ITDP: GEORGE TOWN COULD BECOME A MALAYSIAN BEST PRACTICE IN TRANSPORT (with 42 ITDP policy recommendations, notes and commentary)


George Town, a scenic Malaysian city on the island of Penang, is a culturally-significant and popular tourist destination. The city is a dense, beautiful collection of colonial-era and other historic, well-preserved architecture. Listed as a UNESCO World Culture Heritage site, George Town has long been an important center of trade in Penang, founded as an entry port by the British in the 1700s, and attracting traders and workers from all over the region. Today, George Town is a diverse mix of cultures, with influences of China, India, Indonesia, Burmese, the Arabic world, and many others, including the native Malays.

Editorial note: We have discussed this article in group peer commentaries reviews in recent months, and have been urged to highlight a certain number of key points and recommendations advised by the ITDP team which in our view provide an excellent starting point for the revised mobility strategy for Penang in the years immediately ahead, starting in 2020.  The original ITDP article of  4 March 2019 with illustrations, can be found at  Your comments are particularly invited on any one or all of these 42 critical points and recommendations.                 

However,  (1) for tourists and locals alike,  access to the low-rise hodgepodge of shops, temples, and markets that cover the streets oriented to the still-active port, leaves much to be desired. (2) Despite  its density and small streets perfectly suited to walking and cycling, (3) George Town suffers from the same car-oriented planning that plagues cities all over the world. (4) Most residents travel by car, and (5) a lack of parking regulation enforcement means that cars typically block pedestrian spaces, and (6) make cycling dangerous.

(7) While the  city does have a quality bus transit system, Rapid Penang, (8) the lack of “last mile” connections and a (9) poor walking and cycling environment (10) prevents it from replacing car trips. (11) Fortunately, the Penang state and city governments are  eager for change, and (12) have been working with the Asian Development Bank and (13) ITDP Indonesia, (14) as well as together with local communities and organizations, to (15) tackle mobility problems in the city, increase tourism, and  (16)  improve its residents’ quality of life.

(17) Over the last few years, the  collaboration between local communities, residents and the Government has resulted in the (18)   George Town Special Area Master Plan. This plan includes (19) pedestrian improvements, such as (20) ensuring that sidewalks are connected and continuous, separated from cars, and five-feet wide. The (21) bike share program, LinkBike, launched in 2016, are being expanded to better serve residents and tourists, with a higher density of stations in high-traffic locations all over the city.

(22) While the city  is making good progress,  (23) George Town still has a ways to go  (24) Enforcement re pedestrian-friendly design was implemented, but (25) cars still park illegally on the bike lane or on the traffic lane. (26) More investment in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is needed, and (27) the existing infrastructure should be more segregated. (28) Installing parking bollards, (29) covering the open sewers between the car and pedestrian spaces, and (30) encouraging more active frontage at the street level would make the walking environment safer and more pleasant.

(31) better walking and cycling environment would also make it much easier to access public transport.  (32) Expanding Rapid Penang, the city’s bus system, and (33) implementing a new higher-capacity transit system are essential to accommodate the daily trips made in George Town and throughout Penang, (34)  proving a true alternative to car ownership. (35) This would also open up the potential of limiting cars in the city center, (36) through design, (37) parking restrictions, and (38) road pricing.  This would provide (39) much-needed public spaces for residents and tourists (40) to enjoy the city on foot and bike, (41) making George Town more livable and enjoyable, and (42) inspiring other cities across the region and world to do the same.

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About the ITDP:

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy works around the world to design and implement high quality transport systems and policy solutions that make cities more livable, equitable, and sustainable.

ITDP is a global nonprofit at the forefront of innovation, providing technical expertise to accelerate the growth of sustainable transport and urban development around the world. Through our transport projects, policy advocacy, and research publications, we work to reduce carbon emissions, enhance social inclusion, and improve the quality of life for people in cities.

ITDP provides technical transport and planning expertise to local authorities in cities around the world

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy is a non-governmental non-profit organization that focuses on developing bus rapid transit systems, promoting biking, walking, and non-motorized transport, and improving private bus operators margins. Wikipedia

Transportation is at the heart of many of the most pressing issues facing the world today – from climate change to public health. Yet, many people regard transportation as little more than a means to an end. In fact, transport networks are the pulse of a city, defining livability and urban space. Decisions about whether to build highways or bus corridors or greenways have tremendous impact not only on the air we breathe and the price we pay to get around, but also on the health of our planet.

ITDP has offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, and the United States; employs more than 80 staff members; and supplements this team with leading architects, urban planners, transport experts, developers, and financiers.


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A word from the editor:

This reader is impressed by the informed, efficient and pertinent analysis of the ITDP reporter who in very few words each time points up the day to day human realities and challenges of Penang’s future transport/mobility policy, strategy and practice. I can imagine few better starting places for a new 21st Century climate/mobility policy project for Penang.  You can start with ITDP.  They know what they are  doing.

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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