians are wondering whether any attention will be paid to the existing bridges and underpasses that have long been neglected, poorly-maintained and crime-ridden.

Pedestrian-friendly environment

• Personal security is an issue and pedestrians are drawn to areas that provide a sense of security and comfort.

• Pathways should be short, direct and well-lit. They will have to serve regular transit users making trips after dark.

• If pedestrian routes to bus stops are long, short sections of highquality, well-lit pedestrian pathways should be used to reduce the walking distance.

Extracted from the Calgary Transit Friendly Design Guide, a follow-up document to the Calgary Transportation Plan, May 1995.

TRANSIT Says:

There is so much to be said about walkways in KL since they are an integral compenent of the public transport network. And of course, when we talk about walkways we are including pathways, 5-foot ways, elevated walkways, pedestrian bridges, covered & uncovered, etc. etc.

TRANSIT has long believed that a greal deal of attention needs to be given to the design of our walkways & bus stops to make them safe, attractive and appealing and comfortable for the users.

We appreciate the interest of the Star in discussing walkways and hope that more feedback and discussion can be generated about walkways and bus stops in the Klang Valley.

In the meantime, please take note of the following postings we have made in the past about the walkways:

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