Driving

Living dangerously – I went for a walk

Mostly it’s not easy crossing Gurney Drive on foot.

But I thought I was doing everything right. A brief break in the traffic was coming, which is often all you can hope for, with a motorcycle proceeding straight ahead in the left lane. So I started across the right lane, ready to nip behind the motorcycle and cross before the next car came. Suddenly the motorcycle swerved right and almost hit me, to turn into a side street.

Normally to judge if a vehicle is turning one looks for a turn indicator (bearing in mind that for motorcycles they are often indicating simply because the indicators weren’t cancelled), being in the turning lane – in this case the right lane, and the vehicle slowing down. This motorcyclist did none of these.

So for more safety, now I think I should cross where there are no nearby side streets. However, walking along the other footpath, one is often blocked by parked cars and forced onto the road, anyway.

Very recently a lady was knocked over and killed on a pedestrian crossing by a motorcyclist at a red light on nearby Kelawei Road.  Whenever you cross a road you must watch for motorcyclists who ride between cars, and often ignore red lights, too.  You can’t just look straight ahead and cross safely.

 

A note about parking

Just walking along Gurney Drive this morning I noticed a newish car jacked up with a missing wheel parked in a numbered parking space – with a parking ticket.  Even though he’s probably got a flat tyre or some other wheel problem that forced him to park there, and he’s not disturbing anyone, as there are plenty of other free spaces.

Last week I saw two parking enforcement guys on motorbikes giving out tickets to cars parked in designated spaces without displaying the required coupons.  And right nearby is a street where it’s illegal to park, but which is full of cars.  These guys weren’t responsible for that kind of parking, and these cars weren’t ticketed.

So it seems to me that parking illegally, even when causing great inconvenience for other road users and pedestrians, is much less likely to get you a parking ticket, as these violations are the responsibility of the police, who only check very rarely. If you park in a numbered spot without displaying the coupon you have a good chance of getting a ticket.  Even if broken down.

this is a numbered spot, but the paint is now very faded

Penang to Kuala Lumpur by plane, train, bus and car – March 2017

You have a few choices travelling between Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

Plane

The main carriers from Penang to Kuala Lumpur are Malaysian Airlines and Air Asia.  Kuala Lumpur has two main terminals at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).  KLIA, which is where the full service airlines fly to and from, and KLIA2, which the low cost airlines use.  (There is another airport, Subang, which Firefly and Berjaya Air operate from, which is likely to be useful only if you wish to go to that area.)  Prices vary, but can be very cheap – as cheap as bus or train fares.

Air Asia web site

Malaysian Airlines web site

Air Asia

A flight takes only about 45 minutes, and in that time on Malaysian Airlines they serve a drink in a plastic container and a packet of peanuts, and then come around to collect the rubbish.  Those two activities take up the cabin crews’ time while at crusing height.

the cabin in economy

peanuts and juice

the seat back – screen not activated for use on this short flight

On Air Asia you would not normally be served anything, but of course the flight time is similar.

Train

KTM – train company web site – note that for purposes of the web site your point of origin is Butterworth, and destination is Sentral Kuala Lumpur.

For more information and links please see http://www.travel-penang-malaysia.com/ktmb-ets-schedule.html

Penang now has the ETS – Electric Train Service – meaning that the journey to KL from Penang-Butterworth can take as little as just over four hours. This  provides more comfort and safety than buses, in a similar travel time, and for a similar price as the better bus companies.

For my blog about a recent train ride from Penang to KL see here

Bus

Penang to KL by bus

KL to Penang by bus

Aeroline bus company

Transnasional bus company

Nice bus company

Konsortium bus company

There are many more bus companies.

Car

Driving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur

Heading south – typical landscape

And which is best?  Of course, this is hard to say.  Let’s compare them in terms of travelling time, cost, scenery and enjoyment.

