GEORGE TOWN, Apr 21: Penang, especially its capital city of George Town, is a magnetic pull for domestic and foreign tourists who are most definitely to drive to the island.
However they are not spared from the traffic congestion due to the increasing volume of vehicles every year as well as those from abroad and outside the state, which worsened the situation in the city centre and tourist spots.
For residents of the island, they had to cope with the traffic congestion in the city, particularly during peak hours and school holidays or long weekend holidays.
Among the roads that are constantly congested during peak hours when people are going and returning from work are from Jalan Sungai Pinang to Jalan Perak, Jalan Masjid Negeri, Jalan Air Hitam, Lebuhraya Lim Chong Eu leading to the Penang bridge and the road leading to Bayan Lepas and Balik Pulau.
While during the holiday season, traffic jam is a routine occurrence in tourist areas such as the roads leading to Batu Ferringi, Bukit Bendera and Jalan Penang.
According to Wikipedia, Penang is divided into two portions comprising the mainland at Seberang Perai, which has an area of 653 sq km and the island with 293 sq km, but the cumulative number of vehicles in the state is increasing annually.
Based on statistics obtained from the Penang Road Transport Department, the cummulative number of vehicles in the state in 2013 was 2,408,715, an increase of 3.8 per cent to 2,500,220 in 2014.
In 2015 the cummulative number again rose to 2,556,735.
According to the statistics, the new registration of new motor vehicles from January to September last year were 36,628 and out of the total, 25,353 were motorcycles; cars (8,892); buses (74); taxis (87); own rental cars (37); goods vehicles (1,770); and other vehicles (415).
In view of the number of vehicles that are steadily increasing over that period against the total size of George Town, which is relatively small compared to other cities, the traffic woes are acute.
Compounded with the state of roads which are built close to the sidewalk of buildings is the attitude of most drivers in Penang who had no qualms to park their vehicles on the narrow shoulders of the roads that often do not have a bicycle lane.
“Driving in Penang scared me,” said a 34-year-old American national who requested anonymity and has been residing and working in George Town for almost a year.
That was most probably his personal perception when comparing the manner of driving in this city and his original country but it cannot be denied that it is the reality for drivers here.
Azman Ngah, who spent his holiday with his family in the state for the first time last school holiday, said it took patience and constant alertness to drive here.
“Most of the roads in the city centre are narrow, which is made worst by the bad attitude of motorcyclists and cars that stop on the shoulder of roads,” he added.