Monday, February 23, 2009

Paving the correct way

One of my pet peeves is the state of sidewalks in Malaysia. I have often wondered why local councils in Malaysia made some magical quantum leap some time in the 1970s from having asphalt sidewalks to the ridiculous pavement stones.

Pavement stones are ridiculous in when used in Malaysia. Firstly, the foundation or underlay of Malaysian sidewalks is of dubious design. More likely, the sub-sub-sub-contractors that construct the sidewalks have cheated on the specifications.
Second, (related to the first point) the pavement stones are laid on a thin layer of sand. Maybe there's a slight layer of concrete. But, it's basically a layer of sand.

The whole unwieldy sidewalk starts to buckle after several thunderstorms. Obviously that loose layer of sand shifts and gets silted away by the torrential water run-off during a storm. What is left are pavement stones that either stick out in odd places ready to trip the pedestrian over or, sunken into a dangerous depression, waiting to break the pedestrian's neck.

I can't even imagine how Malaysian women wearing high-heels can stay upright walking on buckly Malaysian sidewalks.

Nice to look at, but horrible to maintain
And, as we know, Malaysia is very good at constructing things. But we are crap at maintenance.

Why are Malaysian local councils so fond of pavement stones? Is there a scam involving manufacturers of stone pavers?

Concrete pavements
In more advanced countries, concrete pavements are used. The specifications are actually in place. I looked it up. The Jabatan Kerja Raya (Public Works Department) has a set of Guidelines to the Design of Plain Concrete Pavement. Picture from here.

So, it is not as if I am suggesting anything radical. Diagram from here.
The local councils should look into using poured concrete or concrete slabs as the material of choice for constructing sidewalks instead of pavement stones...unless there's a scam that persuades them to prefer pavement stones over concrete pavements.


walla said...

Indeed, a rarefied word like 'governance' distills to simple things like pavements, sidewalks, drainage, leachates, floods, foliage, potholes and parking summons.

Thirty years, you say? That's half a lifetime. Thirty years and no one questioned whether tiled pavements and roads really worked?

It's not just sidewalks. Take the tiled road to Dataran in Melaka. Bumpy ride that serrates your bald tyres. If they say it's easier to maintain since you just replace tile by tile, then how come there are tiled potholes? The whole road is uneven. They should use the guli index. By the flick of your finger, roll a made-in-malaysia marble perpendicularly across the road. If it rolls across in a straight line despite the slight elevation in the centre, the guli index is one. It is excellent. You will find that in Beijing, Shanghai and any other city road over there. If it rolls from dataran melaka to jalan tebrau johor baru, you have a problem and should call the Menteri Besar that it's not just the observation tower but also the guli index which will win hearts and influence people.

Sidewalks shouldn't be tiled as the blogger has said. Maybe, if you will allow a small fancy, it should be laid with that material that is laid in childrens' playground. Nice rubbery support for the heels. But do some research first whether it will last or people may just rip it off for their gardens...or how much it will cost if we make it here.

Which comes to the four things to ask:

- who's checking on the integrity of local councils and their continuous blind eyes to how the rakyat are suffering because of their loaded choices, and negligences?

- who's checking on the way land delineations are done which in too many instances prevent the paving of proper sidewalks, let alone coming out with such poorly planned neighbourhoods that traffic gets snarled, trees don't get planted, and drains don't get cleared, let alone inflated land prices and activity mismatches?

- who can confirm whether town council parking summons are illegal, and all the more illegal for being used by the RIMV to disbar people from renewing their road tax? furthermore, who checks on fines collection in municipal halls, inasmuch tolls collected by road toll collection booths, inasmuch fines collected by traffic police counters?, and lastly,

- why am i writing so much?


de minimis said...

bro Walla

Keep writing. We need your intellectual integrity on these things. And, thanks for supporting my peeve :D

Anonymous said...

de minimis and walla, I fully concur with all your points and would like to add mine :-

1) the cost of construction for tiled pavements or roads, especially traffic intersections, is at least 10 times higher than concrete pavements or roads ie for every sqft of tiled area, we can cover 10 sqft of concrete area.

If common sense prevails, vs kickback sense, then more rakyats will take evening walks with their family instead of driving out to a park. Rakyats become healthier, happier family, etc. Also, traffic will be smoother because motorists will not slow down to avoid the unevenness and potholes. A case in point is the traffic intersection from Jln 222 towards Kg Tunku in front of Shell Station. Ever since MBPJ got rid of the tiled intersection and fully tarred it, 15 cars can get pass each traffic signal cycle vs 5 cars when it was tiled. But there are still thousands of tiled intersections in PJ. MBPJ why waste ratepayers money. It doesn't cost too much to convert the tiled intersection to tar.

2) the cost of maintenance is also much higher. An eg Jln Yong Shook Lin, near MBPJ. I witnessed a contractor fixing 1 sqft of tiled road. They had to cordon off 2 out of 3 lanes to fix it. Because it's just replacing the few missing of damage pieces. They had to take off about 20 - 30 sqft of tiles and relay them. After the whole repair job, you can tell which part of it has been repaired by looking at the colour tone. They can find the same colour. So de minimis, you're absolutely right that when they first constructed the whole stretch of Jln Yong Shook Lin, MBPJ was so proud of even decorating 'MBPJ' on the tiles. Now what happens ?

walla, I suspect that they're short of funds to maintain the missing tiles in Dataran in Melaka and probably, rakyat Melaka are not willing to cough out a higher rates.