Plane:

If your destination is KL, then let’s look at the time it will take.  You should be at the airport perhaps 1.5 hours before departure. Flight time is about 45 minutes, and then once you have landed it will take at least 45 minutes to collect your luggage if you have any, and to get into central KL, and more likely one hour or more. Thus total time from Penang airport to KL hotel is at least 3.5 hours.  That is faster than any other mode.  It can also be quite cheap if you catch one of the Air Asia specials. Catching a taxi to and from Penang airport, or parking charges there can add considerably to the cost, however.  There is no airport bus in Penang, just a local bus, which is not very frequent or reliable.  Using the Grabcar app from Gurney Plaza to the airport is about RM26. Uber may be similar. Apart from shortly after take off, the scenery you will see from the plane is not very interesting. It is more stressful flying, but if you are also flying out of KL, it can often be the easiest mode of transport.

If you are flying out of KLIA then flying is probably the best option.  The airline you choose usually depends on which terminal in KL you fly out from. In Penang, there is only one terminal, so there is no issue with convenience for any airline.  But in Kuala Lumpur there is KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) and KLIA2.  Air Asia flies to KLIA2, so if you are flying from KL on Air Asia, it makes sense to fly from Penang also on Air Asia. And if you are flying from KLIA, then you will probably want to choose a full service airline to fly on from Penang, as it will fly into KLIA.  Of course, you can transfer between KLIA and KLIA2, but it takes some time, and is less fun if you have luggage.

Train:

The train takes a similar time to the bus. It takes about four hours, or up to four and a half, depending on the schedule.  Occasionally incidents on the E1 motorway block or slow traffic,   which obviously won’t affect the train, but will the bus. You will also have the travelling time to the station at Butterworth, so add on at least an hour for the trip to the ferry terminal, and ferry to Butterworth.  It is very relaxing, though, and the scenery is better than travelling by air or road.

Bus:

Travelling time by bus can be from four and a half hours to more, depending on traffic. But you will probably leave home an hour before the bus departs, so this must be added to the total travelling time. Bus fares vary quite a bit depending on which company you choose to travel with. But the more expensive bus companies tend to be safer, and more comfortable. Aeroline, the most expensive company,   quotes on its web site a price of RM60 one way in March 2017. Of course, by bus or car the scenery will be the same, as either way you will be travelling on the E1 north-south motorway. Mostly, the scenery is not very exciting. However, around Ipoh, which is about half way, the scenery improves for a while. The bus can also be quite relaxing, depending on the skills of the driver – the cheaper the bus company, the worse the drivers, generally. Many people find the bus the most enjoyable way to travel this route. I would avoid any very late night / overnight bus journeys if at all possible, as bus drivers and other vehicle drivers have been known to fall asleep at the wheel.

Car:

When I drive, with three very short stops on the way, it takes about 4.5 hours in light traffic. By car you will presumably be driving directly from home to your destination, so it takes only about an hour more than flying. The road charges are about RM45, and I suppose you will use about RM70 for petrol, although this will vary quite a bit according to your car and driving style. Of course, there are other costs, but for me, as I don’t drive much anyway, it is really only these costs that count. RM115. Double the bus fare for one person, but if two or more people,competitive. Naturally you will be able to carry much more luggage, be able to visit other places en-route if you wish, and have use of the car in KL. You will have to pay for parking, however, which at many hotels is RM10 per day.

Is it fun to drive? Not particularly. It’s frustrating as the speed limit is pathetically low, and for the section of the road which is three lanes each way, the left lane is mostly empty, while most drivers drive in the middle lane, making overtaking in the left lane necessary when the right lane is also blocked by a slower vehicle. This is hardly ideal.

My conclusion:

The disadvantage of the train is that Butterworth station is a bit far from George Town, and you need to catch the ferry.  But the bus station has the same disadvantage, being next to the train station.  The other terminals for the bus are from Sungai Nibong or Queensbay Mall – also a bit far.  Then, you find the same disadvantages for the bus and train in KL, where the terminals are not central.  But the airport in Penang is further away, and the airport in KL is even further out, so really, unless you are flying out of KLIA, I find the train offers the best combination of safety, comfort and convenience to central Kuala Lumpur.

