12 steps to a more liveable George Town


This is blog visitor tunglang’s vision of a liveable and commuter-friendly inner-city George Town and how it can be achieved:

A tram cruising along Chulia St circa 1918 – Thanks to Ric Francis for this postcard image from his collection; also appeared in his book Penang Trams, Trolleybuses and Railways
A tram cruising along Chulia St circa 1918 – Thanks to Ric Francis for this postcard image from his collection; also appeared in his book Penang Trams, Trolleybuses and Railways

  1. Trams plying the streets of old-world-charm George Town.
  2. Rapid buses serving the main artery roads (not competing with trams along heritage routes).
  3. Pedal-powered trishaws (at premium fees) serving the tourists, motorised trishaws (at standardised fees) serving Penangites.
  4. Bicycles as convenient inner city transportation. We have many streets connected by lorongs – back lanes which can also serve as networks of safe bicycle routes instead of cyclists competing for tight road space with Speedy Gonzales MyVis and Kenaris. Bicycle rental can be a public facility option as some cannot afford to buy ‘Bing Chui’ designer bicycles, which may cost more than a Honda bike. Rapid bus can do its part in encouraging dual-mode travelling by installing on-bus bicycle racks.
  5. All pavements and five-foot ways to ensure accessiblity for people with disabilities. More street benches for tired walkers, cyclists and pensioners.
  6. Evening horse or lembu carriages serving the inner city for enjoyable rides amidst a leisurely ambience.
  7. More shady trees lining our streets and more water fountains/mist fans at street corners cooling the hot air, absorbing the carbon monoxide. This will make inner city travelling more bearable.
  8. Empty walls turned into vertical gardens of tropical delight and tranquility zones. Some can even incorporate a mini waterfall. (Better than the disastrous Tanjung Bungah waterfalls during the rainy season).
  9. And to add value to a liveable (and safe) city with tourism potential: Encourage, support and subsidise old trades and craft shops as permanent features and attractions of old world charm in George Town.
  10. Side lanes (lorongs) ‘dedicated’ to heavenly street food (e.g. Lebuh Keng Kwee for TeowChew Chendol), weekend street art demos and weekend flea markets. Wouldn’t it be great to walk, cycle or go trishaw-ing around for great street cuisine, fine arts and souvenir bargain hunting?
  11. Day and night museums of all kinds relevant to the local historical and cultural context (e.g. Nyonya Museum @ Church Street). I would love to add a Ghee Hin+Hai San Museum.
  12. Part-timers serving as tourist information guides and street safety officers for a safe, enjoyable and memorable experience of old world charm in inner city George Town.
READ MORE:  What is stopping more Penangites from taking the bus and cycling?

We don’t need to search far for workable ideas instead of copying Hong Kong or SingLand for heritage ‘lifeless-ness’ or introducing expensive inspirations of fleeting, unsustainable values.

What we had (in the past), recognised worldwide and still breathing now with potential for wholesome realisation, can truly serve the needs of locals (first). It just takes a little bit more creativity and self-confidence among Penangites to make a difference instead of becoming a ‘commercialised wildebeest’ of herd mentality chasing after a global cosmopolitan development concept.

Thanks, tunglang, for the above. What do you think? Are these ideas feasible?

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  1. The vision as outlined in the article will not be realised as there are simply too many vehicles on the roads of Penang. Soon we will see air pollution like that in Beijing?

  2. Long time no food talk. Any increase in Penang hawker food?
    I heard price not yet increased but portion is reduced!

  3. You cannot “go back” to the old day of 300k population lifestyle with today 1.5 millions dense city. But technology advancement give us a chance to build a lifestyle WAY BETTER than 30 years ago.

    “Crazy” european now enjoy fresher air, relax lifestyle while most Malaysia city folks complain they are “busy making money” (while slowly killing themselves with unhealthy lifestyle ) .

    Getting bicycle back to the city is not a “crazy deal” in Penang. Weather is the excuses. A well plan policies is a must.
    – Bicycle stands, tree shades, bicycle road, reduce car parking,
    – campaign for alternate vehicles.
    – air pollution campaign
    – health campaign,
    – Enforcement on road condition – enforcement and fine on irresponsible lorry that carry sand gravels and cements,
    – Awareness of heat island effect, campaign to cut down road rather than expanding it. (Whoever want to make the expanded road please raise their hand)
    – Campaign on energy cost related to the lifestyle. etc

  4. Spit it out: LESS PRIVATE CARS.

    The planet is being destroyed by acquisitiveness, exploitation and pollution. Behind all this is CORRUPTION and HYPOCRISY. Streets overrun by cars and roads expanded to serve them epitomise this. What you don’t see is the stupendous mining required to support this madness.

    There are many other details to consider, e.g.
    (a) criminal lack of enforcement, e.g. rats, no public and private dustbins and waste baskets.
    (b) useless infrastructure, e.g. overhead bridges instead of traffic lights.
    (c) blocked and uneven shophouse corridors and sidewalks.
    (d) bicycle stands.
    (e) new buses that will take foldable bicycles on board.
    (f) “traffic calming” measures including speed bumps and narrower roads.

