By Saw Yen Gui
Pulau Tikus, a local neighbourhood in Penang has undergone various community projects over the past four months to improve living conditions for its residents.
The purpose of the neighbourhood improvement project is to create a more active lifestyle for its residents and to better connect the local community.
According to a public survey carried out by Think City in 2013, the residents in the area expressed their desire to have more parks for recreational and leisure purposes, more pathways and bicycle lanes, a safer environment to carry out physical activities and workouts, and an increase in community engagement through fun activities.
As a result, the neighbourhood improvement project took shape in 2016.
Phase one of the project involved designing a recreation area in front of Burmah Road which was completed in January this year.
The 1.3km of pavement in front of Burmah Road was transformed into a recreation area with the installation of seating facilities amidst a green environment.
Swings were also installed and a statue was erected to show the history of the area.
Pulau Tikus assemblywoman Yap Soo Huey said the pavement was already in place for a long time but never used.
“The sidewalk is not often used so we turned the flat boring pavement into something more attractive,” Yap said.
“Therefore, to attract people to use it, the most important thing is to create a sense of play by adding those swings,” she said.
In terms of recreation, the main idea is to get people living nearby to walk and exercise in public spaces to reduce traffic and car dependency.
Yap implemented the recreation area to solve traffic problems.
“According to town and traffic planners, installing street furniture is an effective way to encourage people to walk and discover the newly installed facilities,” she said.
Yap added the target public of this recreation area is the locals and not tourists.
“When I first planned to set up this recreation area, I am very clear in my mind about differentiating Pulau Tikus from Georgetown World Heritage Site,” Yap said.
“The Penang state government is more focused on Georgetown as they develop areas rapidly and organise events constantly to bring in the crowd.
“In that effort, certain areas like Pulau Tikus and Air Itam end up not getting any attention,” she said.
Today, Pulau Tikus faces a decrease in population due to the aging population and the younger generation moving to different states for work.
“Nowadays, people are too isolated and busy with their work,” Yap said.
“The neighbourhood improvement project which includes building recreation area and community activities allows the residents to get together to create a stronger community spirit,” she said.
However, the initiative has seen some negative public feedback, claiming that there is a lack of safety in the area.
Pulau Tikus resident Cheah criticises the swing that is located beside the road as it is dangerous for children.
“The traffic on Burmah Road is busy and the vehicle speed is extremely fast,” Cheah said adding that children playing on the swings by themselves is dangerous.
When questioned on this, Yap suggested that parental guidance is recommended to ensure the children’s safety.
“We are fully aware of the possible dangers so we plant some trees beside the swings to avoid children running out from that area.
“In addition, the swings are designed so that they cannot swing too high or too fast.
“There are some people who have advised us to put up a fence beside the swings but it would be more dangerous if the children climbed over them,” she said.
Maintaining the area
To improve on the cleanliness of the recreation area, two cleaners are employed to upkeep the area on a daily basis.
All the project costs and maintenance fees are sponsored equally by Yap’s service centre and Think City.
Yap said the recreation area is a pilot project and if successful, it will be rolled out into other areas.
Local resident Ng, praises the neighbourhood improvement project and says that it has been a very successful initiative.
“I hope to see this neighbourhood improvement project implemented in other areas someday,” Ng said.