This article critiquing a proposal for the construction of a cable car system appeared in the webpage of the Penang Forum Steering Committee on 10 December 2013. The original is available at web site of the Penang Forum at http://penangforum.net/.
6.1 Pedestrian Overpasses
A pedestrian overpass allows pedestrians safe crossing over busy roads without impeding traffic.
There was a time that these grafted bits or road-related infrastructure seemed to make sense. A mark of that time was the implicit assumption that “traffic” meant cars and that it made perfect sense to give them priority over pedestrians, cyclists and anybody else who might wish to cross a busy road. That time has now passed.
GEORGE TOWN, Sept 23 — A predilection for cars means that 80 per cent of transport funding is used to cater for the needs of 20 per cent of society, according to a public transport proponent today.
World Car Free Day founder Eric Britton pointed out this uneven distribution in public expenditure was an issue in many modern cities, including Penang.
“It should be the other way around where only 20 per cent funding is needed and it can fulfil the needs of 80 per cent of the society,” he said during a media focus group under the Sustainable Penang: Toward a New Mobility Agenda two-week programme this morning.
In a bid to change that, Britton is here for the two-week Sustainable Penang: Towards a New Mobility Agenda.
The programme, which will consist of daily events such as more focus groups and dialogue sessions between Britton and various groups, from non-governmental organisations to relevant government agencies, will hopefully give rise to 21 small sustainable transportation projects that could be implemented in the next 15 months in the state.
“We want to work towards the planned 2015 Penang conference on Implementing Sustainable Transport in Smaller Asian Cities so we hope to have something to share by then,” he said.
According to Britton, Penang’s transport system is “over-built” and “poorly used” as most infrastructure was catered to those who travel by cars.
“Why not build infrastructure for the groups that don’t travel by cars such as the disabled, the very young or the very old? When infrastructure is built for them and systems put to ease their mobility, the system will suit everyone, not just one group of people,” he said.
He said if Penang were to continue to be driven by its fast-paced automobile industry, it will soon end up as a city that is not only unsustainable but also not liveable.
He expressed his disappointment at the fast pace with which Penang has adapted to what he termed as a “car culture” where there are more cars on the roads than expected.
“Now that Penang is in this unacceptable present trend, it will be a challenge to change it and this will require the participation of civil societies to get the message across,” he said.
Amongst the proposals to be considered to deal with such challenges include removing half of the more than 8,000 traffic lights in the state.
“We are in a start and stop system so it would be great for Penang to remove half the traffic lights currently installed and have in place a better traffic flow system,” he said.
Other suggestions he came up with that could make up the 21 projects include having a dedicated bicycle lane, creating laws and infrastructure to allow safer mobility for those who don’t travel by cars, lowering the speed limits so that motorcyclists can share the roads safely with cars and letting each project be a learning experience for all road users to change mindsets and trends.
“For these projects to succeed, all large transportation projects should be set aside and the funds be used to implement these smaller projects which will in the long run prove to be more effective in managing the transportation and traffic flow system,” Britton said.
The two-week programme is from September 22 until October 5.
For a full list of the events, visit www.sustainablepenang.wordpress.com.
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Hardly a day that passes that someone somewhere on this gasping planet does not come up with a bright idea for a project for constructing high cost new infrastructure the main achievement of which ultimately will be to increase the number of vehicles in whatever the given space is. This is so well known at the leading edge of transportation thinking and practice that it would be hardly worthy of discussion, other than the fact that these bright ideas appear all too often and in all too many places. They need to be dealt with in a positive sense and with as much diplomacy as we can muster.
Here is a perfect example from Penang which is refreshing given the way in which the author takes on the challenge of making a positive proposal instead of just lambasting the tunnel option. One might prefer not to specify the technology that will be used to improve throughput on the existing road/bridge system in this increasingly congested part of the world (in this case LRT or monorail). However the main fundamentals are in place in this excellent newspaper article and worthy of the attention of all of those of us who care about sustainable transport, and above all the people and voters of Penang who are in a position to make this choice themselves — and not have the final decision foisted on them by people with approaches and agendas that do not necessarily match up with sustainable transport policy and practice in the 21st-century. After all, it is their city.