An annual Car Free Day was held on
September 23 as cyclists rode from Saraphi to Wiang Kum Kam and to 9 temples
around the area. It is certainly a commendable exercise in promoting the use
of bicycles and encouraging people to get out of their cars.
However, it seems a very small step in a campaign that could be much bigger.
It’s hard to encourage the use of bicycles especially when it is very hot or
raining or when the smog season hits. Perhaps a more effective way to combat
the traffic and pollution would be for the central government to get serious
about implementing a public transportation system. Promises are being made
but without central government support and funding an effective public
transportation system cannot be implemented.
As a reader pointed out in the last issue, the huge tour buses coming into
the heart of old town are not only a cause of serious traffic problems but
also a menace to power lines and trees. A more effective solution would be
some kind of minivan service bringing the tourists in instead.
Additionally, a route around the outside of the moat and around the inside
of the moat of some kind of street car trolley would not only enable
visitors and residents to get around more easily but would also allow cut
down on traffic. A few other street cars going from Kad Luang to the Night
Bazaar and into town as well as along to Kad Suan Kaew and Nimmanhaemin and
up to CMU would do wonders to alleviate traffic.
The ubiquitous red cars could still be in use but many of them would need to
be removed from the streets and the drivers retrained to drive the street
cars and tourist minivans.
This would require tremendous political
will from the central government to enact and one that most feel will never
see the light of day. The truth is, Chiang Mai is an attractive place to
live. More and more housing is going up, as are more shopping centers as
more people move here to live. If the city does not learn to cope with the
traffic in an effective manner it will see the choking traffic jams that
crippled Bangkok for years and in fact, still do cripple parts of the city.