Bangkok has a unique street-level culture. Footpaths overflow with food vendors, hawkers, beggars, and motorbikes. Sometimes there is even room for pedestrians. This sidewalk chaos is simultaneously the charm of the city and the bane of its residents’ efforts to get from place to place. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has announced big plans to move the pedestrians above the crowd onto a 50-km network of skywalks.
Dubbed the “Super Skywalk”, this network would connect existing Skytrain stations with nearby businesses, much in the way the Ratchaprasong shopping district is connected to both the Chidlom and Siam stations. Ambitious in scope, the skywalks would not only follow all existing Skytrain lines, they would also trace new paths above busy streets like Thong Lo, Asoke, Ramkhamhaeng, and Whithayu (Wireless).
The entire network is slated to be complete in four years, with the first portion, 16 km following the Sukhumvit line from Nana station to Soi Baring (Sukhumvit 107, end of the extension to the line that should open later in 2011), set to open within 18 months. Interestingly, some of the sections such as Thong Lo and Ramkhamhaeng follow routes Bangkok’s governor has proposed for a monorail line. There has been no explanation if those plans are still underway.
I’ve written previously about various pedestrian bridges being built to connect to Skytrain stations and I’m certainly not the first person to think that a wider network of skywalks would encourage more use of the mass transit systems.
There are many questions to consider, though. Will these new skywalks be kept clear of vendors? Some of the elevated footpaths near Siam Square often look like a repeat of the sidewalks down below, minus the motorbikes. Also, will the skywalks result in diminished business for the vendors along the street or even for regular, fixed businesses? Considering that the governor has also proposed creating designated spaces for the vendors similar to Singapore’s hawker centers, perhaps this is part of a larger plan.
It will be interesting to see if and when this project actually is built, what the effects are. Original article in The Nation newspaper.