Not long ago, while walking along a dim ‘five-foot way’ in town, my knee struck against a parked motorbike in the shadows. “Ouch! Man, that hurt,” I thought to myself, with none-too-pleasant thoughts about the person who had parked the bike there and the council for allowing such things to continue happening.
MBPP enforcement officers are continuing operations to clear obstructed pavement in Penang Island, this time outside George Town. Enforcement officers were seen issuing a summons to a mini-market for placing stuff on the ‘five-foot way’ outside a row of shops. At least two mini-markets and a mobile phone accessories and top-up outlet were issued notices.
One officer was overheard explaining to retail employee while writing up a penalty sheet that shops are only allowed to display their material until the front door. The area outside the front door is for public use, he said.
I asked one of the enforcement personnel what the penalty was, and he said it was RM250; and affected shop-owners would have to go to Komtar to settle it.
When asked if any warnings had been issued, he said that they had not given prior warning. “Shop-owners should be aware as this is an old regulation (from the 1970s?) and we have been checking on this among other things over the years.”
What happens if these pavements continue to be obstructed? He shrugged and said operations would continue.
The challenge of clearing obstructed pavements is huge and involves a shift in our mindset so that we uphold the rights of pedestrians.
If we really want to become a liveable city, we all need to respect pedestrian rights and ensure that pavements are kept free from obstructions such as indiscriminately parked cars, motorbikes, display stands and even lamp-posts! Why, this might even be good for small businesses, presently struggling during these tough times: if pavements are unobstructed, pedestrian flow will improve as people will find it easier to walk nearer to the shopfronts instead of walking on the streets, further away from the shops.
So well done to the MBPP in this instance, but can such enforcement action be consistent and sustained? Much also depends on the integrity and honesty of the enforcement personnel.
A network of pedestrian-friendly pavements would be a vital ingredient in a Penang mobility masterplan. Unfortunately, we don’t hear much of that discussed in the RM46bn proposals for the implementation of the Penang transport masterplan.