I am writing in response to the front-page article in the Post about officials' plan to prevent tuk-tuks and motorbike-pulled trailers from travelling on Norodom Boulevard ("Tuk-tuks warned of new ban", July 30, 2009). The article stirred me to think of possible ways to improve tuk-tuk transportation in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh.
There is no denying that tuk-tuks are an important mode of public transportation in Phnom Penh, serving locals at a fairly reasonable price. Some tourists prefer to travel via tuk-tuk to tour the city because they think it is safe and charming. The slow pace also allows them to take photos and chat with each other while travelling.
But the presence of tuk-tuks on the roads also adds to the chaos of traffic in Phnom Penh. Their large size makes them difficult to navigate, and some are obviously not built with safety in mind - such as those with very thin metal bars to support their back seats, which can be dangerous for larger passengers. Some tuk-tuks are powered by very weak and old motorbikes that cannot effectively transport heavy passengers and goods, leading to awkward turns that obstruct traffic.
Instead of banning tuk-tuks from the streets, we should try to think of ways we can make them better, thereby improving transportation for everyone in the capital. Cambodia must have enough transportation experts to produce a tuk-tuk that is safer and more in line with Khmer design principles than those currently on the roads.
The development of such a model could probably be accomplished through a tuk-tuk design competition. The winning entry would need to be approved by the authorities, and then manufacturers could be licensed to produce the new model.
Everyone would stand to benefit from a move to improve our tuk-tuks rather than to ban them outright.
Send letters to: [email protected] or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.