For historical interest you can see a much older blog on this topic

Selfish car parking on footpaths makes walking more dangerous

One should apparently exercise at least 30 minutes a day, and possibly the easiest and most pleasant exercise is walking.  In Penang this has been difficult in many places, but footpaths are being built and upgraded, so the situation is improving.

Unfortunately, some car drivers see footpaths as a convenient place to park so that they don’t have to walk.  Often this forces pedestrians  onto a busy road with cars driving quite fast, so you have to wait for a break in the traffic to get past the parked car blocking the footpath. Or risk getting killed.  Of course, car lanes are quite narrow here, so you have to be careful.  Better signposts indicating where safe and legal car parking is available might help.  If these drivers parked safely and walked a little, they would also improve their health.  In fact, when you see strategies for scheduling exercise, they often mention parking further from your destination and walking as one of them.

Some motorcyclists seem to view footpaths as a traffic free speedtrack.  The other day I was surprised by a motorcyclist zooming towards me at around 40km/h.  Others see it as a way to ignore one way streets.  And others just to avoid traffic on the road.

Some cyclists also use the footpath, but in my experience they ride quite slowly, and I haven’t yet felt threatened – and I sympathise, as facilities are as yet quite poor for cyclists, although they too are improving slowly.  Faster cyclists tend to cycle on the road.

Here are a few photos:

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

and it's not only cars

and it’s not only cars – every other bike was parked OK, but this owner chose to block the whole path

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

rubbish is also blocking the footpath

rubbish is also blocking the footpath

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking by bus – there is a long length of lane with a yellow line where he could park which would not block traffic, but instead he parks on the corner where he causes a jam when traffic is heavier.  These buses do this all the time – but occasionally a driver is more considerate.

inconsiderate bike parking

inconsiderate bike parking

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

I can squeeze past on the left - but he's also part blocking a car lane

I can squeeze past on the left – but he’s also part blocking a car lane

I can squeeze past on the left - but he's also part blocking a car lane

I can squeeze past on the left – but he’s also part blocking a car lane

hmm

hmm

did he really have to block - even parallel to the path would have been better

did he really have to block the path?- even parallel to the path would have been better

right in the middle of the path

right in the middle of the path

hmm

hmm

and a bicycle gets into the act - I almost fall down the embankment

and a bicycle gets into the act – I almost fall down the embankment

lot of them

lot of them

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

there's that rubbish blocking the path again

there’s that rubbish blocking the path again

inconsiderate parking

inconsiderate parking

motocyclist road - sometime they honk you to get out of the way

motorcyclist road – sometimes they honk you to get out of the way

motocyclist road

motorcyclist road

motocyclist road

motorcyclist road

motocyclist road

motorcyclist road

More people are walking today than before, I think – a mixture of tourists and locals.  It would be nice if pedestrians were respected.

parking your car in unfamiliar locations in Malaysia

It was a beautiful evening for a stroll along Gurney Drive.  But sadly I noticed a parking cop on a small motorcycle booking out-of-state cars, whose drivers no doubt didn’t understand the parking system.  The signs are few and very far apart.

parking cop on motorbike

parking cop on motorbike

parking ticket

parking ticket on out-of-state car

The same almost happened to me in Ipoh, but I luckily arrived back at my car just before the (very disappointed-looking) parking cop started writing a ticket.  Mine was the only car there, and parking spaces were nicely marked out, but I didn’t see any notice that one had to pay, and the car was not causing any inconvenience to anyone.

So it is a good idea to check on the parking system if you are going to park on the road somewhere unfamiliar.  Sometimes you are more likely to be booked if you park considerately in marked spaces (and don’t pay)  than if you park illegally somewhere which disrupts the traffic flow.  In fact, this is the way it was in Tokyo – but that’s another story.

