Curbing Our Walking Space

After writing about some potentially good news for pedestrians in Bangkok, I have to strive for some karmic balance by writing about something else what is currently underway that is impinging on the foot-friendliness of a soi in my neighborhood.

“Soi” is a word in Thai that is often translated into English as “alley”.  It means a smaller street, often not connecting, that branches off a major road.  The neighborhood I live in is in the midst of a veritable maze of sois, some of which have footpaths (sidewalks) and others of which don’t.  One main soi on which I regularly have to walk has undergone some road construction this past week that ended up with a pedestrian unfriendly result.


This particular soi is called Thong Lor Soi 9, indicating it is the ninth soi off a larger street called Thong Lor – which is itself a soi of Sukhumvit Road, Sukhumvit Soi 55, to be precise.  (Confused yet?)  Soi 9 parallels a small khlong (canal) that is really more of a drainage ditch with some stagnant water in it.  There isn’t much space and when you walk along it you have to be careful of passing traffic.  Thankfully, though, there is a wide dirt shoulder that you can step onto if you become concerned about the passing vehicles.

Two weeks ago when I saw workers shoveling gravel along the khlong side of the soi, I was optimistic that perhaps they would widen it just a bit, making a little more room for the many pedestrians who walk this soi from the residential area to the main street where all the shops and markets are.


Unfortunately, the plan was not to widen the street but instead to add a curb along the side of the existing street.  Not that I’ve seen it happen, but perhaps they are suddenly concerned about vehicles ending up in the ditch like some pilot of a South African 737.  Or, more likely, they are trying to channel rain water into the storm drains (concrete rectangles with metal grates in them in the picture below) instead of into the khlong. 


The net effect for pedestrians is that now you really have to walk in the street.  An easy step off the street now involves stepping over a curb and onto uneven ground, increasing the risk of tripping or ending up on your butt in the khlong.


From a pedestrian perspective, the best solution would probably be to install a wide pipe in place of the khlong and pave over that area with a wide footpath.  They did this on part of Sukhumvit Soi 38 (above) and it is beautiful.  Yes, there isn’t as much greenery although that could be addressed in several different ways.  But you do have one of the widest, smoothest footpaths in the city, complete with ample curb cuts. 

I’m curious to see whether Thong Lo Soi 9 ever receives similar treatment.  For now, I’ll just have to be that much more careful when walking along the soi.


0 thoughts on “Curbing Our Walking Space

  1. That really bites. I’m a pedestrian. I don’t drive at all and travel on foot for my shopping etc. However I also have two toddlers and I push a double stroller everywhere. You really realize how unsafe it is to be a pedestrian in some areas when you also have to small ones to protect. We have a blind corner near my home and it is THE way to get everywhere I need to go, unless I’m going to take a really long way around. Cars fly around that corner and if two are both going at the same time, in opposite directions (which is very frequent because a new freeway access and road was put in just one house over from me on what used to be a beautiful green field) there is really no place for pedestrians except walking through a slanted muddy shoulder or over a curb… neither an easy feat for stroller, the elderly in their carts – of which there are many in our neighbourhood. We are always encouraged to ‘go green’ yet often it’s not safe to do so.

  2. And here the opposite is happening – the new roads allow for walking and bicycle lanes. Even a trail only for that that runs for miles. Even the allies now have lanes for us walkers! Good luck maybe get the community to talk to the government.

  3. I remember the days…lol. Be sure you do NOT tumble into that klong!!! I fell into the klong running in the back of our yard….while cleaning the lily pads out….had to go in for a tetanus shot…lol. Ruth Ann

  4. hmm… so i take it people don’t really run outdoors there? having been forced to run in the road and dodge cars on numerous occasions (people need to learn to clear their sidewalks after it snows!), i have developed a very strong appreciation for sidewalks.

  5. The excitement, of never knowing for sure if you’ll reach your destination alive, is one of the many things that make Bangkok a worthy place to live. 🙂

  6. Besides being inconvenient, it is hazardous, especially if there are children in tow or going to school etc. Does your place have an alderman type of official who would listen to your concerns?

  7. Thank you all for your comments. A few responses:@ZSA_MD –  @Fatcat723 –  @The_Eyes_Of_A_Painter –  Unfortunately, we don’t have a system that is quite as clear cut as having a representative on a city council. There is a local district office and that may be the place to start, though.@yang1815 –  The benefit of having visited.@oxyGENE_08 –  Every step forward is a good one, even if just a tiny step.@ThePrince –  Glad you enjoyed it.@godisinthewind –  That’s a good point. If we want to encourage people to get out of there cars, we have to make sure the infrastructure encourages that behavior. We respond to incentives and not having a safe place to walk is a negative incentive.@vsan79 –  I know in Japan many neighborhoods have no dedicated sidewalk, but the space is marked in such a way as to clearly identify a pedestrian area and a separate vehicular area. Not quite to that point here in Bangkok.@Fatcat723 –  That is something that seems to be changing in the US, at least a little. When I lived in Kansas City for a year before moving here, there was a budding bicycle and waking trail network that was being started.@Redlegsix –  Oh, dear. Tetanus shot would be a must if you ended up in the water!@kunhuo42 –  Not much outdoor running, at least in the streets. I’ve seen a lot of runners (or, at least, joggers) at the local parks, but it is funny to see them take a taxi to the park, run, and then take a taxi home.@marc11864 –  I’d question your choice of the word “worthy”… =D

  8. Oh, how I remember those dreadful pavements in the Big Mango, that’s why I prefer to use the skywalk!Hey Chris, I got Chawadee’s foodie book from! It was quite interesting, I hope it’ll be useful by the time I visit you guys!

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