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.