WORLD Car-Free Day has been held for the past two years but there are no signs as yet that the message to leave their vehicles at home is getting across to Malaysians.
World Car-Free Day is a global movement to get people out of their cars for a day and to lobby for permanent change from a car-dominant society.
It was celebrated on Sept 22 last year and people were encouraged to cycle, walk or take public transport to work.
RapidKL Kelana Jaya Line chief operating officer Ahmad Nizam Mohd Amin said more Malaysians should leave their cars at home, not only for one day in a year, but on a regular basis.
The campaign was initiated in 2011 to get more Malaysians to use public transportation.
Cycling culture lacking
To encourage people to cycle, bicycle rack facilities have been provided at several LRT stations.
Though these racks have long been in existence, they seem to be under-utilised. Instead, many are being used by motorcyclists.
Cyclists seem to prefer to chain their bicycles to poles and other places at LRT stations.
Ahmad Nizam said many commuters seemed unaware of the facilities provided.
Although RapidKL is encouraging more people to cycle, they are not allowed to bring bicycles onboard trains.
“The bicycles can obstruct movement and make the journey uncomfortable for other passengers,” he said.
Cyclists with foldable bicycles however, may carry them onboard the LRT and monorail trains during off-peak hours, between 9am and 4.30pm and after 7pm on working days, preferably wrapped.
“I think here, some people may be afraid to leave their bicycles at the racks,” Ahmad Nizam added.
He said the culture of cycling was also not as prevalent here compared to Western countries.
“It could be due to the hot weather,” he said.
Safety may also be another reason why many people do not cycle. “Maybe this is why some would rather drive to train stations or straight to their destinations,” he reasoned.
There are 49 stations on the Ampang and Kelana Jaya LRT lines and out of them, 17 have bicycle racks as an added facility.
The racks are located in train stations where more space is available.
A recent check by StarMetro showed that bicycle racks within Petaling Jaya appear to be under-utilised.
A few bicycles were seen at the Asia Jaya and Kelana Jaya LRT stations.
However, some cyclists chose to lock their bicycles against poles or water pipes.
Stations with bicycle racks are Kelana Jaya, Taman Bahagia, Taman Paramount, Asia Jaya, Taman Jaya, Universiti, Abdullah Hukum, Kampung Baru, Damai, Dato’ Keramat, Jelatek, Setiawangsa, Wangsa Maju, Taman Melati and Gombak along the Kelana Jaya Line and Salak Selatan and Sentul Timur on the Ampang Line.
Cyclists’ have mixed feelings about riding to LRT stations.
Kevin Tan is a photographer who cycles for leisure. He does so with a group of friends on weekends and does not see cycling to work as a viable option.
The 37-year-old finds cycling to the nearest train station and taking a train to work rather cumbersome.
“I live in Cheras and work in Petaling Jaya. I do not want to take the risk of cycling, especially with the unpredictable Malaysian weather,” he added.
Although he is aware that there are bicycle racks at train stations, Tan feels they are not safe.
“I have spent a lot on my bicycle and the security is not guaranteed,” he said.
As a university student, Jeremy Wong used to cycle to campus. Now that he has started working, he is continuing the habit of cycling to his workplace as he finds it easier to get around on a bicycle. Parking is not an issue either.
His mode of transport depends on the weather. “On a good day, I cycle but when it rains, I have to drive to work and leave earlier so that I can find a place to park,” Wong said.
He has left his bicycle at the station and taken the train to the city but was not aware of the racks.
“I usually lock my bicycle around a pole,” he said. Wong was surprised to learn of the bicycle racks.
“I have always assumed that the racks were for motorcycles. That is why I lock my bicycles against the poles,” he said.
Wong said his bicycle was not that expensive so he was not worried about safety.
“I’ve left my bicycle at the train station before. I don’t think anyone would steal it,” he added.
For Azizan Abdul Aziz, cycling is his main form of transportation. He used to travel by bicycle from his home in USJ to Kuala Lumpur for work. “It was a 50km ride but I loved it. I could reach my office faster than by driving.”
Azizan who blogs at Cyclefriday.com said although people cycle more these days, the number was still relatively small.
However, he acknowledged that better security may prompt more avid cyclists with expensive bicycles opt for the train.
“Maybe if they place CCTVs and secure the area, cyclists would feel less paranoid about leaving their bicycles there,” he said, adding that most campaigns promoted cycling as a leisure activity, not as a way to commute to work.
More incentives should be given to encourage people not to drive, especially into the city.
“It would also be good if there are more bicycle lanes,’’ said Azizan, adding that cycling on Malaysian roads was not dangerous if one was careful.