KL Car Free Day? More like KL 2 Measly Cycling Hours

Okay fine. DBKL has rebranded the whole thing as KL Car Free Morning  but 2 hours from 7-9am doth not a morning make.

I was excited when I first heard of KL Car Free Day back in September 2013. I think I even posted it on Facebook in a move to promote the event. Information on the event back then was scarce and vague at best. Local newspapers/ online news portals only reported the names of the roads that will be closed. Not a single car-free route was given.

NST car free sunday 22 Septsource

Since NST reported that the car-free even was until 11am, my sister and I and took the LRT from Bangsar to Dang Wangi a little before 9am and reached there around quarter past 9. The moment I walked out from the station, I was shocked to find people driving their cars along Jalan Dang Wangi.

I went back inside the station and asked a RapidKL personnel about the car-free event and he told me nonchalantly, “dah habis…” I told him that the papers reported that the event will continue until 11am but he just replied, “cubalah pergi Bukit Bintang, kat sana masih mungkin masih ada.” My sister and I contemplated to take the monorail from Bukit Nanas to Bukit Bintang to check it out but as we walked towards Bukit Nanas monorail station, we decided not to when we saw vehicles whooshing past Jalan Sultan Ismail like a car-free event never even took place.

We did see several groups of cyclists in full gear (complete with race numbers) and a television crew interviewing some of them. Whatever it was, the scene outside Dang Wangi Station slightly before 9.30am looked like a cycling race just took place and not a car-free event (which was supposed to happen after the race). I guess my disappointment stemmed from the fact that I expected the car-free event to resemble something like Paris Respire — where city folks can walk about/ride around in a leisurely manner from morning till late afternoon.

Maybe there were casual goers to the event, but seeing the cyclists with their jerseys, helmets and expensive looking bicycles put us off. It made the car-free event looked like it was catered more for competitive cyclists and not for people who just wanted to have a relaxing walk/ride around the city.

My sister and I did end up walking all the way to KLCC (alongside cars and vehicles) that day but we have yet to participate in the Car-Free Event because:

a) we don’t want to wake up early on Sunday just to catch 2-hours of this gimmicky event.

b) we don’t want to get hit by some selfish roadies who zip down the road like bats out of hell. (Do read the article linked. The writer gave a good review of the event).

c) it looks boring. KL Car-Free Morning is all about riding the bicycle around the city. What’s there to do beside that? The shops are closed, no street vendors, no nothing. Folks just zoom around the city and then go home.

The Star article also quoted the MNCF deputy president saying that the car-free event is an effort to reduce carbon footprint. That is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? I mean if carbon emission reduction is City Hall’s main objective why have the event on a Sunday morning? Who drives to the city on Sundays during those hours anyway? In fact, the Car Free Morning probably contributes to more carbon emission with people thronging the city in cars just to join the event.

I do applaud the Cycling Hour Car-Free initiative by City Hall but perhaps they should learn from their Penang counterpart on how to make the event more exciting and more inclusive to all (and not just serious cyclists).

Check out Occupy Beach Street, Penang,– they have a variety of street performances from all over the world (snake charmers, belly dancers, hula hoopers, violinists, clowns, fire breathers), photography contests, zumba party, traditional games, kids workshops and many more and these things happen every week! Also check out the pictures of people who cycled at Occupy Beach Street, they looked like casual riders (like me!) — no imposing jerseys, gloves, and helmets. Yes, sans helmets. Check out this NY Times article: To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets.

The myriad of activities at Occupy Beach Street promotes social interaction which is more of the point of having such car-free event.

Viktor Olsson of Lund University writes,

Relating back to the green, sustainable cities, it could be argued that sustainability is not only about environmental policies, but also social policies [bold emphasis mine]. One could argue, that within both environmental and social policies, cultural diversity will most likely have an impact, whether it concerns, for example recycling (Miafodzyeva, Brandt, Andersson 2013), trust between people or feeling safe in the streets of different areas of the city.

According to University of Washington,

Communities where residents express high mutual trust and reciprocity have been linked with lower homicide rates. Neighborhoods lacking social cohesion and community wellness conversely, have been related to higher rates of social disorder, anxiety, and depression.

On another note, DBKL has provided a route map for the event, unlike in the earlier days where they just mentioned the street names that will be closed for the car-free event.

car free routesource

Another good initiative is the 100 free bicycles sponsored by OCBC. 100 is a small number though, perhaps other companies can sponsor bicycles too ( perhaps Public Bank so that some can start from KLCC?) or cycling companies can provide rental services.10256506_672144472890195_5442765052877761834_o source

After almost 2 years smarting over the First Car-Free Event, I would like to try it again. However 2 hours of car-free event is way too short, I really couldn’t be arsed to wake up early on Sundays just to cycle around the city. Maybe I’ll do it once just to try but I really don’t think I’d do it week after week just for that.

