Safer pedestrian ways a must to restore faith in public transport

TRANSIT takes note on the Subang Jaya Municipal Council’s proposal to pull view-blocking advertisements off overhead pedestrian bridges after the media spotlight on the chilling cold-blooded murder of a public transport user on a Sungai Way pedestrian bridge not far from the bustling Sunway Pyramid commercial area.

As walking remains the single greatest mean for people to reach public transport, it is essential for the authorities with vested mutual interest in holistically improving mass transit modal share to not close one eye on the safety of the pedestrian routes attached to each and every transit nodes (train stations, bus stops etc). While we applaud on the planned steps to secure public transport users’ faith, there should be a more well-coordinated and concerted efforts to ensure that the current systemic ignorance in putting pedestrian parameter as a priority in mass transit planning will be corrected once and for all.

PETALING JAYA: Owners of advertising billboards on pedestrian bridges will need to relocate their signboards to the top of bridges, a measure the Subang Jaya Municipal Council is taking to make them safer.Council president Datuk Adnan Md Ikshan said they would write to pedestrian bridges owners across major highways, such as Kesas Highway and New Pantai Expressway, to have the board which presently sit parallel to the railings, moved to the top.

“Pedestrian bridges were built by highway concessionaires and are owned by them. For public safety, we want their cooperation to relocate the boards and also improve lighting along the bridges,” he said.

“MPSJ will look into having closed-circuit television (CCTVs) installed on the bridges after we discuss this with the police.”

He was commenting on MPSJ’s immediate measures following the death of kindergarten teacher Leong Lai Yoong at the hands of a snatch thief along an overhead bridge in Sungei Way last month.

Selangor police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said police will recommend increasing CCTVs in crime-prone areas in the State, including on pedestrian bridges.

“Lighting along pedestrian bridges also needs to be looked into and signboards which block the view of the walkways need to be removed,” he said.

“We will also monitor pedestrian bridges to deter trouble.”

Subang Jaya Assemblyman Hannah Yeoh was briefed on the incident from the officer-in-charge of the Bandar Sunway police station Inspector Muniandy Rethiah, She said the Council should look at installing CCTVs and enhancing its lightings.

“MPSJ must relook its policy on advertising billboards on bridges and also get highway concessionaires to comply with its decisions.”

Yeoh said increased police presence and successful prosecution of snatch thiefs need to be highlighted as well. “Snatch thefts must not be treated as petty crime.”

Several Subang Jaya councillors also gave their views when contacted.

Zone 1 councillor Dr Loi Kheng Min: “I think safety at pedestrian bridges has to be improved. CCTVs and panic buttons may help to overcome certain constraints since snatch thefts can happen anywhere. I hope future pedestrian bridges will have CCTVs or panic buttons. It has to also be free of vandalism. Some bridges are poorly lit. They need to be brightened. The public should also be taught safety awareness and trained how to handle a snatch thief.”

Zone 2 councillor Edward Ling: “We need a dual commitment for targetted enforcement and prevention from leading policy-makers, such as chief of police and the local council. This includes having law enforcement resources deployed with regular patrolling in line with crime prevention objectives. There is also a need to reassess the placement of signboards and advertisements.”

Zone 3 councillor Rajiv Rishyakaran: “It’s time for police to get serious in combating crime. Often criminals think they can get away because the police do not solve crime as fast as they should, Also, the policy by MPSJ to relocate advertisements is good. I hope the council will be diligent to ensure the policy is well enforced.”

TRANSIT highly recommends the following priorities be implemented to ensure safer and user-friendly pedestrian walkways:

1) Standards and guidelines for pedestrian-friendly streets, paths and walkways

A standard guideline on pedestrian routes (path, walkway, bridges etc) leading to transit points must be established, and we believe the existing loose standards from both the federal or the state governments (the National Physical Plan down to the Local Structural Plan) can be further refined by SPAD in partnership with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

The pedestrian overpass connecting the Federal Highway's eastbound and westbound Batu Tiga bus stops with Batu Tiga Komuter station with uneven and steep stairs, unsheltered pathways and obstructed railings is anything but user-friendly.
Prasarana promised for new, expensive and safe walkways in Kuala Lumpur while the existing pedestrian paths such as this unlit one in front of Taman Melati LRT station are ignored

2) Coordination of planning, monitoring and enforcement powers

Powers from different authorities (local authorities, police) need to be delegated accordingly to ensure effective implementation of standards and rules of procedures in the setting up of user-friendly pedestrian routes. It it too simplistic to ask highway concessionaires to ‘cooperate’, as infrastructure not relevant to the concessionaires’ cup of tea (drivers utilizing the motorways) should be surrendered to the local authorities for greater monitoring and control. Remember the construction of the Jalan Subang – Summit/KESAS bypass which was once halted by an overhead pedestrian bridge which couldn’t be removed due to a silly advertising contract attached to the bridge? Advertising should not be the core business of any authorities in charge of facilitating human mobility!

3) Fair allocation of resources to ensure current complex networks of pedestrian pathways are up to the established standards

What more can be said of the proposed encapsulated walkways in the Kuala Lumpur golden triangle area and around the LRT stations which cost hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money. Our political masters aim Kuala Lumpur to be a world-class city standard in less than 10 years, and yet none of them have ever demonstrated that they exclusively use public transport in Kuala Lumpur in order to enjoy the experience of walking through zig-zagging pedestrian tunnels just to cross a street.

In other words, modern homosapiens will use their brains’ amazing computational power to calculate the cost-benefit analysis of taking that extra time and effort to cross a busy yet slow moving traffic to get to a convenience store few metres away, and as Kuala Lumpur traffic is always held at a bottlenecking gridlock, crossing the street at grade level seems to be the most rational thing to do. At grade zebra crossings are common in the central business districts (CBDs) of other world-class cities such as Tokyo, London and New York.

This photo of KL Pavilion's pedestrian walkway speaks a thousand words. We've seen similar situations at pedestrian overpasses in Jalan Ampang (LRT Dang Wangi) and Jalan Pudu.
Wide streets should not be an obstacle for on grade pedestrian crossings such as this one in midtown Ginza, Tokyo. Similar pedestrian movement patterns can be observed in other world-class cities.

Lastly, TRANSIT would like to reiterate that MASS RAPID TRANSIT JOURNEY BEGINS WITH THE 1st STEP. Walking remains the single biggest mean of accessing mass transit. In the CBD, navigational signs, security surveillance, pedestrian-prioritized traffic and clear, unobstructed walkways are the prerequisites of mass rapid transit. Outside of CBD, emergency facilities, walking path signals and short cuts, curb ramps and refuge islands, and ample shaded pathways with buffers will increase mass rapid transit’s attractiveness.

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