Power of shame compels city to repaint sketchy Sukhumvit crossing under expressway

At left, the markings all but gone from the pavement below the Sukhumvit Expressway. At right, what it looked like Friday morning after the image went viral. Photos: Punnaporn Hemrachatanant / Facebook
At left, the markings all but gone from the pavement below the Sukhumvit Expressway. At right, what it looked like Friday morning after the image went viral. Photos: Punnaporn Hemrachatanant / Facebook

Painted crossing lines magically reappeared overnight at a particularly perilous intersection of highway drivers and pedestrians after complaints went viral.

City workers repainted the faded pedestrian markings at the long no-man’s land under the Sukhumvit Expressway, where pedestrians must avoid drivers racing on and off the highway, a photo circulated showing them all but gone. 

The lines could hardly be seen in Thursday morning’s post by Punnaporn Hemrachatanant, which was shared thousands of times and recounted how she was turned away by unhelpful police there.

“I gathered up the courage to knock on the door of the traffic booth at the [Sukhumvit] Expressway,” Punnaporn wrote. “I told the police, ‘There used to be a zebra crossing here which has faded, what should I do?’”

What she got was, in her words, the “saddest response ever.”

“The policeman told me, ‘There is no zebra crossing here, where is it?’ and so I had to show him the photo I took from my phone,” Punnaporn said. “I asked if the police could cooperate with me. We cross the road there every day, and there are cars coming from two different lanes.”

At that, the sworn officer leaped into action by pointing two fingers in another direction and telling her, “You can tell it to the Expressway Authority.”

“Isn’t it everyone’s business?” Punnaporn wrote in her post, noting the location’s proximity to Bumrungrad International Hospital. “There are a lot of people crossing this section including hospital staff. I could get hit by a car anytime soon when cars are driving fast to take the expressway.”

The power of shame apparently paid off, as bright white marks had been painted by this morning. 

“I’m very happy to see the change as it would help a lot of pedestrians in this area,” Punnaporn told Coconuts after this story was published. “But in this city, there are still many places where people’s lives are still at risk. I want organizations to see that this is something we need to pay attention to. There must be a law that forces motorists to drive more safely.”

Pedestrian safety continues to be a hot button issue since the death of Waraluck Supawatjariyakul, who was struck and killed by police officer Lance Cpl. Norawich Buadok as he sped through a pedestrian crossing on an unregistered motorcycle. 

Norawich’s subsequent attempt to enter monkhood, a classic strategy to skirt responsibility, was barred by religious authorities, who said he could not ordain as he was the subject of an active investigation.

Regardless, Norawich shaved his head alongside his father and made merit as in monk’s robes at the three-day funeral for Waraluck, an eye doctor held up in the media as “Doctor Kratai.”

Norawich has been charged with fatal reckless driving, though expectations that justice will be served are low given Thailand’s two-lane justice system.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the highway as the Sukhumvit Expressway. It is in fact the Chalerm Maha Nakhon Expressway, known colloquially as the Phloen Chit Expressway.

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