Impressed by the international neighborhood walking initiative Jane’s Walk, two women got together and started the “Kerja Jalan” project to encourage similar activities in the community.

The project was started by Yasmin Lane, 34, and Awatif Ghapar, 33, in May 2019 after realising the need for a pedestrian-friendly city to encourage the public to make walking a common mobility option.

“By walking, we can see and understand the city and the local area better, such as its function, as well as the development of urban areas,” Yasmin told Bernama.

Yasmin, who graduated with a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Urbanism from the University of College London, said the “Kerja Jalan” project also aims to foster and increase public awareness about the importance of walking activities for a healthy lifestyle.

“Even walking for just 10 to 15 minutes helps improve physical and mental health. Start small, walk for 10 to 15 minutes every morning or evening and try to find a reason to walk, for example, to go to the store nearby, eat roti canai and if you can’t walk in your housing area, do it in a nearby park,” she said.

According to Yasmin, the development of most towns in the country is based on the requirements for private vehicles, while pedestrians’ needs are neglected due to the policymakers and decision-makers not understanding them.

Pedestrians need a safe, comfortable, and protected environment, she said, adding that even in the hierarchy of road users, pedestrians should be given priority, but it was rarely done.

As such, she said, pedestrians still have to go through traffic jams to cross the road due to the lack of pedestrian facilities.

“The solution is that we need to have more plans that are made by people who run daily or regularly. We have to think about the constraints of pedestrians such as parents with small children who commute by bus, train or bicycle,” she said.

However, Yasmin said big cities like Kuala Lumpur already provide special facilities for pedestrians, in addition to introducing proper signages, as well as placing bollards, like in Brickfields and Wangsa Maju.

As for Awatif, Kerja Jalan, which has so far organised more than 30 walking activities across the country, also aims to change the public’s mindset on walking.

“They should not think of walking only when going traveling or visiting unique places, but also to walk in their own surrounding.

“This way, they get to see and realise the uniqueness and differences in the area, which they may have overlooked because of the comfort of travelling in a car, like the grocery stores that have been around since childhood, footpaths at schools, presence of nearby playgrounds, recycling centres, and so on,” she said.

On her next plan, Awatif said she hoped to collaborate and share views and ideas with the government, corporate bodies, developers, local authorities, and even non-governmental organisations on the importance of having pedestrian-friendly cities.

“We also intend to spread awareness to all levels of society, especially the young people who have power and responsibility in shaping future cities and places to live.

“It is important for them to understand and shape the ecosystem according to their needs, rather than just accepting and adapting,” she said, adding that Singapore is the best example of a country in the Southeast Asian region that provides pedestrian facilities.

Awatif said Kerja Jalan also plans to hold a walking activity in the Klang Valley on May 20 in conjunction with the Jane’s Walk Festival.

Jane’s Walks encourage people to share stories about their neighbourhoods, discover unseen aspects of their communities, and use walking as a way to connect with their neighbours.

Updates and information on Kerja Jalan activities are available on Kerja Jalan’s Instagram social media or email at kerjajalanmy@gmail.com.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency