If only we could have more tree-lined pedestrian walkways like this all over Penang and indeed other urban centres in Malaysia. It is not impossible as this project clearly shows.
This spacious tree-lined pavement along the Esplanade is a good example of an accessible pedestrian walkway.
It is located opposite the Penang state assembly building and was upgraded recently as a commitment by the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) to improve accessibility in the heritage area.
The improvements in the walkway were recommended by a UNDP-Government of Malaysia project on Accessible Public Transport. Some RM70,000 was spent by the MPPP in 2009 on enhancing the path. If more of the recommendations are implemented, Penang would have a very accessible pedestrian network around the heritage area.
Some of the work was done in the past. Now, it is a matter of connecting the walkways, correcting design flaws to make them more accessible to people with disabilities, planting trees to make the walkways shady, removing obstacles from walkways and, of course, enforcement.
Already a couple of stretches of more accessible walkways can be seen in the city – along the main gates of the state assembly building and the stretch from St Nicholas School leading to the Penang Adventist Hospital. More work is needed to make all pavements in the Penang accessible and shaded by trees.
We should also consider widening the pavements in George Town and elsewhere. For those who say that this will eat into road-space for motor vehicles, take a look at Oxford Street in the heart of London and look at how wide the pedestrian walkways are on either side of the road. The road itself is narrow and largely restricted to buses and taxis.
And this is one of London’s busiest streets. Of course, they have the London Underground, but a good surface public transport system could work just as well.
So why not Penang Road, Burma Road and Macalister Road, to name a few?
Oxford Street in Central London – Photo courtesy of Wikipedia