Friday, November 28, 2003

Car-less City

Car-less City

I am not fond of driving, neither am I very knowlegeable about cars. Unfortunately when I'm back in KL, I am forced to drive a lot. I still haven't figured out how to live without a car here but I vow to succeed someday.

I've been driving in KL since my unversity days and I've had enough of it. Driving is an activity that drains me physically and mentally. The past six years working outside Malaysia have been happy ones for me because I never had to drive. It was the major reason why my life in Singapore was surprisingly a pleasant one. In Jakarta, the ubiquity of taxis of all kinds, bajajs and ojeks make transportation within the city quite a breeze. I never thought of needing my own car.

I hope with the combined infrastructure of the Monorail, Putra, Star, ERL and the KTM Komuter, one could minimize a lot of unnecessary driving in KL. Trains are the most natural form of transport for people; I see them as "horizontal lifts"--put them in a box and move them in bulk from point A to point B.

The car has become an unfortunate necessity of urban living and we city folks spend so much time in it. Because of that the car has become a badge of pride and a reflection of one's status--our public faces. This metal extension of the body is also a subconscious indicator of the size of the ego; and for men, a phallic symbol.

We often read complaints about rude and reckless Malaysian drivers. It is strange that people associate so much importance to the type of car they drive but do not also demand the same exacting standards in their road manners.

I am not a Luddite but my vision of a futuristic city is one that is free from cars. If cars are needed at all, they should be disposable or public--no one should be owning them. There could be a system where public cars are made available either free or for a small fee, like luggage trolleys at airports: Use and discard.

So much of city planning goes into building better roads, creating more parking spaces and improving traffic flow. We need to rethink our paradigm: Cities should designed for people, not for cars. A car-less city is a caring city.

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