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