Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan has asked Bukit Batok SMC MP Murali Pillai and Jurong-Clementi Town Council to stop giving “excuses” on why a footpath cannot be built in the ward, after both parties responded to his complaint about a lack of footpath in the vicinity of Block 190 Bukit Batok West Ave 6.
Last week, Dr Chee said that the lack of a walkway in the area poses a danger to pedestrians since they are forced to walk on the road alongside traffic. He added that JRTC received a Bukit Batok resident’s complaint about this issue nearly a year ago but has not taken any action or given him an update on what it intends to do until now.
The opposition leader, who contested Bukit Batok SMC in the 2016 by-election and the 2020 general election, visited the area over the weekend to look into the matter. Revealing that he observed several instances of cars driving dangerously close to pedestrians, Dr Chee wrote on Facebook, this Sunday (6 Sept):
“A car came dangerously close to a lady walking with a young child. The lady quickly pulled the girl closer to her while the car had to swerve outwards to avoid hitting them.
“In the short span of an hour while I was there this morning at BB Blk 190, I witnessed a few similar incidents where cars were driving uncomfortably close to pedestrians, many with young children, who had to walk on the road because there isn’t a proper and separate pavement for them.”
Dr Chee said that several residents he spoke to wanted a footpath to be constructed. He added that a resident brought the matter up to Mr Murali but was told that this is not possible since people would also want a shelter if a walkway was constructed.
“I spoke with several residents who pointed out that this is indeed a problem and wanted to see a pavement constructed. One resident said she had brought the matter to Mr Murali’s attention last year but was told that if a footpath was built, then the people would want a shelter to cover the walkway which is not possible.”
Calling on the authorities to take immediate action, Dr Chee wrote: “MPs at the TC seemed not to have learnt the lesson after a fire broke out in 2019 at BB Blk 210A which resulted in the death of a resident because hosereel cabinets were locked and the water supply was cut off.
“The JRTC must look into this matter and take action before something serious happens. The safety of residents must not be compromised.”
The very next day, on Monday (7 Sept), Murali Pillai responded that it is “simply wrong” for Dr Chee to say that there is a lack of footpaths or viable routes since residents can walk through the void decks and disputed the insinuation that residents are forced to walk on the road or on the grass patch.
Revealing that he was alerted to Dr Chee’s Facebook posts by concerned netizens, the ruling party politician shared a screenshot of an email that a longtime Bukit Batok resident sent to him. The resident said that there was no need to provide additional footpaths.
He said: “…I hope to assure residents and netizens that there are barrier-free access routes which are also sheltered. I will like to appeal to residents to make good use of the pre-existing access route which are much safer for daily commute. Kindly see the photos annexed please.”
Implying that the facts were not accurately presented in Dr Chee’s post and that people could have been misled by the suggestions about the lack of footpath, Mr Murali added: “It is simply wrong to say that there is a lack of footpaths or viable routes under these circumstances. Whatever political view we hold, facts must remain facts. Otherwise, people may get misled and in the event we suffer.”
JRTC also published a Facebook post addressing the matter. Confirming that it received a suggestion to provide a footpath in the area, the town council implied that it would not be constructing one at this time since residents can walk through the void decks of blocks in the vicinity.
It said: “The Town Council had received suggestion to provide a footpath at Blocks 190, 192, 187 Bukit Batok. We have considered the suggestion carefully. As there are alternative sheltered routes through the void deck of these blocks and that these are safer routes, we would like to encourage the residents to use these routes.”
Dr Chee has since challenged the authorities’ explanations for why a footpath will not be built. Pointing out that residents should not use the building apron routes that Mr Murali suggested they should use given the problem of killer litter, Dr Chee wrote on Facebook yesterday (9 Sept):
“In his FB post regarding the lack of a footpath for BB residents in the vicinity of Blk 190, Mr Murali urged residents to use the “pre-existing access route” and referred to photos he attached. Some of these photos show residents using the building apron directly beneath the windows of the flats.
“This is not a safe solution given the problem of killer litter in HDB estates (see photos). I hope Mr Murali will amend his post and join me in urging residents not to use the building aprons as pathways.”
Highlighting that it may not always be feasible for pedestrians to use void decks, Dr Chee added: “Mr Murali also tells residents to use void decks. Void-deck spaces are often used for weddings and funerals and are rendered inaccessible to passers-by at such times. (Ironically, one of the photos in his post shows a funeral taking place at a void-deck with a cordon around the space.)
“Passageways at void decks are also often maze-like and have drain-lets and structures that make it difficult, especially for older folks and families with young children, to navigate.”
To Dr Chee, the best argument for a footpath is the fact that the authorities already built a tiny one along part of the road, that extends for just a few metres before and after the carpark gantry. Dr Chee asserted: “Obviously, the authorities were expecting pedestrians to use that side of the road, hence the construction of the pavement to prevent the gantry barrier-arm from hitting passers-by.”
He asked: “Why is the pavement constructed for only a few metres and why can’t it be extended for the remainder of the road?”
Reiterating his earlier call for Mr Murali and JRTC to take immediate action in constructing a simple footpath for the safety of residents, Dr Chee sharply said: “On behalf of the residents, I urge Mr Murali and JRTC not to give any more excuses and do the necessary by building a simple footpath for the safety of the residents. Please do this expeditiously before something untoward happens.”
In his FB post regarding the lack of a footpath for BB residents in the vicinity of Blk 190 (link below), Mr Murali…