Analysis by KotaKita: Do we need KK Skybridge?
24 Sept 2021
By Wartawan Nabalu News
KOTA KINABALU: A group of community-led city planning advocates through the KotaKita initiative has conducted an analysis on the newly-launched multimillion sky bridge in the city which recently turned into a laughing stock when one of its pathways stops at a dead-end.
An on-ground experience by KotaKita led by a Universiti Malaya (UM) Bachelor of Science Architecture graduate, Rashidah Kamaluddin, aimed to interpret whether it would actually improve pedestrians' experience or primarily if it is necessary in the first place.
The RM31.5 million project was initially funded by the Prime Minister's Department Public-Private Partnership and was scheduled for completion within six months in 2017. However, the sky bridge was only recently completed and opened to the public after additional funding of RM4.7 million by the Sabah government.
"The Skybridge connects five commercial points including Asia City, Api Api Commercial Centre, Warisan Square Commercial Centre, Oceanus Waterfront Mall and Center Point Shopping Mall, being the only highly occupied.
Looking at the location of these places, the team queried if this sky bridge is truly vital in order to connect these commercial centres and whether if people actually would use it.
"To address the latter, it may be best to understand the local pedestrian culture in relation to elevated bridges, focusing on three aspects.
"The local’s tendency to utilize the spaces under the bridge for stall and night hawkers, which is a positive note as this creates more vibrancy in the area should the bridge be strategic for such activities; vandalism and littering may happen over time; and people do not really enjoy climbing the stairs and use an elevated bridge as a simpler means if preferred.
"A research study found that the relationship between footbridge height and the usage frequency leads to a decrease in the likelihood of utilising this infrastructure. Being in a hurry is highly associated with pedestrians crossing at the street level.
"Even before the sky bridge opening, pedestrians have been crossing this main road as there are pedestrian signs and traffic lights which encourage people to cross on the streets, and this seems to continue.
"With this situation, the current bridge location may not be the most strategic place since it is far-off from Center Point Shopping Mall main entrances which pedestrians frequently use. A sky bridge may not actually be necessary if only we can implement a ‘traffic calming’ strategy and more visible zebra crossings in front of the entrances so people can cross at ease instead of jaywalking," said the team.
KotaKita explained that on the connection to the first floor of Center Point Shopping Mall, which does not have stairs connecting to the ground floor means that if pedestrians come from another side of the road and they directly want to access the ground floor of the mall, it is more convenient to cross the road instead of using the sky bridge which somehow defeats the purpose of the costly bridge.
Hence, the team asserted that it would be best to have stairs to the ground floor at the end of the mall's bridge to enhance continuity.
"Even so, during the non-rainy weather, it is expected that people may tend to walk via the road since it already has a pathway and curbs as a buffer. Similar cases may happen for pedestrians who come over to Warisan Square Commercial Centre as they might prefer to cross the road instead of using the sky bridge since the area beyond the end does not have coverings to get to the buildings and nearby bus stop. Again, this is impractical during hot and rainy days.
"Meanwhile, the sky bridge that connects Api Api Commercial Centre is basically just to connect two retail areas and different points of the sky bridge. It does not really act as a direct bridge between Promenade Apartment and Api Api Commercial Centre which results in pedestrians having to cross the road still.
"The sky bridge covering Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens seems like it serves little function as there are existing pedestrian walkways including one under the bridge itself. It may be less redundant if the sky bridge can be extended to the bus terminal opposite Oceanus Waterfront Mall. Adding on, a ‘traffic calming’ strategy and a more visible curb are pretty much needed here, given the size of the road," the team elucidated.
KotaKita culminated that the sky bridge lacks continuity although efforts can be seen in trying to improve the experience of persons with disabilities (PWD).
The lifts for PWD are only located at two points which are at Asia City and Oceanus Waterfront Mall and if a PWD wants to go to Warisan Square Commercial Centre from Oceanus Waterfront Mall, one has no option but to cross the street, it added.
"This also affects families who are using strollers as well travellers with luggage. Specifically, on the access to the lift, it seems like usage is targeted and limited because the public is unable to directly use it. Those who wish to use it have to first reach the phone located quite high on the wall, give a call after then access will be granted. This is with the assumption that the guard on the other end is available to pick up the call and manage the lift usage.
"Another challenge is for people with visual impairment. They are unable to really rely on the tactile pavement in this area because it stopped at odd places, instead of leading them to the lift. They might also not be aware that a phone call to seek permission is required before accessing the lift."
KotaKita came to a conclusion that the construction may not be a fruitful investment, just yet, and asserted that there are other low-cost alternatives and a more sustainable approach to improving pedestrians' experience, such as decreasing the number of cars on the road through a more efficient public transportation system.
"This will contribute to lower demand for roads and parking spaces which then can instead be spaces for people, community activities, parks and pathways. This will lead to a vibrant and lively city, and hopefully safer for the public.
“If we are exploring these different approaches in the first place, we might have been able to channel this RM36.2 million towards more deserving areas for Sabahans as a whole - addressing poverty, access to basic essentials, and job opportunities for the younger generation.”
The sky bridge project which is part of the urban transport masterplan for Kota Kinabalu central business district mooted by City Hall in 2017 was launched by Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.