So to the Pakatan Rakyat councillors, it is time to walk the talk. Campaign is aleady over more than 1 year, now is the time to make good of your promises and administer properly.

bluesailor said...

Pls drive along Bagan Serai to Taiping, you will experince a roller coater ride. Roads put up by MIC cronies to Umnooooooo.

de minimis said...


Welcome back after a long hiatus. Wassup, bro.


Your description made me seasick :D

Anonymous said...

bro de minimis, still catching my breath to keep up with your fertile economic brain spilling out articles after articles. Like you said in one of your posts, thinking hurts. My brain is hurting and that means that I've been reading but nothing to add to your well thought articles. Hehehe!

Besides, got to constantly check out bro Sak's no holds barred blog and also our super economist, etheorist.

Btw wifey was commenting why spend so much time reading blogs. My reply was blogs (just some) provide more substance than MSM. Kekeke !

Keep churning your good stuff, many people like me are reading and learning new stuff from your artilces but have nothing substantive to comment.

kuldeep said...

Interesting topic close to my heart so if I may add ;

There are basically 2 types of pavements i.e

1.Flexible>>with good subgrade preparation and a compacted SAND only subbase layer.Then,the pavers are laid on top of the subbase,,and joints filled up with sand..and tamped to ensure all voids are filled up.For motorised aggregate roadbase hv to be included as per std roads.
The benefits of the flexible pavements is that it can move so cracks not a problem..and parts can be replaced if there is any localised settlement.Problem is with vegetation in the joints and no repair of subsiding zones.
This solution is quite economical and easy to maintain.

2.Hard Pavements >> normally reinforced concrete layer with either tiled or imprint surface.Obviously a more expensive solution...Risks is of course if works are not done properly they will be cracking..and wearing off the surfaces>>which is difficult and expensive to make good.

Both solutions are acceptable and works well.Does not require major maintenance as such...just routine.However,the key is spotting localised problems and remedying it quickly before attendant problems due to water seepage exacerbates the problem.Similarly,problem with roots is quite common and there are various ways to handle that.

90 % of pavements are trouble free..unfortunately a lot of the 10% problems are not treated early thus is a danger n eyesore.

One particular eyesore is due to Right of Way issues...cos sidewalks not demarcated at planning stage thus created u can't avoid some zigzagging,lamp posts etc..

On pricing >> the markets for these products are competitive..and if the govt adopts Nominated Subcontracts and restricted to specialists...there will be economies as well as improvements in quality of the works.

Flexible pavements of concrete pavers has a lower life cycle cost than bituminous.

Ride Quality...would not be inferior to the cobblestones of Rome but it should not normally be specified for high volume or high speed traffic..

The simple answer to resolve "maintenance" issues is for all consumers to use the govt hotline to highlight the problem areas.


de minimis said...

hi kuldeep

Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

Just go to Lebuh Bandar Utama and see the mass the pavements are in. All the excavated earth is piled up and the drainage pipes are yet to be laid. This is taking more than two months. They have just completed the Jalan Selangor in Petaling Jaya. The modus operandi is simple. The contractor comes to retar the road. The proper method is to scrape off the top tarless gravel before retarring. But what is actually done is to add an inch or two of tar mixture far below specification. Year in year out this is done until the pavement is almost level with the road. Then the same guys come in to break up the pavement and raise it in tandem with the "new" road level. While breaking up the pavement the excavator "legs" make inch deep impressions on the road surfaces which are "never" repaired. Go look for these tractor prints at Jalan Selangor.

Anonymous said...

Apparently in South Africa, they have ready-made sidewalks, so they basically just lay it down and join it together, instead of like here where making sidewalks is an ordeal involving digging up half the jalan and about 153 construction workers ;)

de minimis said...


That sounds like the type of method we need. I have no grievance with manual labour. But the way pavements are done in Malaysia is so inefficient that it is no wonder that foreign workers are being hired by the droves. Worst of all, the whole pavement will buckle after a few months or, after a few thunderstorms.

kuldeep said...

Ellina..pavements are pretty readymade and senang pasang>>the mess that u normally associate with pavement installation works is the preparation of the ground prior to laying the pavement>>itu mesti ada korek2 tanah,fill up with batu,pasang pipe situ sana...

On the issue of continuous repairs as mentioned by Anon with Jln Selangor as an example>>i guess its cos too many agencies doing works independent of each other..myb local council needs to hv better coordination/system.
Btw,Sydney also face similar issues...

Anonymous said...

And now they are making pavement at KEN III Jalan SS2/72. Today they declared war on all the trees thirty something. CHop, Chop, Chop with lorries loaded with leafy branches and logs on road side. Any permit given to remove the trees. Are they planting five for every trres chopped down?

Slate Paving Slabs said...

I really like this way of paving, looks really artistic and blends with the weather.