GEORGE TOWN, April 7 ― The death of a pedestrian, who was knocked down by a motorcycle while crossing the pedestrian crossing yesterday, was due to unsafe and unfriendly environment policies by the local council, state and federal government, DAP's Yap Soo Huey said today.
The Pulau Tikus assemblyman said the local authority, state and federal government must take responsibility for neglecting the welfare of pedestrians and commuters in their policies, before going on to reveal statistics that showed 354 and 353 pedestrians being involved in road accidents in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
She listed down several policies and actions implemented by the authorities that had led to unsafe road conditions especially for pedestrians and ended up in accidents.
"Development plans were approved without considering the walking needs as only the Traffic Impact Assessment only considered the flow of vehicles but did not consider at all whether the design and plans for the place are conducive to pedestrians and public transport users," she said.
Secondly, she said the local authorities were "afraid" of car drivers and refused to install more pedestrian traffic lights for fear of affecting traffic flow.
"If this situation persists where pedestrians are not prioritised and cars are given priority, people will conclude that it is unsafe to walk and vehicle numbers will continue climbing," she said.
She reminded the local council and the state government that it is unsustainable for the number of vehicles to continue increasing in Penang.
Yap also blamed the road designs that encouraged speeding.
She said the state government must look into how housing is distributed, especially with increased density, so that it takes into account the needs of pedestrians and public transport.
"The federal government also needs to review and reinforce their policies for its relevant departments to design roads to adapt to local needs such as designing roads that allow calm traffic instead of speeding and allow for safe and comfortable crossing," she said.
She said the Penang Transport Master Plan must be implemented as soon as possible to reduce car dependency amongst Penangites and increase usage of public transportation.
Yap said the hit-and-run incident along Burmah Road yesterday, where Foo Swee Wah, 58, succumbed to her injuries last night, was a "needless and shameful loss of life".
"I would like to make a call to everyone to come together to raise awareness and demand for cities that are safe to walk," she said while announcing a candlelight vigil at the accident site tomorrow night.
Asked about the Penang Island City Council's (MBPP) "Pedestrian is King" campaign, Yap said the campaign was not a failure as changing the people's mindset will require lots of time and effort.
"The council is moving in the right direction and even though the campaign has not been able to make an impact, I hope they do not give up and that other people will also rise up to support them," she said.
As for whether the accident could be due to the one-way system along the busy Burmah Road, Yap said she supported all calls for MBPP and the state government to redesign Burmah Road to become more pedestrian-friendly.
She admitted that the one-way system has enabled more cars to pass the road per hour but opined that the only way to avoid the need to move more cars per hour is to reduce the need for people to travel by cars.
"We need to make it possible and attractive for people to spend more time in their own neighbourhood and be able to walk easily, safely and comfortably to get food, household items and other needs," she said.
Foo was walking on the pedestrian crossing where it was green for pedestrians to cross and red for vehicles to stop when a motorcyclist beat the red light and rammed into her.
She was thrown a few metres away while the motorcyclist sped off. The incident was captured on video by a dashboard camera of a car that had stopped at the traffic lights.
The video has since gone viral.
Today, police arrested the 44-year-old motorcyclist while he was seeking treatment at Penang Hospital for injuries to his jaw.