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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Footpaths are for feet

Footpaths are for feet

As one who does not ride motorbikes, and therefore does a lot of walking, I applaud

the municipality's drive to free Phnom Penh's sidewalks for pedestrians. However,

at least so far, there seems to be little consistency in enforcement and I especially

detect no change at all in regards to vehicle parking. Why make a fuss about a few

vendors on the sidewalk while autos continue to completely block passage?

First it should be noted that the sidewalks belong to the people, regardless of the

fact that property owners are responsible for construction and maintenance. Second,

the practice of blocking passage in Phnom Penh only began with the Vietnamese occupation.

In my experience of 24 countries, it is the only other one where people consistently

use the sidewalks as private property.

Personally, I see no problem with people using the sidewalks as long as room is left

for pedestrians, though I believe auto parking should never be allowed. When you

look around the city, you see that 95 percent of the time there's plenty of space

to park on the street and no need to use the sidewalk; in other words, it's just

a bad habit. In those places where parking is a problem, there is no solution short

of multi-storey parking garages. It also should be noted that drivers in the denser

parts of every Western city have to park some distance from their destination and/or

pay large fees in parking garages.

Encumbering the sidewalk has many negative impacts besides the simple danger of forcing

pedestrians to walk in the street; it is also a serious hazard when drivers back

up into heavy traffic.

Today in Phnom Penh vehicles park on generally clean, well-maintained sidewalks while

pedestrians walk in the rubble and garbage or mud puddles in the rainy season; this

is typical of many of our streets. Furthermore, the practice of vehicle parking on

sidewalks has also led to the deep square curbs of the past being replaced with shallow

ramps. Today when it rains hard the water floods the entire street because it has

no place to go.

I suggest that a line be painted on the sidewalk to make clear the area that is reserved

for walkers. Further, if walking is to be a pleasant experience, standards for sidewalk

construction need to be set. To be comfortable they need to be flat, no steep angles

allowed, and all built at the same level, not like today where pedestrians have to

go up and down steps. Finally, if beautification is a goal then the sidewalks on

each street need to be consistently designed with the same color pattern, etc.

The municipality needs to recognize that the more people walk the less traffic there'll

be so that everybody benefits by a pleasant walking environment. Tourists especially

do a lot of walking because that's the best way to see and get the feel for a new

place.

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