New survey finds out how walkable Bangkok is
A survey by the Urban Design and Development Center shows that people in Bangkok take to the streets more often than thought
Despite poor footpaths and humid weather, Bangkokians walk more than is believed, according to an academic study that focuses on the “walkability scores” of the capital. “It is a myth that Bangkok residents are city slackers who, even in a walkable distance, prefer using cars. But our survey shows the contrary, something positive,” said Asst Prof Niramon Kulsirisombat, director of Urban Design and Development Center (UddC), a town planning project under the umbrella of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Architecture’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
UddC started its research last year by conducting a survey of 1,111 respondents to find out how much time and distance city dwellers walk. The survey concludes that a Bangkok resident spends 9.97 minutes a day walking, or 800m.
Eight-hundred metres is not a short distance, compared to 600m a day walked by Hong Kong residents or 850m a day by US citizens, according to Asst Prof Niramon. There was also a link between the mass rapid transport system and walking. The study found that using the MRT and BTS enables people to walk 500m more than usual.
The study sheds light on the attitude of pedestrians. A majority of respondents do not view street vendors as major obstacles on footpaths — though a clean-up is under way in many city areas. The bigger hurdles were obstructing objects such as phone booths, advertisement banners, construction material and the poor condition of public pavements.
Respondents wish that the authorities would keep motorcycle taxis off the footpaths, but they regard them and other mass transports as a major factor that encourages them to abandon personal vehicles and use public transport.
But the survey isn’t all that encouraging. Ever-chaotic Bangkok is not an ideal place for those who love to walk because footpaths are only 175km², or around 10%, of the total city area.
Respondents complained about three unfavourable factors that prevent them from walking on public streets: safety concerns, convenience and environment.
The study is part of the “GoodWalk” campaign, a collaboration between UddC and Thai Health Foundation (THF). UddC is trying to introduce a new town planning concept that promotes a more efficient and environment-friendly urban map, favouring mass transit, cycling or even footpaths over energy-intensive cars. THF wants to promote walking in urban areas, for the benefit of personal health and the environment.
UddC also unveiled www.goodwalk.org, a site with Bangkok’s walkability map and related information. Digital maps, with colourful highlights that reflect a “GoodWalk Score” of surveyed areas across Bangkok, is on the website. Apart from conducive infrastructure and good environment, the areas with high scores usually have “attractions” — points that influence walking such as work places, educational institutes, shopping areas, recreation areas, public areas and transportation.
The GoodWalk Score is calculated from accessibility to destination points, attraction points in the measured areas. Areas with highest scores are Siam Square, followed by Ratchaprasong and Silom.
“The era of walking has arrived,” said Asst Prof Niramon, adding that urbanisation, extension of subway and Skytrain systems, as well as rising environmental and health awareness will lead to changes in how people choose to go from point A to B. “The new generation is more interested in buying flats that are near the Skytrain or subway routes. They look for a city where they can travel by mass transit, with bicycle lanes and decent footpaths.”
In the rule book of urban planning, walkable cities are places with economic potentials. The flow of people mean the flow of transactions; besides, tourists can walk and shop, and small businesses can open along the roads where people walk. A creative workforce also prefers cities where they can walk and cycle because these walkable cities usually have a cleaner environment, public space and lower cost of transportation.
Cities around the world such as Copenhagen in Denmark and Melbourne in Australia are developing their infrastructure and public transport to draw creative workforces.
Bangkok has notoriously cluttered footpaths and as the plan to develop a walkable city takes shape, what we have seen is a number of elevated walkways, or skywalks.
“Skywalks mean that cars have won over people,” said Asst Prof Khaisri Paksukcharern, head of Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Architecture. “A healthy and liveable city must have a ratio between individual vehicles and people of 30:70. Skywalks distort that reality and prove that the surface for walking has given way to cars.”
Bangkok’s public pavements are viewed as major obstacles for walking. Respondents found food vendors are less annoying than other obstructions such as phone booths, uneven and discontinued pavements, and advertisement banners.
The map provides the walkability scores of major areas in Bangkok. Areas with highest scores are classified by different colours. Areas with high walkability scores — from 66-100 points are in dark green. While areas which are hard to access, or almost...