Warning! This post has an utterly ordinary topic – the humble sidewalk. What could be simpler than walking on a sidewalk? After all, that is its purpose – correct? A foot path on the side of the main road… meant for walking… Right?
Growing up in Canada, sidewalks were a place to stroll, skip, walk the dog or jog in the summer. In winters, not only are the road plowed but the sidewalks are also. A good thing too! You try walking in -40’c completely bundled up with fogged-up frozen glasses tramping through unplowed sidewalks. You’d walk on the road and likely get accidentally shmucked by a car unable to stop, tire wheels screaming while sliding into the hapless road walker! Sidewalks are clearly the smart way to go.
One of my favourite things about Singapore are the sidewalks – you can actually WALK on them. I think people are crazy taking cabs for distances of only a couple of kilometres… unless its pissing rain, why not enjoy being able to walk? Because, you see, sidewalks that people actually WALK on can be a precious commodity in Asia!
In Mumbai, sidewalks (or footpaths as they are somewhat erroneously called in India) are often taken over by hawkers or become the outdoor living room, kitchen, washroom, garbage bin of every day life. When nearly 50% of a city’s population lives in slums or the streets, sidewalks become homes and businesses. Add to this their often decrepit condition, it is no wonder that most people would rather dodge traffic than dare walk on a ‘footpath.’ I mean, come on, its rude stumbling through someone’s ahem “living” room…
In Jakarta, “street” living seems less yet sidewalks are much more than simply a place to walk. They too are a place of commerce and entertainment. Some are even in great condition – especially downtown – whereas others are a disaster.
Until a curious thing started to happen… sidewalks became a focus point for civic improvement. See “The Long Path to Success for Jakarta’s Sidewalks” And hence the obstacle course between hotel and office was born!
I’ve bitched about the hotel I usually stay at in Jakarta however it does have one major redeeming feature – one can walk to the office. However as you can see from the pics, the walk is more of an obstacle course than easy stroll as this stretch is an example of the ‘improvement’ efforts. So my experience was more of stumbling rather than strolling…
A few things I noted about Jakarta sidewalks on the walk to the office:
- There is a flat strip in the centre seemingly intended for wheels not feet. Also found in the over-passes too. Just picture a motorcycle doing an “Evel Knievel” dare-devil number zipping past your efforts to hike up the overpass! Or “Watch out! Skateboarder on the loose!”
- The height of the sidewalk raised well over a foot from road. I’m just speculating here, but could this perhaps be a way to avoid wading in water for at least part of the walk during the rainy season?
- Reasonable efficiency in getting completed. Every day there was progress. Now, why is that surprising? Let’s just say that wouldn’t necessarily be the case in Mumbai.
Any sidewalk stories to share? Anywhere in the world?
PS To avoid any confusion I’m actually back in Mumbai, just writing a few posts about the time in Jakarta 🙂