The sidewalks of Thailand are lively. Extremely so. To a foreign visitor, the myriad of things on the sidewalks of cities like Bangkok or Sukhumvit are quite bizarre. Motorcycles use it for easier travel, street vendors use it for store space, and other sorts of respectable and, sometime, not-so respectable businesses use the sidewalks for their purposes, with things like bars and restaurants, even brothels, showing up in the sidewalks. It’s certainly quite noticeable from a serviced residence in Sukhumvit.
Whilst these oddities of the country’s sidewalks have given it a unique allure and personality, they have undermined the state of the sidewalks of the cities, including Bangkok. All in all, Bangkok sidewalks are not quite walkable, in the sense that they aren’t quite friendly to pedestrians and their activities.
A lot of things affect walkability, such as the quality of sidewalks, whether or not they’re well-maintained, the number of obstructions such as phone booths, trees, or street vendors, etc.
If you go and complain to the police about the sidewalk, they will attempt to explain to you that they, the police force of the country, do not enforce the laws of the sidewalk like they would in other countries across the globe. This is problematic since even motorcycles use the sidewalks as part of the road, not to mention the shops and stores that intrude on pedestrian space and the problems that go with an unregulated and unmaintained sidewalk.
In Thailand, sidewalk laws are enforced by city officials, which has its own set of problems due to the fact that there are few city officials to keep an eye on the streets, on top of the fact that law enforcement lacks the authorities and powers needed for enforcement.
There have been some attempts to rectify these issues, with more stringent enforcement, such as a Bt 5,000 fine for motorcyclists using sidewalks and teams of inspectors set to vigilantly monitor the sidewalks, and the clearing out of street vendors in certain areas, but the situation is still quite noticeable even in the other cities. From a serviced residence in Sukhumvit, it’s impossible to miss the hullabaloo of motorcycles and vendors on the sidewalks.