Kuala Lumpur's first Car-Free morning

Phesal (centre) accompanied by some of his officers including DBKL deputy director-general (project implementation and maintenance) Datuk Mohd Najib Mohd (in red) and Urban Transportation Department director Dr Leong Siew Mun (left) leading the group of several hundred cyclists along the 6km route.

SOME motorists on Kuala Lumpur’s busiest roads were taken by surprise by 2014’s first Car-Free Morning yesterday.

Initiated by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), the event is meant to promote a healthier lifestyle as well as create awareness on different modes of transportation.

What was supposed to be a vehicle-free morning on these roads however turned out to be a staggered road closure. A number of traffic policemen as well as DBKL enforcement officers were on duty along the route to stop traffic and give the cyclists right-of-way.

Cyclists and inline skaters had earlier turned up in force to support the event and led by Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib, departed from DBKL headquarters on Jalan Raja Laut.

The circuitous route also covers Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Ampang, Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Pinang, Jalan Kia Peng, Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan Imbi.

Upon reaching the Berjaya Times Square and Sungei Wang Plaza junction, the group then turned back onto Jalan Sultan Ismail before turning onto Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and back to DBKL via Jalan Tun Perak.

Only Jalan Raja Laut, Jalan Semarang, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Tun Perak, were completely closed to traffic though motorcyclists who saw gaps managed to enter the area anyway.

Public buses and taxis, however, are given access into any of the roads involved with a special lane cordoned off by traffic cones.

Cyclists had imagined vehicle-free roads and were shocked to find themselves cycling alongside cars and buses along most of the route.

“Many of us brought along our children but it was dangerous. There is a need for better planning as well as awareness on the event among motorists,” said Sunny Pang, 41, from the Titanium Cycling Club.

He had participated in the same event at the end of last year and said the same thing happened.

“However, I will still return next month for the Car-Free Morning because it is a unique experience to be able to cycle freely in the city and take in the sights,” he said.

Muhammad Nazmi Azman, 19, from Sepang, said that he cycles for exercise and leisure.

“I have a folding bike now and it has encouraged me to cycle more because it is so easy to bring anywhere. Cycling in the city is a new experience for me,” he said.

Jeffrey Lim, the founder of the Kayuh Kuala Lumpur group which is producing a city cycling map, said most motorists were careful when they see cyclists.

“Some have a fear of cycling in the city due to the crazy traffic but most will give way or slow down for us,” he said.

Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng, who was at the Jalan Bukit Bintang intersection, said he supported the Car-Free Morning initiative.

“However, this was a disastrous start. There were joggers and cyclists coming even at 9am and they had to fight with other vehicles for space,” he said.

Lim added the mayor and DBKL should apologise to participants of the programme as it had endangered their lives.

Ahmad Phesal said the local authorities would be conducting a post-mortem and welcomes suggestions.

“For now, we will maintain this route and system but perhaps with some improvements such as creating temporary special lanes for the cyclists,” he said, adding they might also consider extending the Car- Free Morning for a longer period.

He also said that they will work at promoting the event and putting up signs.

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