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Tuesday April 17, 2007

Death traps on the Federal Highway


metro@thestar.com.my 

MOTORCYCLE lanes on the Federal Highway in Kuala Lumpur are like death traps rather than making it safer for bikers. Despite this, motorcyclists risk their lives daily whenever they travel on these lanes. 

Unlike those who possess cars, motorcyclists cannot afford to pay high toll rates and petrol prices and high maintenance costs and are forced to use motorcycles. 

Hazardous ride: Some of the obstacles faced by motorcyclists include narrow roads and (below) flooded tunnels.
But this makes them prone to higher risks of getting into an accident and motorcycle lanes are rigged with thugs ambushing motorcyclists, dark and flooded tunnels, big holes, slippery iron covers, 90 degree curves and even blind spots. 

For years and years, authorities have not improved the condition of the motorcycle lanes simply because these bikers do not pay toll, as some motorcyclists feel. But this, they feel, is unfair because they pay road tax and insurance like other vehicles. 

Mohd Faizal Ahmad Razali, 26, who works at Warung Rasta Man in Kayu Ara, said he has been riding a motorcycle for the last five years and now takes a ride with a few other bikers in a group after hearing dangerous stories when his friends were travelling on the Federal Highway bike lane. 

“My friend once stopped at the side of the road to give a biker who had a punctured tyre a ride at midnight a few months ago. Suddenly, another guy came out from the bushes and held my friend at knife point before my friend handed over his money,” he said. 

“There have even been occasions when irresponsible people have even thrown nails on the road to puncture tyres. I only ride about 70 to 80 km/h whenever I visit my friends in Subang Jaya because I'm scared of the many pot holes in the tunnels. The motorcycle lanes are dangerous, a few of my friends have met with accidents because there was sand on the bike lane at Jalan Barat,'' said Mohd Faizal. 

Motorcyclist Harold Anthony M, 58, who travels daily to work from Petaling Jaya to Klang, met with an accident in Shah Alam on the motorcycle lane two weeks ago and his face, hands and legs were bruised badly. 

“I was in hospital for two weeks before I recovered. After I received a traffic summonses for riding on the highway, I was forced to use the motorcycle lane and later met with an accident. I do not use the lane because it is dangerous especially at the corners. There is sand and silt after a flood, tunnels without lights, iron covers that pose a danger to any new motorists. There are no clear cones or indicators on the motorcycle lane when motorcycles come out or go in to the motorcycle lane,'' he said. 

Harold, who has been riding a motorcycle since he was 16-years-old, pointed out the ideal speed on the lane is from 60km/h to 80km/h. 

Harold: I was in hospital for two weeks before I recovered.
“Although I have a van, I still use the motorcycle because it is convenient, fast and saves on toll and petrol. Any motorcyclist that survives today riding on the motorcycle lane must be a hell rider. It only takes a second for a motorcyclist to loose control of his vehicle on the road and it could end his life,'' said Harold. 

According to Public Works Department (PWD) Road Facilities Maintenance Management Branch head Safry Kamal Ahmad, the motorcycle lanes along the Federal Highway from Mid Valley Megamall to Klang are maintained by three different bodies. 

The 3km stretch from Mid Valley to the Kota Darul Ehsan Arch on both sides is maintained by City Hall while the 8km stretch from the Kota Darul Ehsan Arch to the clock tower near Subang Jaya is maintained by PWD and highway concessionaires Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (PLUS) is supposed to maintain the motorcycle lane from the clock tower to Klang. 

“For PWD, we know about the dangers at our stretch and have spent RM4mil to maintain it. In fact, we have placed many signboards and safety railings, resurfaced the roads, put a water pump to pump out water at the frequently flooded tunnel at Jalan 222, lit up the tunnels and even painted the tunnels with white reflecting paint to keep it safe,” he said. 

“We are also proposing to employ a motorcyclist to do rounds throughout the lanes to tell us about the dangerous spots. We will also place signboards with contact numbers for motorcyclist to place their complaints. And it will all be done within the next two months,'' said Safry, who has taken a ride on a motorcycle to check out the dangerous spots a few times. 

Last week, the motorcycle lane was resurfaced from Kuala Lumpur to Klang to ensure that potholes were dealt with. 

Safry wants the police to carry out regular checks to prevent muggings and he advised motorcyclists not to use the motorcycle lanes after midnight.  

“Motorcyclists must at all times be defensive riders and the ideal speed on the motorcycle lane is only about 60to 70 km/h. Although there were suggestions to combine the motorcycle lane with the highway, it will not guarantee safety. The best solution is to ensure the lanes are well maintained,'' said Safry.  

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