  5. Too bad frogiies like Zahrain instead of competent administrators were rewarded. Or remember how … a froggie and reap big rewards that she is now a multi millionaire driving 500k Mercedes. It is really a bluff 1Malaysia and bad day for Malaysia on Malaysia Day. But the people did have eyes and all these racist from Noordin, Ibrahim and Hassan were rejected. It is left to the ignorant rural poor now in suffering and crying for help after being deceived by the BRIM 500. Did I not say that N will take back 20 times what he gave you. Crying over spilt mill is too late. Wake up these rural poor especially all those rural Malays, Indian and indigenous and don`t be deceived by Gerkan just like N whose words cannot be trusted. Remember Teng Chang Yeow words, I will resign and step down and will not stand for election. Now will the bluffer, pormnstar, adulterer … keep his word of stepping down. Yours guess is as good as mine.

      • These 2 parties are democratic ones. Any member can contest any posts as allowed by respective party’s constitution. Unlike some party that amend the party election result at whim and fancy. Then cry-out-loud innocent !!! Please-lah, even highly worshiped politician needs following the law.

        p/s: FAT is discriminative word. Many people dislike being called FAT. You can be sued by calling someone else FAT.

  6. The probability for such 12 steps = Anwar September 16 frogging project 5 years ago = Nil

    By the way, I still waiting for 30 MPs to jump ship to PR. Happy frogging day. Er, correction, it should be happy Malaysia day for all !!!

  7. I could still remember many wonderful goh kaki lifestyle when I was a kid staying next door to Craven A Cafe, Macalister Road.

    The 5 foot way (goh kaki) was a multi-purpose public space. I got to learn my first lessons of cycling an adult men’s Bengali bicycle (the one with a formidable horizontal bar frame that’s hazardous to a manly’s sole prize) & on one occasion I failed to apply an emergency hand-brake & ended up in the cool-dip monsoon drain.
    Then in the 50s-60s, the goh kaki was a straight thoroughfare void of hawker stalls, business displays, not even a single bicycle parked at the risk of frequent & hardworking City Council bicycle-sweeping of obstruction rounds.
    Kids got to enjoy afternoon games like A-chi-lote, 5-square one-leg hops, gasing, gecko target shooting & even 50 meters races.
    Afternoon was also a hungry time to look forward to Indian Man Kueh-kueh & Asam Laksi binge at the cool goh kaki (round aluminium food trays full of Nyonya kueh were displayed for hungry eyes, heavenly aroma of Laksa flooded the passage till 6-doors-away chai tiam mah).
    My lady neighbor who had a white furry dog without haircuts let it ‘body-mop’ clean the goh kaki after a morning bath!
    And one chai tiam mah (sundry shop) was a crowded goh kaki every evening with free black&white TV shows. I could always replay in my intoxicated mind the sexy strip-teasing Eveready Lady Cat commercial – how’s that for free energizing one’s low libido that downing a cuppa of Tongkat Ali?

    Those were the days people used the goh kaki to the max without causing social inconveniences. Instead the five-foot passage encouraged closer human interactions, neighbours & strangers alike. I could remember a RAAF officer waking me up with an Aussie smile from my afternoon siesta on a long bench in front of my father’s Kopi-O coffee bean shop.

    Cheers Kopi-O kau kau to wonderful memories of goh kaki @ Goh Pha Teng.

    • What wonderful, old-world stories you always tell, Tunglang. I have read many of them. Every time I do so, I pause, to think about them and to enjoy them. “12 steps to a more livable Georgetown” has the heart in the right place. Hope many of these suggestions will be adopted.

  8. No5 All pavements and five-foot ways to ensure accessiblity for people with disabilities. More street benches for tired walkers, cyclists and pensioners.

    Sorry to note many pavements & kaki 5 not accessible when motorbikes are parked there and hawkers extended their trade zones there as well. At Chulia St some even purposely blocked the pavements !

    MPPP must be firmed to issue summons.

    • No need to issue summons. Just confiscate or demolish anything on the pavements which are not supposed to be there. In Sg, if you do that they confiscate your goods, if you talk on the phone while driving, they confiscate the phone, if you have illegal extensions, they demolish it. Solves the problem immediately without hassle to anyone.

  9. Whatever developments in Penang will be much better than that of any of the states that is controlled by Umno. One can be critical about what is going on in Penang, with all the developments that are taking place in Penang the benefits of these, at the end, are going to the people of Penang and not into the pockets or bank accounts of Umno’s warlords and cronies ! But one thing don’t wait or expect the turncoat Najib to build any part of the 1 million affordable houses in Penang that he promised !

  10. very much like no 6…but instead of horse and lembu cart…make it rickshaws to ferry the rakyat, being pulled by mps and aduns from all the political parties

    • It’s no joke! Let them sweat (in the heat of dissatisfactions), put in extra effort+action (instead of just never-ending forums but no accountable follow-up action), & don’t ever fancy ‘charging high, deliver low quality’ (high cost of frenzy cosmopolitan lifestyle) to Kiam Siap Kuis Penangites.

      As the highly worshipped (24/7/365) CM said, we are trouble makers questioning the questionable state of development, which is beyond miles of sensibility of any peaceful Penangite.


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