Issue Date: 
Mar 2 2014 - 11:00pm
city living

And so Bangkok’s great walking streets experiment ends. It’s been the boldest and biggest urbanization pilot scheme to be undertaken in a major world capital, and saw seven major intersections shut down for eight weeks in a bid to examine if Bangkokians could make more use of public transport and fully embrace the benefits of car-free streets. The following findings were observed:

  • Yes, more Bangkokians can use public transport, if the weather is unseasonably cold, they have absolutely no other alternative, and we disregard how miserable said public transport becomes once everyone starts using it.
  • In Thailand, you can turn somewhere into a walking street, but that doesn’t mean you can walk on it. For a few short hours, Silom Road was a wide, clean pedestrian-friendly boulevard. But soon enough, it was crammed with rugs selling secondhand shoes, pop-up somtam restaurants and piles of explosive iPhone accessories. Then came the improvised motorcycle lanes and parked vehicles. Soon walking became even more difficult than when the road was actually used by cars.
  • Perhaps because of point #2, walking streets in Bangkok somehow managed to actually damage existing business. Why buy your coffee from the long-standing cafe when three stalls make access to said cafe near impossible and sell their cup of joe for half the price?
  • Noise. If you have a lot of people gathered in one area, someone will try to reach out to them in the loudest, most obnoxious way possible. It might be a politician arguing democracy is over-rated, or it might be a giant advertising screen saying your skin ain’t white enough. It doesn’t matter. If you’ve got people, noise will find them like a tick will find blood.

In conclusion, the experiment has successfully demonstrated that Bangkok can’t have walking streets. Clearly leaving our streets to fume-belching vehicles is the lesser of two evils. Also, those of us who use public transport can sure use the extra elbow room.

More Page 3.