Penang mornings are a great time to be out. Just after sunrise, around 7.45 or a bit later, it’s cool and relatively quiet.
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.
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:
More people are walking today than before, I think – a mixture of tourists and locals. It would be nice if pedestrians were respected.
Do this walk earlier in the morning, as by 9.30AM to 10AM it will be quite hot. This really goes for about any walk in Penang, though.
I would suggest detouring through Straits Quays to take advantage of the air conditiong, the toilet if you wish, and also a drink or coffee.
And that’s it – you walk back again. To save time, once you get to Straits Quays it may be a little quicker to walk to the carpark via the road. But not much different.
I started in the middle of Gurney Drive, at Bali Hai. This walk took about 45 minutes with a short rest around half way, but there are a few diversions on the way to see if you wish. My pedometer app said it was 4,800 steps. Basically stay on the “footpath” on the left of the road.
The route is:
Jalan Concordia, then cross
Jalan Kelawai to
Lorong Bangkok (or go one block to the left and take Lorong Burma to the right to see the Burma and Thai temples), then turn right at the end onto
Burma Road, then left into
Jalan Cantonment – you can take the next road left, Jalan Pasar, to see the Pulau Tikus Market, then return to Jalan Cantonment. Later there is the Hor Kai Kong Temple on the right side of the road. At the end cross
Jalan Macalister straight into Jalan Sepoy Lines. Watch the traffic! Here you can take a rest on a bench and watch the sports field or gaze at the mountains. Then go straight across a busy road into
Jalan Scotland, then take the first left into
Jalan Piggot, and follow this winding road through a rural feeling neighbourhood to turn right into
Jalan York, then immediately left into
Halaman York. where you take the second street on your left, which is
Medan York (this is a crescent, so the first street on your left is also Medan York) Walk until you see a large car park on your right, just past the condos, and turn right into the car park, going straight for a minute or two until you reach a park. Turn right into
the park and walk along the path until you see a bridge across the river on the left. Cross the bridge and Suffolk House will be on your left.
Suffolk House is open 10AM to 6PM, with an entrance fee of RM20 redeemable for food and drink inside. You can pay at the guardhouse. Entrance for children under 12 or students in uniform is free.
And here is a video of the walk:
So I decided to go for a stroll along Gurney Drive. I wanted to know how far the fence has got, seeing as they started four weeks ago now. The fence is now up to Mr Pot – just past Jalan Pemenang. Yesterday it was finished to just before the same street, so it didn’t proceed that far in a day.
There is a set of pedestrian traffic lights, and as the road was busy when I was there, I had to use the lights. The first two or three cars went through the lights after it was well and truly red. Then it seemed safe for me to cross, ever watching out for motorbikes which characteristically ignore red lights. As soon as I was half way across, a couple of cars went through the red light again. One really has to be careful. It may be safer to cross without using pedestrian lights as you then have no expectations.
A few minutes later I saw four local police riding past on tiny motorbikes. They all stop at 7-11 and go in. Well, it seemed funny to me.
Walking the other direction I see a couple of guys sitting on a bench in the dark smoking a full-sized shisha. They first time I’d seen that.
And later I saw a trishaw with tourists making its way along Gurney Drive – with no lights. And it was going the wrong way on the one-way section. I would have thought the tourists would have been smarter than to do that, even if the driver wasn’t. Apparently not.
I went home making no further observations.