Walk through the most historic cities in the country (and the most dangerous!).
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It does seem as though we don’t really talk enough about the walkability of Malaysian cities. Probably because most of us are already used to driving or just know that it’s rather impossible to imagine any city in Malaysia being accessible and friendly enough to get around by foot.
Even smaller and quieter cities here aren’t exactly pedestrian-friendly as there are certain criteria to meet in Malaysia to be called walkable city.
So what exactly is a walkable, pedestrian-friendly city?
Other than having famous tourist attractions, food and shopping within the vicinity, they should be well-designed for pedestrians’ safety and accessibility.
Walkability is not just a sidewalk – it’s a whole system of design and infrastructure.Joe Chestnut of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
Some characteristics that define pedestrian-friendly streets include:
- Narrow streets with marked pedestrian crossings that slow and alert motorists.
- Greenery and shaded landscaping along sidewalks.
- Strategically placed parallel parking that protects pedestrians from traffic.
- Parks, alleys, sidewalks and pathways that are interlinked.
- Access to multiple modes of public transportation
So do any of our cities here in Malaysia meets these criteria?
We’ve narrowed down a list of best and worst cities for pedestrians, by our very own locals:
Let’s start with the best!
Melaka City, Melaka
Other than being one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Malaysia, you’d be glad to know that Melaka scores an 86 on the Walk Score, which measures the ease of running your errands on foot!
Make your way along the Melaka River and walk over to A’Famosa. Then wander across the famous Dutch Square before heading up the stairs to St. Paul’s Church, the oldest church in Malaysia.
Right across the river is Jonker Walk, a haven of food, heritage houses and souvenir shops. All within a stone’s throw away from each other.
You can also choose to get around the city by taking a very nostalgic form of public transportation: trishaws or becas!
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage City, Georgetown offers locals and tourists a wide range of attractions and restaurants all within walking distance.
One of the best parts about walking around Georgetown is the gorgeous street art dispersed throughout the city. Armenian Street offers walkers a nice tour of street art, restaurants and museums and shops. Immerse in the diversity of Georgetown as you take a detour off to Little India before walking over to the Kapitan Keling Mosque and the Clan Jetty.
It’s also pretty easy to get around Georgetown via public transport like buses.
It’s hard to imagine that a bustling city like KL could be walkable, but hey, if London can do it, KL can too.
Recent developments in the city are slowly making it more pedestrian-friendly. The Saloma Bridge launched in 2020 cuts the walking time from Kampung Baru to KLCC by 20 minutes.
The River of Life is designed with pathways that lead to popular tourist attractions such as Dataran Mereka, Masjid Jamek and Pasar Seni. From there, you can head down to Petaling Street for cute cafes, bars and cheap buys, before visiting cultural sites like the Sri Maha Mariamman temple or Sin Sze Si Ya temple.
However, some people do feel that KL is built for cars rather than being pedestrian-friendly.
Ipoh is slowly gaining traction as a travel destination for locals and tourists alike. You can explore the unique colonial architecture of the Ipoh Railway Station and Birch Clock Tower located across each other before making your way to the famous Concubine Lane, a street dotted with cultural attractions, cafes, authentic Ipoh food and street art.
Although Putrajaya is kinda massive on its own, the walkability of each precinct is still pretty commendable.
There are some precincts located within Putrajaya that are worth the walk for their gorgeous landscaped gardens and exquisite buildings. From the hub of Putrajaya, the Dataran Putra, you can take a short walk down to the Putrajaya Lake and the Seri Wawasan Bridge.
Now, some of the worst.
Johor Bahru, Johor
Unfortunately, residents of Johor Bahru have much to complain about the walkability of their city.
Despite being so close to our counterpart Singapore (which ranks as a highly walkable city, BTW) you’d think that they might adopt some of Singapore’s city planning.
Well… Malaysians on Reddit definitely thinks otherwise.
They say that JB is way too big and busy to be walkable.
Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
Seremban is a quaint and quiet city off the hustle and bustle of the city centre. So it SHOULD be pretty walkable right?
Guess not?! Again, locals have a lot to say about the poor planning of the city that makes it difficult to get by on foot.
Although Seremban is a fairly new city, and the main road from the bus Terminal 1 to Prima Mall finally has an overhead bridge, there’s still a lot of room for progress in terms of making the city pedestrian-friendly.
Some areas in Klang are actually nice to explore on foot, for example, Little India in Tengku Kelana Klang leads you down to the historic Indian Muslim Mosque, the Klang Heritage Walk (a guided tour), and the Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery.
However, Klang has long had a reputation for being the most dangerous city in Southeast Asia.
According to a Russian crowd-sourced global database, in 2021, Klang ranked number one as the city with the highest crime index and the lowest safety index.
Although Selangor police have rubbished the claim and Klang-ites might try to argue with you about it, it still proves that we have a lot to work on to make this city safe for walkers.
There’s still a long way to go to make the country a pedestrian paradise, but there seems to progress in the right direction. Who knows, one day we might find ourselves travelling on twos more frequently than we thought.