By Haresh Deol
January 26, 2018
ON January 20, Astro Awani’s journalist Wan Syamsul Amly forwarded a message from a WhatsApp group to Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s media group pointing out that the rubberised dividers placed along several roads in the city seemed dangerous.
No one responded.
Two days later, he forwarded a picture of a motorcyclist bleeding from his hands and legs with the blue bicycle lane in the background. The picture was widely shared online and on WhatsApp with many saying the motorcyclist had crashed after hitting the rubberised divider.
And again, no one responded. An acknowledgment by City Hall in the group would have sufficed.
I had on the same day posted the picture of the injured motorcyclist and tweeted: “Can someone from DBKL please explain. I rode on the blue line recently and it’s rather slippery. Now this ‘divider’? And who will pay for the medical bill of the injured motorcyclist and repair cost of the bike if he did fall due to the ‘structure’?”
Later in the afternoon, I saw two workers removing the rubberised structures. I took several pictures and approached their ‘boss’ who was seated in a four-wheel drive.
“We had already informed City Hall the rubberised structures are dangerous the day we installed them,” he said, while showing me a picture of the day his crew had installed the structures.
“And now we are being asked to remove them. What a waste of time,” he said.
I immediately tweeted a picture of the contractors removing the structure and what the contractor had told me.
The uproar, especially by motorcyclists, resulted in City Hall removing the structure – despite the separators being installed in accordance with international standards as adopted by other countries.
It was reported in October last year that City Hall, together with the Special Task Force to Facilitate Business and InvestKL, have allocated close to RM4 million to come up with six kilometres of bicycle lanes on roads in a bid to ease traffic congestion in the city by 2020.
I would love to cycle peacefully in Kuala Lumpur. I empathise with enthusiasts who are forced to cycle late at night or are confined to certain areas.
But cycling as a mode of transport to work or meetings? I’m usually drenched in sweat just riding my motorcycle within Kuala Lumpur. There are hardly any trees and shady spots in Kuala Lumpur due to overdevelopment. I can’t imagine what would happen if I cycled within the city for work or meetings.
Encouraging people to cycle to work is not just about creating bicycle lanes. Offices can’t even convert a small space into a lactation room for new mothers let alone build showers and changing rooms for those who cycle to work.
Six kilometres of bicycle lane in the city would logically only benefit those living in the heart of the town or those intending to cycle for a meeting or a quick appointment. The majority of those staying outside the city centre will still need to commute into town.
What about shelters for cyclists should it rain?
Without a proper eco-system in place, it’s amazing how City Hall, PEMUDAH and InvestKL believe their efforts will reduce traffic congestion in just two years – especially with the increase in the sale of vehicles and construction of new highways.
In fact, their move of narrowing the main arteries of the city by 1.5m may result in more congestion.
I believe taxpayers are entitled to know how the allocated RM4 million – or a whopping RM666,666.67 per kilometre – was spent? Also, how much extra was spent getting the contractor to remove the dividers?
We always tend to look at international standards practised abroad but failed to sync it with the realities back home. What may work in Barcelona or London may not work here for many reasons – weather, motoring culture and facilities, among them.
A trip to Singapore would suffice. Bicycle lanes there exist on pedestrian walkways. There are ample walking and cycling spaces for pedestrians and cyclists without disrupting traffic flow. Everyone is kept safe in such an environment.
Yet, during my recent visit there, I hardly saw people riding to work. After all, they have a well-connected public transportation system.
It would be best if the Mayor conducted a meeting with his officers at DBKL Tower 3 at Bandar Wawasan. The catch – all of them are to cycle from their headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut to Tower 3 at Jalan Raja Abdullah.
Perhaps only then the Mayor and his crew would understand how it’s like to cycle in the city and the importance of having a designated lane complemented by an ecosystem that would ensure people are free to cycle and freshen up ahead of meetings or work.
I would like to cycle in the city. I would like to see more people using public transportation. I would like to see more trees and open spaces in Kuala Lumpur.
But this will only work if the decision makers make the right decisions.
Haresh is a multi-award winning journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]