Cyclists seek clarity to keep up interest


By CY LEE

Cyclists cycling around KLCC during the restriction period.

CYCLISTS have been put in the spotlight over the last few months following an increase in their numbers since the movement control order started.

The lack of closed-road cycling events due to the Covid-19 pandemic has seen these enthusiasts taking to the road on their own to resume their favourite activity.

There were also many who had taken up cycling when other sporting activities were not permitted during the initial stages of the MCO.

On Sept 17 last year, the police, in a Facebook post, cautioned cyclists to stay off highways.

The warning was a result of a number of incidents as well as viral videos and photographs of cyclists riding recklessly on highways.

However, some cyclists were taken aback by the announcement.

Later, Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department director Deputy Comm Datuk Azisman Alias said those found riding on highways could be fined up to RM2,000 under Section 79(2) of the Road Transport Act 1987 (RTA).

Cyclists have been reminded that enforcement of the RTA and Road Traffic Rules 1959 (RTR) will begin from Jan 9.Growth in riders

KSH Bicycle (TTDI) Sdn Bhd saw a 300% surge in bicycle sales during the conditional MCO.

“The increase in sales started at the time when gyms and other activities were not permitted, and we continue to see a boom of customers until now, ” said marketing executive Darren Man.

“In fact, we have constantly run out of stock due to high demand.

“Whenever the bicycles arrive, they are sold out in days, ” he said.

He estimates that around 40% of customers are “newbies.”

KSH owner Alan Tan worries that the banning of cycling on highways may stifle the growth of the cycling community.

“The government’s message for everyone to keep fit is then contradicted.

“If the ban on cycling on highways is fully enforced, then separate bicycle lanes should be considered as a solution as there are many cyclists now, ” he added.

What’s binding?

The bicycle is recognised as a legitimate mode of transport under the RTA and is subject to provisions.

While rules in the Malaysian Highway Code are not legally binding, cyclists are bound by provisions under the RTR requiring their two-wheelers to be equipped with proper front and rear lights, working brakes and a functioning bell.

In addition, the police under Section 112(3) of RTA are authorised to stop, detain and arrest cyclists for other offences, including reckless and dangerous as well as careless and inconsiderate riding.

At present, only four highways are gazetted as being off limits to cyclists –- the Penang Bridge, Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge (second Penang Bridge), Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) and KLIA Expressway (Elite) which includes the North-South Expressway Central Link.

Meanwhile, other highways, including Ampang–Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (Akleh) and Kuala Lumpur-Kuala Selangor Expressway (Latar) expressly

prohibit bicycles from entering highways with clear signage in place.

For the cyclists, the announcement has cast some confusion on whether highways are indeed off limits.

Kuala Lumpur Cycling Association president Ahmad Ariff Astaman said, “Cyclists do recognise that they are restricted from certain roads, made clear through gazettement and signage.

“As soon as such signs are erected, we know that it is illegal for us to ride there.

“Only four highways have been gazetted by legislators and a handful of highway operators have exercised their prerogative to exclude bicycles from their highways with signage, and that is clear to us.”

Ariff, who is involved in developing athletes and organising international road races, said experienced cyclists were working within the confines of the law to avoid problems.

“We are looking for and hoping to get some clarity, either through a Federal gazette, signage or dialogues with cyclists, ” he said.

He is of the view that the interest in cycling will be increasing.

Ariff said there was no one-size-fits-all solution to covering the grey areas, as some cyclists had no choice but to use segments of open-loop highways to get to their destination.

“For example, a commuter travelling from Damansara Jaya in Petaling Jaya or Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur will need to use parts of the Damansara–Puchong Expressway (LDP) to get to an LRT station.

He pointed out that any blanket approach would affect other users, mainly those who relied on bicycles in making a living or for travel to work.General feedback

Netizens from both sides of the divide have voiced their views.

Some support the move to ban bicycles on highways, saying cyclists still have access to federal, state and municipal roads.

Cyclists, however, opine that they should be allowed to use motorcycle lanes on certain highways as it was safer.

Seasoned cyclists also said that common sense was necessary when deciding which highways or trunk roads to use.

Bukit Jelutong Cycling Club (BJCC) president Ahmad Salleh agreed that busy highways were too dangerous and cyclists knew this well, but it made little sense to prevent them from using motorcycle lanes.

“While there is still a speed difference between bicycles and motorcycles, the risk on highway motorcycle lanes is much lower than on trunk roads, which are used by every type of vehicle.

“We are all for using motorcycle lanes, like the one on Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) which we have been using since 2008.

“Traffic volume on motorcycle lanes there is low compared to other highways, and it is separated from the main highway.”

Ahmad said many cyclists also used the Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas) for various purposes, including to get to work.

Sadly, the poor judgement displayed by new cyclists and lack of guidance had led to public displeasure, he acknowledged.

“What is frustrating is that we are all road users.

“We are not asking the government to change the infrastructure, we merely want to access highways, ” he reiterated.

BJCC captain Daniel Wong acknowledges that road users may come across some inconsiderate cyclists, hence the negative reports on social media.

“There are cases of newcomers who ride in the city on nice bicycles and hog the roads with their support cars, but we are not in that group.”

BJCC vice-captain Azman Rahman agreed that cycling was a growing trend and there must be solutions to ensure the healthy activity was done in a safe manner.

He said cyclists frequently encountered aggressive motorists as well as lorry and bus drivers who would drive too close to cyclists.

“Other road users need to be educated about sharing the road with us cyclists instead of being aggressive, ” he added.

Positive development

On a more positive note, the Youth and Sports Ministry initiated a dialogue on Sept 24 last year, involving the Road Transport Department, Malaysian Highway Authority, Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research and National Sports Institute as well as cycling associations and clubs, to discuss prevailing issues.

The ministry had said that it would study feedback from the dialogue and hold another

meeting before presenting its findings to the Youth and Sports Minister.

But months after the announcement, Bicycle Friendly Malaysia president Johan Arifin Sopiee said cyclists still did not know whether they were allowed to use ungazetted highways and those without signage banning bicycles.

The association wants the authorities to improve communication with stakeholders.

“We will appreciate it if they can tell us what we can and cannot do.

“Put it in black and white because we are only hearing from the media that we cannot use highways.

“If it is the law, we will abide by it.

“Until then, we cannot be certain, ” Johan added.

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