Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, June 08, 2006

From the press: Sidewalks ...

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City Says All Sidewalks Will Be Narrowed
By Kuch Naren and Elizabeth Tomei
For The Cambodian Daily, June 6, 2006

To cope with Phnom Penh’s burgeoning traffic problem, the municipality is planning to cut into sidewalks along all the streets in the capital, municipal officials said.
The municipality has already narrowed sidewalks by at least one meter along 100-meter stretches at three major intersections in the capital, on Monivong, Sihanoukand Russian Confederation boulevards.
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said Sunday that the citywide pavement narrowing project will help make more room for cars, and should not be problematic as few people use the capital’s sidewalks anyway.
“I want to reduce all the sidewalks to be smaller and smaller because our people use cars and motorbikes. We do not like to walk” Kep Chuktema said.
“Sidewalks have been used as car parks or to keep goods in anarchy,” he said.
“The municipality will reduce all sidewalks on all Phnom Penh’s streets,” Kep Chuktema said, adding that the project will be carried out once sufficient funds are found.
Barriers will also be built to prevent vehicles from parking on the narrowed sidewalks, he said.
Nhem Saran, director of the Municipal Public Works and Transport Department, said the wider intersections resulting from the narrower sidewalks have been fitted with new traffic lights.
The municipality also intends to mark additional traffic lanes to divide vehicle traffic at intersections, he added.
Several Phnom Penh residents welcomed the shortened sidewalks. “Cambodian people love driving cars and motorbikes rather than walking along the sidewalk, so the enlarged roads and smaller sidewalks do not affect my business,” said Sao Sokhalay, who sells electronics out of his home on Monivong Boulevard.
Ruos Vannary, 29, who operates a printing business from a small table on Monivong Boulevard near Wat Koh pagoda said that there are few pedestrians in the capital and that she has no objection to the sidewalks being narrowed.
But not everyone welcomed the project. Architect Helen Grant-Ross said it reflected a common attitude among some officials.
“They prefer cars to people,” she said, and declined further comment.
Jean van Wetter, coordinator of operations for Handicap International, which monitors traffic accidents in Cambodia, said side-walks are necessary for pedestrians.
“There is no place for pedestrians in Phnom Penh,” he said.
Van Wetter added that 10 percent of all traffic causalities are pedestrians, often those who are forced to walk on the road because there is already so little space on the sidewalk.

• Are Cambodians afraid of walking? Maybe a point there. It certainly isn’t a popular past-time. And only the expats complaining. Then again these kinds of changes do not encourage walking.
• The construction of one meter wider sidewalks started back in February. Now, June 7, they still haven’t completed them.
• What’s next to expect? Roads exclusively for parliamentarians’ Humvee’s?
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