Pongsapat, Suharit plan to pedal to work

Two Bangkok governor candidates said they would cycle to work at City Hall every day if they win the upcoming election.

The remarks came in an election debate yesterday that focused on developing a network of bike lanes in the city.

Independent candidate Suharit Siamwalla and the Pheu Thai Party's Pongsapat Pongcharoen promised to cycle to City Hall every day if they won the election.

Pol Gen Pongsapat said it was important for the governor to set a good example.

"If the governor rides a bicycle to work, building [cycling] routes will be easier," he said.

He pledged to improve bike lanes and build more parking spots for bicycles.

Four candidates _ including Mr Suharit and Pol Gen Pongsapat as well as the Democrat Party's MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra and Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, an independent _ were invited to the "Vote Bike 2013" debate at the Santichaiprakarn Park.

The event was organised by Thammasat University.

Pol Gen Pongsapat spoke ahead of the debate because he had to head away early for other engagements.

Pol Gen Sereepisuth also demanded the same privilege and was allowed to take the stage alone.

In the end, only MR Sukhumbhand and Mr Suharit took part in the debate.

The candidates' debate was originally set for a wider topic of how to make the capital a more liveable city.

Cycling became one of the focal points as the audience included 100 cyclists and residents from the Bang Lamphu area. They asked the candidates whether building a network of bike lanes is feasible.

The cyclists suggested the lanes should ring Bangkok for a distance of 40 kilometres.

The cyclists also demanded safer cycling routes between residential areas and public transport links such as the skytrain, subway and Chao Phraya boat piers.

Cyclists should also be allowed to get on a bus and subway with their bikes, they said.

Currently, bicycles are only allowed on the skytrain and only folding bikes are permitted on boats and the subway.

The candidates said they supported the idea generally, and added that residents would be encouraged to use public transport and to switch to clean, alternative modes of transport, like cycling.

Mr Suharit said the cycling routes and lanes should begin in residential neighbourhoods to reduce the number of private cars on the road.

Cyclists have the right to use the road, he said. Motorists need to recognise the need to share the road with cyclists, he said.

Meanwhile, Pol Gen Sereepisuth said the city needed air-conditioned elevated skywalks on which street vendors could conduct their trade.

Having the vendors on the skywalks would free up space on the sidewalks for cyclists, he said.

MR Sukhumbhand said that as governor he had begun research on a proposed 40km cycling loop.

The route would link Charan Sanitwong Road, Klong Toey, Sukhumvit Road, Phetchaburi Road, Ratchadaphisek Road, Vibhavadi Rangsit Road and Rama 7 Road.

About the author

Writer: Sirinya Wattanasukchai
Position: Reporter