Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kuala Lumpur the Abnormal City

Posted by St Low
Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The problem lies not just with the city and the city planners but also with it's inhabitants.

It’s easy to blame everybody else, particularly Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) and the government for problems faced by Kuala Lumpur, especially the perennial problem of traffic

congestion.

People in the city are not civic-minded; they park their vehicles everywhere, even in the middle of the road, just so they do not have to walk a little to go to the shops, etc.

And the government can never make it right. Everything they do, or had done or tried to do to make life in Kuala Lumpur better will definitely be met with rejection. And they have found this to be especially true in the last general election when they lost many more votes than before especially in areas where stiff action had been taken to make cities cleaner and more comfortable.

There are just too many illegal activities in the city, and to wipe them off will cause the government to be less popular.

The people have been taught the culture of blaming others and not themselves. Many have become lawless and engage in illegal activities. And they become some of the major reasons why there is no peace in the city.

And for the authorities to act against these illegal activities, the people must bear with them to see their efforts come to fruition and not express their discontent by not voting the government in again when elections come around.

Yes, there are many selfish people in the city who care only for themselves and not for the city itself and the others who also live there.

There are many people who want to conduct their business activities illegally and in their own way turn every pavement, sidewalk and terrace house into their godown, store rooms and restaurants or sundry stores.

The roads are too narrow and the new town centers are poorly designed, causing traffic congestion. Garbage collection is collected irregularly and is poorly done, so there are garbage dumps everywhere especially during long weekend breaks and other public holidays.

Blame all these on the authorities?

Try and blame the inhabitants of the city for a change. What have they all done to deserve the city they live in?

If they are too careless and neglectful, and do not contribute by keeping their areas clean, then they should not blame others if bigger problems arise in the form of traffic congestion or a dirty environment.

To blame just the government and especially DBKL for neglect and inefficiency is wrong. The authorites can only do so much. But, if the city-dwellers, especially those who are affected do not welcome it, then there is not much the government can do to the city to make it a nice place for everybody else.


Little things have a tendency to collect and become bigger. And a big issue or problem faced by the city is traffic congestion. There is no one reason or factor that causes this, and there is no one way that it can be solved altogether.

The traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur is abnormal for a city of its size. This is because Kuala Lumpur itself is not a normal city. There is no other city of its size in the world which has similar traffic problems.

The early administrators of Kuala Lumpur mostly lived within walking distances to the city center which was in the Mesjid Jamek and Jalan Melaka areas, and further up to Jalan Petaling. Only a few vehicles and ox-carts and horses could be seen travelling or parked on the roads.

However, since the early 1970s when our politicians started to dream of turning what seemed to be a well-planned city into a bigger city with more tall buildings and shopping complexes or hotels and office buildings, that everything turned haywire.

Life in Kuala Lumpur was not what it was supposed to be anymore. And the city started to deteriorate, and the nature of its well-balanced life changed for the worse.

This, unfortunately, can be manifested by the traffic congestion that can be seen today.

Kuala Lumpur has now ceased to become a real city in the right sense of the word. It is now no more than a huge shopping and office complex with most of the major hotel chains operating in it.

Hardly anyone actually lives in the city. Many high-rise apartment buildings in the city center had been demolished as they have been deemed to be ‘eyesores’, and in their places now stand much taller buildings meant only for commercial purposes like offices and hotels.

Unlike much bigger cities such as London, Tokyo, New York City and Paris, people actually live in them, and they can just go down the elevators to shop and walk a short distance to a cinema without even having to take the bus or taxi or subway.

In Kuala Lumpur on the other hand, people have been relocated outside the city. Kuala Lumpur has no place for dwellers; only shoppers, office workers and tourists.

And because of this there is a tide of people flowing into the city in the morning to get to work; and later in the evening the tide reverses with the same people stuck in traffic in every mode of transportation trying to return home, often reaching their houses late at night and having just enough time to sleep before having to wake up early the next morning to repeat the performance.

Therefore, the greatest mistake made by the authorities since the early 1970s is to relocate the inhabitants and demolish their living quarters in the city and replacing them only with tall buildings meant for commercial purposes which are dead after office hours.

In other cities, these buildings are still lit as they are also apartments for those who live there. So, many of them do not have to travel much or take public transportation to go to work. They just need to take the elevator to go to their offices or in other cases, take a short walk and they can get inside their offices.

Kuala Lumpur has been developed by leaps and bounds to turn it into a so-called modern mega-city but no thought was put in to maintain it's soul. Having more office buildings or parking lots will not ease traffic congession. We need more living spaces.

Forget about developing Pudu Jail. Turn it into a park. A new high-rise building in the already congested Jalan Pudu/Jalan Bukit Bintang area will bring more traffic there.

Even recently built buildings such as the Selangor and Malayan Mansions are now being threatened with extinction. In their place, taller commercial buildings are planned. Here, thousands of people have lived and it had created a life of its own, unique to the city, like a living museum. All that it needs is to be upgraded and not demolished.

Our authorities seem to think that tall buildings tend to give a good impression that our cities are modern. But, what they do not seem to realize is that with each tall building, the traffic flow will be affected, as these buildings attract people like magnets.

Big shopping complexes or hotels and offices are the real culprits in that they attract traffic congestion and especially if there is an event happening that attracts hundreds and possibly thousands of people or guests.

Smaller shopping complexes do not have the prestige which bigger ones have, but they do not result in congestion of people and traffic.

In Bombay, Madras and Calcutta or Old Delhi, people have not much use for public transportation because they live and work right in the city. Few have to travel into the city to go to work like what is happening in Kuala Lumpur. As such, traffic congestion in these much larger cities is noticeably less.

There is even less need to own personal vehicles.

Many people in big cities like those in Tokyo, New York or London do not even own cars because they have no need to do so although they can afford to.

Here in Kuala Lumpur, not owning a car means that someone is poor. So everybody will try to own at least one. Also, because of the atrocious public transportation and the fact that they have been relocated to living outside the city centre, owning a car is a must so they may be able to commute to their offices and for shopping.

Because everything seems to have been stacked into Kuala Lumpur, it appears to be a city where it is always trying to please everybody. And as a result it suffers as nobody gets pleased.

There must be a total freeze on the development of available land in Kuala Lumpur for commercial buildings. No more new hotels or shopping and office complexes. New ones must be located outside the city in new lands so that the traffic flow will be more varied.

New areas can be developed in the area from the city to KLIA which is now wide open space.

If I can advise the authorities who are now keen to solve the traffic woes in Kuala Lumpur, it would be this: Forget about minor solutions; try to find the major ones as have been described above.

The bus lanes are illogical to say the least as these buses will be clogged again at places where there are no special lanes for them. In the mean time, the roads affected with the introduction of these lanes will be narrowed and thus clog other vehicles who are making way for these buses to run. And the LRT dumps commuters onto streets with no sidewalks for them to walk on and if there is it will be taken up by illegal traders parking their stalls or motorists parking their cars indiscriminately.

Kuala Lumpur has been destroyed, save for some old buildings. And with its destruction and unplanned or misplanned reconstruction, comes traffic congestion. Traffic and pedestrian flow in the city have been left in total disarray, as a result.

Where can one walk at ease or sit on benches on the sidewalks in Kuala Lumpur like one can do in Oxford Street in London, or Park Avenue in New York City, or the Ginza in Tokyo?

By Mansor Puteh

Source : Malaysia-Today

So...this is Malaysia !!

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