Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column by Aziz Hassan
THERE wasn’t much fanfare in the early days of its existence but after being around for about three months, the Dego Ride motorcycle taxi e-hailing service has been ordered by the government off the roads.
Why it took the government that long to decide is in itself questionable if indeed road safety was the most compelling reason for the ban.
Press reports indicated that the Cabinet in the middle of this month agreed on this after being briefed by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. Questionable too this one because as far as is known, public transportation is under the purview of the Land Public Transport Commission or SPAD.
Press reports didn’t say what else Tiong Lai told the Cabinet but he apparently did touch on safety.
Anyway, Malaysians should no longer be surprised if they find government decisions at times confusing, especially when everyone in the administrations wants to speak, to be seen to be involved.
The murder of North Korean King Jong Nam is a case in point. Less than two weeks down the line and we have heard comments and statements from the defence minister, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, the health minister and his deputy. They all want to have their say.
Motorcycle taxis may not sound and seem glamourous but the service does serve a purpose – convenient and cheap.
Motorcyles notorious for road accidents? It depends on how you ride, just as whether or not a car or an inter-city bus has a higher accident rate depends on how the driver handles the vehicle.
In Indonesia the ojek has been around for as long as one can remember, especially in greater Jakarta, but those who provide the service are not known to ride recklessly. More importantly the service does have its own rules and culture.
It’s been the same for decades in Bangkok, where the three-wheeler tuks-tuks are the ones most responsible for nasty accidents, not the motorcycle taxis.
The Indonesian ojek now faces competition from the e-hailing GoJek and Grab Bike, the latter Malaysian owned. Understandably there was strong opposition to these services from the ojek boys, almost similar to the problems encountered by the services from Uber and Grab in Thailand.
Before these modern apps came into being, motorcycle taxis were already a common service in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok. The riders wear vests and helmets with their service numbers clearly visible.
Walk out of a bar in the early hours and you’ll see many of them outside but most of their clients are night shift workers who become regular customers after establishing trust.
Dego Ride boss Nabil Feisal Bamadhaj explained that his service was intended for the B40 – the bottom 40 per cent income group – and at RM2.50 for the first three kilometres and 60 cents for each subsequent kilometer Dego Ride would be a most welcomed service by the working class.
Why Bamadhaj did not apply for a permit before starting the service last November was not explained but just before the Cabinet made that decision he said he was going to apply for one.
Tiong Lai was reported to have said that something like Dego Ride did not gel with the government’s efforts to improve the public transportation system, notably via the rail-based services but the fact of the matter is the monorail, LRT and the MRT put together plus the lines being built do not cover even 10 per cent of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya or greater KL.
The LRT and MRT combined are nowhere close to covering half of Ampang or Pandan. It certainly doesn’t cover the high density neighbourhoods off Old Klang Road.
Talking about safety reminds of what some college students in New Delhi told some Malaysian journalist years ago why they preferred the three-wheelers instead of the taxis or buses when going home at night.
On the pedicabs they could easily shout and be heard if there was a problem. Further, they were clearly visible to the public, unlike if travelling in a taxi or a bus.
This was one safety aspect Tiong Lai didn’t seem to be aware of.