KL's blue bicycle lane blues


The bright orange flexi-poles, installed in different areas around the city make cyclists feel safer. — Photos: KEVIN TAN, SAMUEL ONG, ANDREW SIA/The Star

WHILE the intention behind the bicycle lanes circling the central zones of Kuala Lumpur is good, the execution left much to be desired.

Failure to pay a close eye to the specifics has literally resulted in a bumpy road.

Sandwiched between the pedestrian walkway and motorists’ lane, the 11.86km blue lane has received flak from road users.

To present a clearer picture, StarMetro decides to let experienc­ed cyclists speak for themselves.

Andrew Sia

In a society where cars are kings, I have to congratulate Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for taking the risk to get this project off the ground. That being said, there are several ways these lanes can be improved.

Having cycled through the new city centre lanes during evening rush hour, I found that the two biggest problems were that vehicles parked on the lanes forced cyclists to swing out into fast-moving motor traffic lanes and some sections were rather dangerous.

For example, the bike lanes next to Suria KLCC. One section was cordoned off with flexible orange poles so I could cycle through smoothly. But another section had no orange poles, and it was totally packed with tour buses and vans.

 

A cyclist avoiding construction debris dumped on the bicycle lane in Jalan Lebuh Pasar Besar.
A cyclist avoiding construction debris dumped on the bicycle lane in Jalan Lebuh Pasar Besar.

 

Vehicles were also parked along the lanes in the old part of the city where trucks were unloading goods in front of the shoplots.

Motorcyclists did encroach but I was glad to see moving cars keeping the bike lanes free along Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan Ampang, even though the roads were congested.

Indeed, traffic jams are a cyclist’s best friend as vehicles move slowly. And oh yes, there’s a certain “I told you so” satisfaction too in gliding along smoothly while everyone else is stuck in their vehicles.

The biggest concern of cyclists is safety and the best way to do this is by creating separate bike lanes, as seen along the Federal and Guthrie highways. The next best option is to provide some kind of barrier to protect cyclists from cars – such as a line of orange poles.

Another option, which has been partly done in Kuala Lumpur, is to have bicycles and pedestrians share wide sidewalks.

When cycling on Jalan Sultan Ismail towards Jalan Ampang, I felt safe on the sidewalk lane and I was happy to go slower for the sake of pedestrians.

But going in the opposite direction at night along the same road, I felt very exposed and vulnerable as the bike lane was just a strip of hard-to-see blue paint on the road (why not paint it bright yellow or orange to make it more visible?) while cars were zooming past me.

As I did not want to be hit by some driver distracted by their smartphone while rushing home, I decided to lift my bike up onto the wide sidewalk to cycle instead.

I was cycling from Quill City Mall towards Renaissance Hotel on the bike lane when I was nearly rammed by a speeding driver. At this spot, cars were merging left from Jalan Sultan Ismail towards Akleh highway while others merging right from Kampung Baru towards Jalan Sultan Ismail.

 

The paint on the bicycle lane has faded in several areas, including along Jalan Sultan Ismail.
The paint on the bicycle lane has faded in several areas, including along Jalan Sultan Ismail.

 

Another dangerous spot was next to the Rohas Perkasa building where the lane suddenly crossed the busy road on a blind corner. Further back along Jalan Perak, near Menara Bank Islam, the bicycle lane weirdly veered into the centre of the road rather than sticking to the side.

Oddly enough, I felt safer cycling in old downtown Kuala Lumpur. This was because the narrow, often congested, roads automatically forced traffic to move more slowly.

I see Kuala Lumpur’s bicycle lanes as a “work in progress.”

I hope the new lanes will still be maintained after the flush of the World Urban Forum – for which the lanes were reportedly built.

As it is, the first bicycle lanes from Petaling Jaya-MidValley-Brickfields-Dataran Merdeka are already in some neglect: some parts are covered with leaves, the blue paint has faded away and construction work for the River of Life project has disrupted other sections (with no alternative route signboards).

But the dream of cyclists remains: to be able to get around the city easily and safely while helping to reduce jams and pollution, to feel a sense of freedom and joy in the city, rather than feeling trapped by traffic.

 

Vincent Chan

Although I feel DBKL has put a lot of effort into understanding cyclists’ safety requirements, the infrastructure to accommodate bicycle paths do not exist because the city roads are still using the same design as decades ago.

For example, the concept of five-foot walkways feels like it has not changed from 100 years ago when we need to be looking 50 years ahead in city planning.

There are parts in which the bicycle lane takes up the walkways entirely.

DBKL needs to approach the layout of the lane from the standpoint of whether it is safe enough for children.

 

Cyclists are often confused along Jalan Raja Chulan because of the zig-zag across junctions.
Cyclists are often confused along Jalan Raja Chulan because of the zig-zag across junctions.

 

Hong Boon Kong

Compared to cities such as Melbourne where bicycle lanes are not colour-marked, it is good that DBKL has painted its bicycle lanes blue to demarcate it and let road users know that it is a dedicated bicycle lane.

Infrastructure is only one part of the consideration as enforcement and education are still lacking, but I am willing to give it a few months for people to get used to the idea

 

Albert Tan

The lane itself is a good idea as a lot of thought has been put into mapping out routes, passing through all the major landmarks and tourist spots.

DBKL should have consulted cyclists for their views.

Better planning is needed in the route’s design at intersections as there are a few blind spots that can be dangerous.

This part is dangerous for cyclists as traffic from Jalan Sultan Ismail goes left across the bicycle lane to head towards Akleh while traffic from Kampung Baru cuts across right to Jalan Sultan Ismail.
This part is dangerous for cyclists as traffic from Jalan Sultan Ismail goes left across the bicycle lane to head towards Akleh while traffic from Kampung Baru cuts across right to Jalan Sultan Ismail.

Samson Cheong

I believe one solution could be fitting mirrors at vulnerable or blind spots to alert motorists and other road users.

There are a number of confusing crossroads, on which the lane is painted to intersect with oncoming traffic.

However, the orange flexi-poles is a good start as a way of clearly marking the separation between lanes.

 

Dennis Soh

There is a need for continuity in the lane that switches between shades of blue and type of paint used at different portions of the city.

Right now, there is no consistency even in the types of paint and colour of blue painted on the road surface.

On a scale of one to 10 rating the dangers of cycling in the city, I would rate it as a six, maybe even seven because I still feel quite unsafe.

The lane’s misleading routes that lead to nowhere or lanes that zig-zag across junctions are a big problem. On top of that, there is no proper signage so it is just confusing.

The little details such as the holes of a manhole cover make a vast difference to cyclists who ride over them with apprehension that an accident could occur should their wheels get stuck while going over the gaps.
The little details such as the holes of a manhole cover make a vast difference to cyclists who ride over them with apprehension that an accident could occur should their wheels get stuck while going over the gaps.

Jasmine Beh

The blue colour to mark out the lanes is helpful as it is a reminder for motorists to watch out for us cyclists.

And now with the orange barriers, it feels a bit safer.

But I would not think about cycling during the weekdays and fighting with traffic.

And there are still certain areas of the lane that have been sloppily painted or are starting to fade even though they have only been recently painted.

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