By Nasuha Badrul Huzaini
SELANGOR has emerged as among the earliest states in Malaysia to implement car-free days through its local councils, the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) and the Hulu Selangor Municipal Council (MPHS).
The events, which encourage drivers to give up their cars and explore other modes of transport for a day, was first organised by MBSA in Shah Alam on January 22, 2017, followed by MPHS on August 25, 2018.
In conjunction with World Car-Free Day which is celebrated on September 22 every year, Selangor Journal speaks with state executive councillor for local government Ng Sze Han to learn more about the initiative.
Ng said the idea of car-free days has managed to gain traction as the number of local councils involved with the initiative has increased over the years.
“As of now, 10 out of 12 local councils in Selangor have organised it. The two local councils that have yet to come on board are the Kuala Langat Municipal Council (MPKL) and the Sabak Bernam District Council (MDSB).
“I believe that MPKL will soon hold this event and we will continue to encourage MDSB to do the same, given that Sabak Bernam is famous for its picturesque landscapes.
“Through the several instalments of car-free days in the state this year, we have managed to draw over 10,000 participants in total. The frequency of the event varies as some local councils hold it twice a month while others, only once.
“As for the cost to organise such an event, it can range from RM5,000 to RM60,000 depending on its scale,” he said, adding that local councils are encouraged to implement car-free days in as many locations as possible.
Carbon emissions check
Ng said it has been inspiring to see members of the public lend their support to this idea. What’s even more encouraging is that the higher the number of participants the better the success rate of the state’s plan to go green.
He said the car-free day concept is very much aligned with the state government’s aim to create a community that is keen to protect the environment.
“This is a very meaningful and good programme as it encourages people to walk. We have to create a walkable community as it will convince people to try other methods of transport, for example, to use public transport and reduce their reliance on private cars.
“Apart from that, this initiative will also contribute towards reducing carbon emissions in the state when more people opt to use e-scooters, e-bikes or just walk.
“We want to let them realise that walking can be fun and this initiative is the perfect means to achieve our objectives,” he said.
With car-free days ongoing for four years, Ng said the state government is now working on how to quantify carbon emission reduction in the state.
“We are working with a consultant to create a formula on this. We anticipate that the figure should be announced by next year because we need to have a standardised format to be circulated to all local councils.
“At this moment, PLANMalaysia Selangor and the state government are still working on the format and I believe when it is finalised, it will be easier to quantify what we have achieved (in terms of carbon emissions reduction) over the years,” he added.
Ng said aside from the Car-Free day initiative, the state government has been actively promoting environmentally-friendly types of transport, such as electric vehicles (EV).
“To convince more people to use EVs, we have to install more electric car chargers. We are now in discussions with several companies to install more chargers in busy areas. In the 2022 Selangor Budget, Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Amirudin Shari announced that the state aims to install 10,000 EV charging stations across the state by 2025, with the first 1,000 stations expected to be ready this year.
“However, this might be a bit difficult to achieve because it is like the chicken and egg issue. But rest assured, we are heading towards that outcome and it won’t be too long before we achieve our target,” he said.
Ng said that the state government is also in the process of installing solar panels on the Selangor State Secretariat Building in Shah Alam and on district and land offices in Selangor.
“We also encourage our local councils to approach solar panel suppliers to see whether there is a way to install solar panels on their council buildings as well.
“On top of that, the state government’s upcoming Selangor Maritime Gateway project aims to improve the water quality of Sungai Klang. In future, we plan to have a water taxi service at the river which can be another mode of transport for the people,” he said.
Walking the talk
When asked how the state government plans to address the last mile issue of the people’s accessibility to public transport, Ng said he has instructed the local councils to pay close attention to walkways.
“One of the purposes of having CarFree day is to encourage people to walk. Therefore, we need to improve our walkways as this would indirectly help to address the last mile concern of access to car-free options.
“We understand that the public wants to have safe and comfortable walkways, that is why we have encouraged the local councils to focus on the matter. Good walkways will help to connect people from residential and commercial areas to train and bus stations,” he added.
Ng also said the state government has been exploring van-on-demand services to cater to an increasing need.
“Having a smaller vehicle like a van or a coaster bus would help in tackling the challenge to provide public transport to every doorstep as they are more efficient compared to normal bus services and more economical than e-hailing cars.
“With the advancement of technology, we could collaborate with private providers and users will be able to make bookings for the service easily. I believe such initiatives would help to improve the overall efficiency of our public transport system.
“I am glad to say that we have found a solution and currently the Menteri Besar is working on the proposal. I will leave it to him to make the announcement. This is going to be something very exciting,” he concluded.
This article first appeared in the Selangor Journal monthly September edition, published on September 3, 2022.