THE IPOH City Council is mulling the idea of converting back lanes into recreational areas, similar to what is being done in many other countries.
Mayor Datuk Zamri Man said the council is studying the suitable locations at Ipoh's Old and New Town areas.
He said either the back lanes could be converted to recreational areas or made into parking lots.
"Since we have limited places to construct recreational areas within the city, we need to enhance and upgrade the existing ones.
"With a lot more tourists coming to Ipoh to savour its delicious food, and to visit tourism spots, we need a lot more activities around," he said after the council's full board meeting last Wednesday.
Zamri said, from the council's observations, city dwellers badly require additional recreational areas, and more activities like the monthly "Car Free Day" programme.
He said the council is also looking at the idea of a Car Free Night in the city centre to attract more visitors.
He said currently people usually gather at the square in front of the railway station at nights during weekends.
"Despite having other recreational areas, people prefer to gather at areas where they feel safe, especially during the night," he added.
The major open areas for the public within the city's Old Town area include Taman D. R. Seenivasagam, People's Park, Ipoh Padang, and the train station square. Over in the New Town area, there is Dataran MBI, Sultan Abdul Jalil field, Sultan Abdul Aziz Recreational Park, and the Chinese Recreation Club field.
Zamri said, with a lot more tourists and Ipoh's increasing population, it is obvious that the square in front of the railway station, and Dataran MBI are not sufficient to cater to the needs of people seeking a place to gather at night.
"Currently back lanes are only used to collect rubbish once a day, so why not make use of the space to come up with activities.
"For example if we are able to acquire 10 per cent of the 314.37ha of reserve land for roads and back lanes to be converted into recreational parks for certain hours, for sure MBI can provide 31.4ha of additional public recreational space," he added.
Zamri said if certain quiet roads and back lanes are used to organise activities it would also help people feel safe.
He said the organisation of proper activities in quiet back lanes will help to reduce the fear of becoming a victim of crime in quiet areas, while also helping to reduce crowding in the popular public spaces.
However, Ipoh City Watch president Prof Dr Richard Ng said it is not a very good idea to convert back lanes for recreational purposes as back lanes are associated with toilets and garbage collection areas.
Ng said it is a better idea for the council to focus on how to maximise the use of Kinta riverfront instead.
"I just got back from Vietnam, and part of the Saigon River is used for boat cruise where people can have dinner on board as well.
"So we should be doing similar things, and also providing infrastructure for Ipoh's famous hawker food to be sold at the outlets set up along the river walk," he added.
Ng said the back lanes in the country, unlike western countries are filthy and smelly, with rats and cockroaches roaming freely.
He said usually the the drains are filled with leftovers thrown from restaurants, creating an unpleasant sight and smell.
"The council must create more activities at night at the various parks available in the city. By nightfall most of the parks are quiet and deserted, so why is it not possible for the council to start some interesting events or activities," he added.