PENANG Island City Council (MBPP) is a well-oiled machine when it comes to enforcement.
Abandon all hope of getting away with parking on the yellow line here. MBPP’s enforcement teams speedily fine recalcitrant motorists, clamp or tow away their cars and tackle illegal hotels and hawkers.
By and large, Penangites are satisfied with MBPP’s pursuit of imposing law and order.
Last week, though, their imposition drew unhappy comments from Penangites who wondered if it was a case of blind enforcement.
Armed with chain cutters, council boys-in-blue cut the locks of many bicycles secured to walkway railings, lamp posts and road signs. They hauled the bikes away in a red truck.
It is illegal to chain bicycles to such structures.
“Cyclists must park in motorcycle parking lots or any designated bicycle parking areas,” one city councillor commented on the recent seizures.
But a small thing like a bicycle is easily stolen. To secure it, bike commuters need a place to chain it to. Telling cyclists to park in motorcycle parking lots could be a sign that one has never tried bicycle commuting. Neither is a bicycle huge. When they lean their bikes on something to chain it up, the bikes do not block walkways in any substantial way.
An MBPP enforcement official, when spoken to, said they seized the bicycles after receiving complaints.
“We do understand that there is no proper bicycle parking space in many places and cyclists need to chain their bikes to something. But we were not simply taking away bikes like what netizens claimed. Somebody had complained,” he said.
Someone recorded the seizures and posted two videos on social media. They were shared a few hundred times, earned over 1,000 comments and viewed a total of more than 80,000 times. The videos were taken along a walkway at the corner of Datuk Keramat Road and Gurdwara Road, near many shops and a supermarket. It has a long stretch of railing, which is convenient for bicycle commuters to securely lock their bikes.
From the video, the inside of the MBPP truck was bristling with bicycle handlebars. The bikes taken were not the upmarket type that “weekend warriors” roll out to play. They were bicycles people use for everyday commute.
Many people pitied the owners, knowing who they would invariably be. The majority of Penang’s bike commuters are foreign workers, who are the backbone for our labour force.
How are the foreign workers to know that they can go to MBPP’s enforcement office in Timah Road and reclaim their seized bicycles for between RM20 and RM50, depending on how many days they were impounded?
“How to prove a seized bike is yours? Maybe just pay the fine, pick a better bike and claim it,” one Facebook user rightly commented.
The state government promotes cycling and is in the process of building a 39.9km-bicycle lane linking Tanjung Tokong in the northeast to the airport in the southeast.
Is this lane meant for Penangites to commute on or to wear their body-hugging suits and get sporty on weekends?
The truth is, bicycle parking areas here in a few shopping complexes, markets, parks and seaside promenades are more ornamental than practical. They tend to be aesthetically pleasing and can hold up to 10 or 15 bicycles each in areas where thousands of people go daily.
Something is missing somewhere. You want more people to cycle but when they get to their destinations, they risk having their bikes seized when parking in a necessary way. It is not conducive to enforce the law when people simply have no choice.
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