Open letter to Penang State Executive Councillor C.K. Yeow: On the role of M2Ws in PTMP

Penang motorcyles heavy traffic

Subject: PTMP position, plan and recommendations for motorcycles

Penang chow and EB

YB Chow Kon Yeow                Professor Eric Britton

Dear Mr. Chow,

I am pleased that we have managed to establish a working communications link, with the example last week of my open letter to in response to your interview that appeared in of July 22, 2016, “Accusations of Penang Forum Incompetence”.  I am pretty sure about this given the fact that the letter as posted through social media and some of our working projects for civil society inputs to Penang’s continuing transportation uncertainties, registered more than 500 hits, including your colleagues working both in state governments and your consultant SRS.  It also has been picked up and made known by a few local groups and media.  I am delighted to have this contact.

Before I get to today’s idea that I would like to put before you, just in case you are not familiar with it, let me point you to our principal website for Sustainable Penang: Towards a New Mobility Agenda which you can find at  There is a great wealth of material and reference points house there, and I hope you and your colleagues are finding some use in this as well.

My question relates the 20 volumes of SRS reports which as I understand it may be providing the detailed strategic base for planning and investment decisions which you mentioned publicly about two months ago were going to be made available to the general public for their inspection and ideas.  Since the volumes are not yet publicly available, I would like to jump to a certain number of short questions on issues which I think are important for public policy and concerning which I would like to have your views and clarifications. I will start with motorized two wheelers in Penang.


PTMP position, plan and recommendations on motorized two wheelers.

Approximately half of the two and half million motor vehicles on the road in Penang today are motorcycles.  This means that there are roughly three motorcycles for every four citizens of Penang.  That’s a lot, but it is not unusual.  It is a very common pattern in Asia and one that I’ve seen in many cities in my advisory work in the last years in Taiwan and Vietnam.

Motorcycles or scooters are a great way for people to get around, because they are cheap buy and operate, and offer flexible 24/7 mobility to their owners.  They take up much less road space than cars, and are usually driven with great flexibility so as to avoid the worst of traffic jams. If you are young or too poor to buy a car, they are the transport mode of choice.

But they are not perfect.  They are dangerous both to drivers and pedestrians, with their two-stroke engines they are highly polluting, and as their numbers increase start to provide real problems for parking in respect of public space. And that is just a start.

Nonetheless these vehicles and their drivers are there, important, part of the strategic puzzle and  not about to go away over the next five or 10 years. So now my question: how is your Transport Master Plan dealing with and providing for this important mobility mode, important for three out of four of your citizens.

I look forward with great interest to looking at your strategic plan for motorized two wheelers, and will be pleased to share with you and others eventually interested my comments and suggestions once I’ve had a chance to study it closely,

I have another few questions concerning other underlying strategic planning issues both at the macro and local levels, but I will leave them for a subsequent open letter.

In the meantime, I look forward with greatest interest to your response.


Eric Britton

Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy
Institut Supérieur de Gestion

# # #

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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