While a normal bicycle would be a good way to improve your LRT train experience, a foldable bike could be the best way.
Why struggle to find car parking at an LRT station or wait forever for a feeder bus when you can just buy a cheap RM150 bicycle, and then ride for a mere five minutes (over say 2km) to the nearest station?
There, you simply lock your bike to a railing or lamp post somewhere (without worrying too much about theft since it’s a cheap bike) and then ride the train.
To enhance your mobility, try taking a foldable bike (or foldie) onto the train with you. After reaching your desired station, you simply unfold your bike, and then cycle to your final destination.
Here are the benefits. Zero taxi fares. Zero parking hassles or fees. Zero need to pester parents or a spouse to drop you off at the station.
There’s even a bonus: you get a free daily “gym membership”!
Sure, think about it. Why get stuck and tensed up for an hour or more in traffic jams every day while driving to your gym? Only to ride a stationary bike?
Why bother with a spinning class where the trainer barks out instructions asking you to imagine that you’re climbing hills? When you can climb real hills in the great outdoors?
Why do this?
Everybody loves “landed property”. And so, Malaysia’s model of development has seen endless rows of terraced houses in huge suburban sprawls. But for transport planning, this makes it very far to walk from our homes to an LRT station (or from the station to visit someone’s home), unlike densely-built cities such as Hong Kong or Singapore.
In urban planning, these hurdles are called the “first mile” and “last mile” connections.
One remedy is the “park and ride” system, where we drive our cars to park at the LRT station. Problem is, there isn’t enough parking.
For instance, only five out of the 13 new stations on the Kelana Jaya extension line to Putra Heights have any parking at all. And in these five, only a total of 2,178 parking bays are available.
“Ride and ride” is the other solution, meaning that we ride a feeder bus before we ride the LRT. However, as Star Metro reported in early August, there is a critical shortage of feeder buses, and some only come once an hour.
With half a million NEW vehicles unleashed every year upon Klang Valley’s roads, the traffic jams will only get worse – unless we can fully utilise the LRT system.
So this is where “cycle and ride” may be crucial.
Bikes can ‘walk’!
Over two weekends, my partner in crime Shereen Teng and I, decided to try out how feasible it was to use our folding bikes with the LRT.
We cycled from the shops in Taman Mayang, Petaling Jaya to the Kelana Jaya station, dodging dangerous metal road grilles that could trap our bike wheels and send us flying.
We had to cross a long pedestrian bridge over the LDP highway to reach the station. To get up the bridge, we folded our bikes and placed them squarely within one big step of the escalator.
This is the beauty of bicycles: you can switch between cycling or walking – by simply getting down and pushing your bike along.
This allows you to tap into facilities normally used by pedestrians, such as bridges, escalators, lifts and sloping paths.
The staff at the station were trained to handle people like us – they were quick to remind us that, once inside the station, we had to fold up our bikes and then roll it along (in its folded form) to the train.
The ability to do this is crucial if you want to use your bike with the LRT, otherwise you would have to carry your bike all the way in.
Some foldies have special mini-wheels that make it very easy to roll your bike along, even in folded form.
But for normal foldies, the trick is to slant your bike slightly and then roll it along on ONE wheel.
The height of the seats on foldies can be adjusted – it helps to extend your seat-post so that you can use it as a handle to pull your bike along.
To get past the turnstiles, we were glad that there were special wider-than-normal entrances for people in wheelchairs – this made it easier for us to roll our bikes in.
Being a Saturday, there were few people in the train. But even if there were, our folded bikes were just like luggage cases that people take for vacations, occupying just a bit of space, and hardly a hindrance to anyone.
We got off at the Subang SS15 station, rolled our folded bikes to the turnstiles, tapped our Touch ’n Go cards and voila, we had arrived!
It was equally easy to use the escalator to bring our bikes down from the station to street level. Once there, we unfolded the bikes, and cycled over to a coffeeshop near Subang Square for some drinks.
To test the system out further, we then cycled to the nearby SS18 station. The SS14 and SS18 neighbourhoods on either side of the station were ideal for cycling.
The quiet residential streets had mostly calm traffic which made it conducive to cyclists’ safety. The terrain was flat, which meant that there was no need to work up a sweat getting to the stations. Moreover, there were some trees to provide a bit of shade. The only bummer was the absence of a lift or escalator on the SS14 side of the station, which meant that we had to carry our bikes up some flights of stairs. But no worries: we imagined that we were lifting dumb bells, as part of our “free gym membership”!
We repeated the process up to the Putra Heights interchange before proceeding to the Puchong stations next to IOI Mall and Tesco, as well as at Bandar Puteri. It was all a breeze.
Being able to use a foldie with the LRT was both empowering and liberating. It was like we had gained a new set of legs and wheels combined.
We would never have to worry about traffic jams anymore and the moderate exercise was handy to work up an appetite.
It now feels as if the whole of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya are just an LRT-and-bike ride away. It’s like having the city almost at your doorstep!
Peak hour rule
On weekdays, please note that people are NOT allowed to bring their foldies onto the LRT during peak hours from 7am-9am and 5pm-8pm. This may vary as the official at the Subang SS15 station told this writer that the hours are up to 9.30am (mornings) and 7.30pm (nights).
However, on weekends, people can bring their foldies onto the LRT at anytime.
Given that the purpose of the LRT is to reduce our critical traffic jams during peak hours, perhaps Prasarana (which runs the system) can relax this rule, to enhance the usability of the system (and to ensure it does not become an under-utilised white elephant).
Many mass transit systems overseas – including those in London, New York and San Fransisco – allow foldable bicycles onto trains at all times with no restrictions.
Perhaps this peak hour rule can be waived in future, especially for those with SMALL foldies (this can be determined with a special measuring frame, similar to what airlines use to check the size of your carry-on luggage).
After all, if a luggage bag or baby pram can be allowed on the LRT during peak hours, why not a folded bike of the same size?