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29 Mar, 2024

Back to the future in historic downtown Bangkok

Bangkok – Roads paved over in the 19th century in the historic cultural centre of the Thai capital are going back to the future, resulting in increased usage by pedestrians and cyclists and reduced usage by polluting cars, tuk-tuks and motorcycles. The redesigning, part of a wider plan to make all of Bangkok more pedestrian-friendly, will improve the quality of life for local residents, facilitate walking and cycling tours and boost earnings for the dozens of small and medium sized businesses.

Six streets in the Bamrung Muang neighborhood have now undergone “treatments” to promote safe and active mobility and improve the environment. The project involved collaboration between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (the city government), local residents, Urban Ally, Silpakorn University, World Health Organisation, Vital Strategies, under the project name “Partnership for Healthy Cities” and NGOs such as the Thailand Walking and Cycling Institute Foundation (TWCIF). Funding support came from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

In 1863, Bamruang Muang Road was the second to be paved over after Charoen Krung road, which runs parallel to the city’s historic lifeline, the Chao Phraya river. It was an old elephant path leading up to the Grand Palace, connecting many of the iconic heritage and cultural spots of the city. Over the years, “modernisation” and “development” made it increasingly congested with both through traffic as well as cars owned by the local residents.

Due to its historic importance, high-rise buildings and commercial shopping complexes are banned in that area. To facilitate accessibility, the mass transit subway has opened a number of underground stations which has grown the number of foreign visitors. As a result, the area is seeing the emergence of small boutique hotels, coffee shops, restaurants and souvenir shops.

During 2023, the interconnected roads in that entire neighbourhood underwent a revamp to deprioritise the use of cars and other fossil-fuel burning vehicles. The results speak for themselves in the slides below.

Speakers are available to provide more details about the project (in both Thai and English). Contact Mishari Muqbil at mishari@mishari.net