 

Grabcar – much easier than regular taxis

One of the main things that expats and foreigners complain about in Malaysia is taxis.  I suspect the situation is worse in KL than in Penang.

So I won’t complain.  Apart from getting kidnapped once by an airport white taxi, my main complaint was lack of functioning rear seat belts sometimes.  But until recently I mainly drove anyway, so rarely caught a taxi.  And if I was flying out from the airport, or arriving at the airport,  I would book a driver I knew.

However, Mrs Tropicalexpat took to using Grabcar while I was away travelling.  And I have to admit, once I’d tried it myself I am sold.  I knew it existed, but I hadn’t really considered it before. Driving here, while improving, I think, it still something I do only when I really have to. Catching a bus is hit and miss, there being no timetable.  You could wait for hours for a bus to come, and you could get pickpocketed on the bus. Coming back from Bon Odori earlier in the year I tried to use Uber.  It was pouring with rain. Not a car around, so I had to walk home in the rain.  I didn’t try since.  Uber apparently gives you an estimation, whereas Grabcar gives you the actual price.  Perhaps Uber will sometimes be cheaper – I don’t know.

But Grabcar simply  involves installing the app on your phone, then putting in the destination to get a quote, and then clicking, “Book” if the price suits you. Pulau Tikus to George Town out of rush hour can be about RM5.  In a car that is often quite new, with seat belts that work, so far sane and polite drivers who are perfectly honest, and directly to your destination without having to worry about parking.  Sometimes the car is there in a minute or two, and sometimes I’ve had to wait a few minutes, which has been no hardship.  By the way, Pulau Tikus to the airport is about RM25.

I am wondering – do I spend more time washing the car than driving it nowadays?

(I certainly spend more time writing blogs than driving – I just noticed this is my 800th blog. )

Penang – the traffic is getting worse, but the drivers are getting better

Drivers here are becoming more polite.  Often they will wait until I walk across a driveway before they come out, rather than taking priority.  Drivers more often let you in than before when you come out of a street into a crowded road, or when changing lanes. They use their indicators more.  As the roads become more and more jammed, politeness makes it much easier to cope.

However, there are many issues that need to be addressed.

When either driving or walking you need to look both ways when crossing a one-way street. Bicycles and motorcycles, (and occasionally cars),  often ignore traffic flow direction.

In the paper, someone was caught and fined in KL RM5,000 for dangerous motorcycle riding – riding the wrong side down a street.   Well, I see this tens of times a day – if the bikes are actually on the road rather than the footpath.  A bike was beeping me the other day as I appeared to be in his way as I walked along a footpath and he approached from behind.

this is a one way street, in the direction of the arrow on the road

this is a one way street, in the direction of the arrow on the road – as you were told when you were a child – look both ways when crossing the road (even if it’s a one-way road)

Footpaths are a great place to park, too, you can see.

very successfully blocked the footpath

very successfully blocked the footpath

 

double blockage

double blockage

But when cars park on the footpath you are often forced to walk onto a busy road.

no consideration - there were legal parking spaces on the road

no consideration – there were legal parking spaces on the road

Another article in the paper has someone from the Road Traffic Department union suggesting everyone install dashcams in their vehicles to record traffic offenses and then emailing the recordings / images to the department.  Just imagine!

The first time I have seen a police roadblock locally for a very long time.  They only stop cars without valid tax stickers. And for bikes the same, and not wearing helmets.

roadblock

roadblock

 

They installed a couple of ridiculous traffic lights on the road to Straits Quays.  So, to avoid stopping for no reason, one could simply veer  left, then right, and carry on – so now they have put in those white barriers you can see to ensure you waste your time.

the road from Straits Quays

the road from Straits Quays

And finally, some cute forklift parking.

what's the countable noun for forklifts? A bevvy of forklifts? A traffic of forklifts?

What’s the countable noun for forklifts? A bevvy of forklifts? A traffic of forklifts?

 

two forklifts, one parking space

two forklifts, one parking space – well done