I truly hope to see more activities lined up for the car-free event to make it more enjoyable for non-serious cyclists. It would be great if City Hall can extend the Car-Free hours to include the Free Dataran Merdeka Heritage Guided Tour. I’m sure tourists (and locals alike) would love to walk around a vehicle-free KL.

By the way in Jakarta, all members of society — including civil society groups and businesses — were allowed to make use of the weekly Car Free event (yes, including peaceful rallies). Jakarta Car-Free Day is from 6am -11am which still is a misnomer. This Indonesian journalist articulated his grouse succinctly when he said,

Having a car-free day that only lasts until 11 am is ridiculous though, an insult to the term.

I guess it comes down to the kinds of activities people would do on the streets when the cars are removed. The economic impact of having no cars in the city’s primary lanes for an entire day is undoubtedly enormous but I wonder if it would be possible to have it minimized or even substituted by having open air markets along certain stretches of Sudirman. I also wonder if the government would replan the city to accommodate and encourage walking/cycling (LMAO who am I kidding? )

But seriously, I think they should have kept it at least until midday though, instead of only until 11 am.

While I agree with the journalist that the car-free hours should be extended, I disagree with his opinion that having no cars in the city would have a negative impact on the economy.

On the contrary, businesses along the route of Sunday Street event in San Francisco reported a 44 percent increase in customer activity and sales, with an average increase of $466 in net revenue (source). More importantly is the health cost benefit: for every dollar spent on running Sunday Streets yields an estimated savings of $2.32 in medical costs (source). Plus there are lasting benefits that aren’t as easy for researchers to measure, such as the increased sense of community, and the effect of discovering a new neighborhood (source).

We would never know if the positive economic effects reported in San Fran can be seen in KL — hardly any shops are open from 7 to 9am.

Gentrification 101: Burn ’em to the ground

Back in 2009, there was this rumour going around that DBKL/FT Ministry were the ones responsible for the fire in Kampung Kerinchi.

Intrigued, I went and searched around the net to find out whether there’s any truth behind the allegation. I do not have concrete proof but there seems to be a pattern emerging in all the fire affecting the urban villages – a) that they started from an empty house, b) the fire happened mostly during festive seasons, and c) no casualties recorded.

kerinchi
Kampung Kerinchi, 2009. Source: Bernama

Puah Sentul

 Kampung Puah Bahagia, 2013 source

MAIWPKampung Puah Bahagia dan Kampung Chubadak, 2013. source

kebakaran kg medanKampung Perangsang Permai, 2001 source

Kg BaruKampung Baru, 2014. source

Sungai PenchalaKampung Sungai Penchala, 2013. source

Hahaha

I was reading saved drafts from this blog and I laughed at the language I used. So fiery.. so much anger. Haha.

I don’t know what has happened to that passionate spark that led me to be so reactive then.

These days I’m not too bothered about the happenings in the country. I know it sounds bad but I just don’t think it’s worth getting all worked up.

Oh well.

(post script: The article above is one of them but they are mostly unfinished).

So today I read a cringeworthy NST interview with Abdul Rahman Dahlan (dated 30 June 2014)

In the article entitled “City folks could use more parks“, The Kota Belud MP was lamenting the fact that KL does not have ‘outdoorsy culture’. I would’ve applaud him if it hadn’t been the fact that my friends and I have already pointed that out repeatedly on Facebook. In fact, I think that his minions from Perdana Fellowship (not my term… it’s the endearingly demeaning term KJ and Abdul Rahman Dahlan call their proteges on twitter) scoured Facebook for ideas to make this douchebag minister as popular as his even douchier ‘best friend’, KJ. Whatever it is, I’m not buying it.

He adds:

We don’t have a park-going or picnicking culture. People no longer go to parks to spend time with their friends. Instead, they go to mamak restaurants for a teh tarik.

Umm… the reason people go out to mamak to hang out is because there are no free place for you to chill with your friends without security guards chasing you out for loitering or the police arresting you for illegal assembly. That’s what consumerist culture is all about – you are seen as deviant if you want to hang out in public without spending any money.

Also, some parks in the city are not user- friendly. I can’t imagine why we spend so much money on some of them. There’s this little stretch of land that is so nicely manicured but nobody is in there. Why? Because there was no parking (bold emphasis mine). Yet, it was manicured to perfection and we must have spent so much money on it. We need people to go to parks to take off their socks and shoes and walk around the grass and enjoy life. That is what we should do. KLCC is, of course, too small and Titiwangsa is too far. You have to get through the horrendous traffic jam (bold emphasis mine). Instead, we spend money on expensive coffees and flock to mamak stalls.

