City Parking Woes

It's common to see cars parked right
next to signs like this!
I’m not surprised that many readers nodded their heads in agreement when they read my article, Stick to your own lanes (NST, Nov 5) because they are often hapless victims of inconsiderate drivers.  Law-abiding citizens here join me in gritting our teeth and impatiently waiting for the authorities to enforce the law not just to nab errant drivers but to educate them for the safety and comfort of all road-users.  They are also concerned that foreign investors and visitors in Iskandar Malaysia must also be wondering, how Johor Baru can be a progressive city when their locals behave so lawlessly? 

As city roads are widened with broader road shoulders, we see cars boldly parked across single white lines and even double yellow lines.  Every driver must study the theory part of the driving test but many must have forgotten that just as double white lines in the middle of the road means no over-taking, the double yellow lines on road sides indicate that parking is prohibited.  Town-planners everywhere create road shoulders not for parking but to provide comfortable leeway for cars to move in case of emergencies.

Narrow roads in older parts of the city are supposedly beautified when they were bordered by walkways in wide pavements.  This however, eliminated the linear parking spaces in front of the shops and because most people are too lazy to park in the proper places and walk a few steps, they boldly park on the pavements.  Yes, they park haphazardly right across pavements in these narrow streets and this obviously defeats the city’s grand plans for any beatification!

Cars are parked on both sides of the road in JB city!
Parking on pavements not only destroys the city council’s idea in preserving the charming landscape in the older parts of the city, the parked cars are an obstruction to tourists on walking heritage tours.  Take a look at Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk and the sight of carelessly parked cars on both sides of the narrow road is enough to put off any tourists trying to explore the place.  The city council ambitiously created the Meldrum Walk but there is no fun in walking the network of roads around Jalan Siu Nam, Jalan Siu Koon and Jalan Siu Chin in historical Kampung Wong Ah Fook because the pavements are not only full of parked cars and motorcycles, they are also spoiled by hawkers who have set up tables and chairs there!

A reader, who was once a traffic officer, gave me an earful about the appalling traffic issues in the city which is getting worse because of the lack of enforcement.  I share his frustration because we know that in spite of clear signs put up by the city council, warning of towing away of illegally parked vehicles, the cars are still boldly parked right next to the sign every day.  By continually ignoring the rules and parking there without penalty, they are making a mockery of the authorities!

These motorists clearly ignore the double yellow lines!
Motorists who have been abroad are aware of the traffic enforcement in cities like Singapore, Australia and other international destinations.  They know that the Police mean business and there is a price to pay for any traffic offence so they abide by the rules.  But in Johor Baru errant drivers openly disregard traffic rules and have no regard for the Police and city council authorities because these rules are not consistently enforced here.

I agree with this retired traffic officer who said that the only way to educate and eradicate such inconsiderate attitudes on the road is through stringent enforcement.  We know there are parking facilities in multi-level car-parks and small parking lots in the city but because there is a cost and some walking involved, people just refuse to use them.  Also with flexible payment packages to own a car now, there are just more vehicles on the road than the number of parking spaces available in the city.

With Visit Malaysia 2014 just around the corner, we should make constructive decisions to take control of the traffic situation in our city that Tourism Malaysia dubbed, the Southern Gateway into Malaysia.  The city council must work towards providing sufficient parking facilities that are safe, clean and fairly priced to encourage more drivers to park their cars in proper places.  They must study how busy cities around the world are dealing with parking in the city centre and suburbs, and quickly adopt practices that are already efficiently working elsewhere.

Football fans carelessly park across driveways,
obstructing the homeowner's path!
It is a shared responsibility between the authorities to enforce rules and the motorists to revive our tradition in courtesy and civic consciousness in order to educate and change the mindset of young people and even hard-nosed seasoned drivers. 
If we want to progress as a modern and developed city, we cannot continue setting poor examples on the road and develop new generations of drivers with bad attitudes.  It is most damaging if young people observe their parents and elders blatantly flouting logical traffic practices because they will just learn by example.

Fans of Harimau Selatan, Johor’s slick football team, can start by practicing common sense courtesy rules like never to park across someone’s driveway because your car will obstruct the path of the homeowner who needs to enter or exit his driveway.  The Police and authorities must step up to the plate and enforce obvious traffic rules while showing their humane side by advising obstructing cars to move along instead of slapping them with a summons.  It’s time for Johor Baru authorities to earn the people’s respect for the right reasons.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 21 November 2013

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