On my first day here, I walked from KLCC to Bukit Bintang using the roads and pavements. And I mean literally, roads and pavements, because it seems they don’t differentiate between who can use what?
The cars are generally pretty good at going where they’re told, but if a building site pops then appears in the middle of a busy shopping area, they just push the traffic over to the left a bit, onto the pavement (it’s ok, most of the slaps are missing or wobbly anyway).
But the motorbikes are not catered for at all. Why would they be? They just go wherever they like anyway! Roads (with or against the general flow of traffic), pavements (but don’t worry, just keep walking and they’ll find their way around you), stairs (I kid you not, it’s like Kick Start in some places!) Up the steps, across the grass, down the rubble bank, over a couple of old tyres and back onto the road the other side, slipping into the traffic (going at 90 degrees to the cars to get across to where they want to be)
For pedestrians, they might build you a walkway (which could take you round three shopping malls and a subway, bringing you out two blocks from where you thought you’d be).
But it all just seems to work. It’s like the epitome of a non-bureaucratic traffic system – there’s structure, of sorts, in places, but they just go where there’s space.
Zebra crossings are merely decoration
Seriously, they have absolutely no purpose whatsoever! I discovered this after spending ten minutes strategically positioned in a Hagen Daas shop surveying how it all works (tactical move of course, nothing to do with mango sorbet).
Eventually, on realising my two scoops have gone, I make my move. I start logically at the crossing. There’s a huge round button (with no signage or instructions) so I press it. Nite, I didn’t spot anyone else trying this whilst consuming my choc n mint, but few people in London do either, they just wait for the lights to change) but I’m taking no chances. I give it a couple of minutes, then the red man opposite goes green and I hear what sounds like a peacock stuck in the lamppost beside me, so I start to cross. But the cars and bikes don’t stop for the light, or for me? Erm, ok!
By Saturday night, after a day exploring the city, I think I’ve got it covered. As I emerge from the hotel, I’m surrounded by a myriad of shoppers, tourists and locals, all waiting patiently for the lights to change. To my right a see a local-looking chap make a run for it and descend into the traffic. Right, I’m up for this… let’s just take it a lane at a time… I start slowly (so the cars know I’m going for it) and start to walk out as I see a gap behind the oncoming car. As the red/white taxi goes past (and I chuckle at the ‘no haggling’ sign on his door) I step up a gear and quicken my pace to the relative safety (?) of the white line between lanes… I slow a little until the bikes have played cat & mouse with me, before subtly (trying desperately to look like I do this every day) making a final dash towards Prada.
So general rule of thumb: just go where you like and they work around you – fun fun!