How does having more car parks make people want to visit parks or eliminate traffic jams? It doesn’t correlate at all. If there’s a traffic jam, does the fact that a park has parking facilities make you want to go there? NO.

So no, I vehemently disagree with building multi-storey car parks at KL Lake Gardens, Kepong Lake Gardens, Bukit Kiara Park etc. Building car parks would not make people want to go to parks. Worse, you are destroying a chunk of the green lung just to make way for the eye sore that is the car park.

We have a huge piece of land in Titiwangsa and Bukit Kiara, but the LRT doesn’t go there (bold emphasis mine). If you worked in KLCC, would you go to Titiwangsa? It would take you an hour to get there. That’s why we need pockets of land within the city centre.

KLCC is, of course, too small and Titiwangsa is too far. I would love it if we could have little parks with nice trees in pockets in the city. For example, London has spaces for buskers and little shops.

I admit I do agree with his statement above. You want parks like in London? Their huge parks are all accessible by the tube. Parks must be accessible by public transport, preferably LRT or MRT. End of. So why isn’t the Lake Gardens served by any public transportation? Whose fault is that?

NST: How about availability of land in urban centres?

Abdul Rahman Dahlan: We do have but it’s a private land, so it’s very expensive. Biggest components for any house construction is, of course, the land. We have been toying with some ideas. I suggest that we do two things – the government must set aside some money starting now to develop a land bank …Say, for example the government gives you RM1 billion – I can start buying the land in urban areas and build up the reserves so that when we build up houses or we can use that up for schools in the future (bold emphasis: mine).

Oh we have big parcel of lands in KL where the LRT/Monorail pass through but can’t be turned into public parks because they are private lands. Remind us again dear minister how did the empty urban lands become private lands?

Those empty lands in KL – the Pudu Jail Area, Merdeka Park, Plaza Rakyat, ex-Pekeliling Flats and even ex-Unilever Land in Bangsar – areas where the LRT/Monorail pass through were lands previously owned by the government but were sold/land swapped to private developers on the cheap!

And now this bloody minister is lamenting the lack of public lands and wants the government to set aside RM1 Billion to buy lands in urban centres! Wait a minute. Let me get this straight… the government sold lands/land swapped the on the cheap only to buy them back at an exorbitant price? Who are you trying to fool?

Now this man wants RM1 billion of our taxpayers’ money?!! FUCK YOU. NOT A SEN SHOULD BE GIVEN TO THIS MONEY GRUBBING SWINDLER! Would you trust this man, the same man who displaced the the folks at Kampung Abdullah Hukum to buy lands for the rakyat and turn them into schools and affordable housing?  Lest we forget:

malaysiakini ecocitysource

Look at the post above and tell me you don’t find it sick that three of the people named above got higher posts (and more power) in the government in just one year. Khairy and Abdul Rahman Dahlan weren’t even ministers then and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has gotten a bigger portfolio, from Defence Minister to Home Minister.

Kampung Abdullah Hukum in pictures below [Will add the pic source later. They are all googlable]

1280px-Kampung_Haji_Abdullah_Hukum,_Kuala_Lumpur

abdullah hukum rumahrumah roboh abdulah hukum nazrey 2008

abdullahhukum2009nazrey ecocitylandclear

kl eco city0 kl eco cityKL Eco City (1)

Just like that our urban village, our history is gone. Do not let the same thing happen to Kampung Baru.

I want to rip his throat out when he said:

 I have a crazy idea: why don’t we turn golf courses into parks? That would be my dream. But I would be demonised by a particular segment.

Just say it, you are afraid to be demonised by the 1% rich elite but don’t even give a rat’s ass about the urban poor who are getting more and more displaced with each passing day.

Another laughable quote by Abdul Rahman Dahlan:

We need people to go to parks to take off their socks and shoes and walk around the grass and enjoy life.

Most parks or gardens in Malaysia have a sign post telling parkgoers “JANGAN PIJAK RUMPUT” and you say it like we Malaysians are an uptight bunch who don’t know how to have fun. Fuck you.

7984657312_493f4071b4_osource

23799459source

Compare it with Toronto, Sydney, London where park goers are encouraged to walk on the grass.

Canada 2009 - Toronto Islandsource

DCP00182 sydneysource

natures-playground-6natures-playground-11  source

FUCK YOU, ABDUL RAHMAN DAHLAN. YOUR POPULIST LIP SERVICE MEANS NOTHING.