Give us back our pavements, please?

I’m proud that Johor Baru was among the cities picked by Petronas for their #tanahairku campaign in this year’s National and Malaysia day celebrations. 

View of wall art entitled, Muafakat, at Jalan Trus,
will be obstructed by cars parked by the road over
the double yellow lines, especially during the day
Through this campaign, the national oil company aims to present Malaysia as a unique melting pot of cultures and traditions.  Local artists have given the old walls at five sites in the city’s heritage quarter, a creative facelift in this street art project.

I must confess that I did not notice what the artists were doing until one day while I was walking along Jalan Ibrahim and found my path blocked by a crane truck.  I stopped, looked up and saw artist, See Poh Chen aka Pauline, on the platform, calling out instructions to the crane operator to adjust its position for her to reach a spot to paint the wall!

Then I learnt about the Petronas #tanahairku campaign that roped in local artists to create artworks on old walls that portrayed their personal reflections of Merdeka and its meaning to them.

Cars blatantly park in front of the
Tow Away sign!
Led by Pauline and her husband, Yap Leong, the team from Eh He turned the wall of No. 1 to 7 Jalan Trus into a wall art that reflected our multi-cultural communities they call Magical Land.  A pair of artists, Taib Aur and Jefri Abdul (Jeps), designed their wall art entitled, Kita Jaga Sama-sama or “we protect together” on the wall of The Fitting Room at the corner of Jalan Ibrahim and Jalan Trus.

At the corner of Jalan Trus and Jalan Dhoby, the artwork on the wall of Roost Juice Bar entitled, Bahtera Merdeka, by Muhammad Abqari Ahmad Shakri who goes by the moniker, Snake Two, and Muhammad Azri Zahri (Cuz One), is an image of a war ship dubbed Merdeka as a tribute to Malaysia’s naval heritage.

A towering piece of wall art featuring the profile of a roaring tiger painted on the UMNO Building at Jalan Segget, entitled, The Tiger Roars, is the creation of artists, Iqbal Hareez Osman and Cheong Jiun Wei.

Meanwhile the wall of an old city council building at Jalan Trus, situated diagonally opposite Hua Mui restaurant has been transformed by the artwork by Muhammad Danial Awang Samad (Nellaone) and Iskandar Noor Rahim (Akeem).  Their wall art entitled, Muafakat, depicts two children hanging out traditional costumes that represent our three main race groups, on a common clothes line that aptly portrayed the concept of Muafakat where each race is irrevocably linked together!

I saw this piece of wall art by night while the road was closed to vehicular traffic and free from parked vehicles.  As I admired the drawing in its entirety, my first thought was how this wall art will be blocked by cars that are indiscriminately parked here daily in spite of the double yellow lines painted on the road.  I’m familiar with the recalcitrant attitude of motorists and regret that visitors will not be able to take good shots of this interesting wall art as their view will be obstructed by parked cars.

Incidentally, the Petronas #tanahairku event was launched in the wake of the first Johor Architectural Sketches Exhibition that featured two artists from distinct and different backgrounds – Buz Walker-Teach and Yap Hanzhen.  An exhibition of their architectural sketches were aptly displayed in a gallery at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and officially launched by Johor Baru Member of Parliament, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Shahrir Abd Samad in the presence of Raffles University Iskandar President, Professor Graeme Britton, and invited guests.

After he launched the exhibition, Tan Sri Shahrir shared his thoughts with me about designing a new heritage walk map that should incorporate the meticulously detailed sketches of the city’s iconic landmarks by Yap Hanzhen.  He believed that a heritage walk map with artwork by Hanzhen, a savant autistic teenager, will be a real masterpiece.  And I agreed with him.

Drivers boldly park their cars on pavements meant
for pedestrians at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee
But first, we must do something about improving our pedestrian paths and pavements so that visitors will have a comfortable experience on heritage walks.  If you have been to other cities that offered heritage tours, you may have noticed how pavements are kept unobstructed for gpedestrians and the wheelchair-bound to pass comfortably.  They pay close attention to tiled pavements to keep them neat and even or the city may risk getting sued by visitors who happened to fall from tripping accidents!

In my article, Let’s do better to attract visitors to JB [The Iskandarian, Jan 2015], I urged every individual who is proud of JB as our home to work in a concerted effort with the MBJB, Tourism Department, Police and Traffic Police, to improve the image of our city.  I suggested to start by enforcing “No Parking on Pavements” at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, to ensure that cars are parked in designated areas and to provide more rubbish bins so that the public have no excuse for littering.

The pavement at Jalan Meldrum has been claimed
by entrepreneurs!
Sadly, so far nothing has been done about improving the state of the pavements at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and Jalan Meldrum.  The MBJB paved these paths for a reason and I believe it was originally meant for pedestrians but entrepreneurs have claimed them, laid out tables and chairs to do business and motorists insist on parking here.  Over time, the pavements are damaged and dirtied while pedestrians, who should have the right of way, must find alternative routes around parked cars or furniture!

The Petronas #tanahairku wall art are now an added attraction in our heritage quarter and when we have a new heritage walk map, we can expect more walking tourists here.  But is JB ready for visitors who are keen on walking tours or are we going to disappoint them and embarrass ourselves with our unfriendly pavements?

It’s not too late for MBJB to start enforcing “No Parking on Pavements” at Jalan Tan Hiok Nee and ensure that cars are parked in designated areas.  The city council and civic conscious people, are aware that these paths were paved for pedestrians so why not put the pavements back to its proper use?

A version of this was published in the October 2015 issue of The Iskandarian

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