CYCLING in the city, once considered too dangerous, is slowly catching on as a new mode of transportation for Klang Valley residents.
It is no longer just a leisure activity on weekends but is increasingly being considered a viable form of transportation to get around, including to work.
The option has become even more attractive in the face of rising petrol prices and traffic congestion.
The sight of cyclists on the road these days seems like a throwback from the past, when cycling was as common as getting stuck in traffic is today.
“Many people still feel that cycling is only for leisure and not a mode of transportation.
Many also believe it is impossible to cycle in the city,” landscape architect Ng Sek San, 35, said.
He believes Malaysia has the perfect weather for cycling and there are ways to work around the various ‘reasons’ people cite for not doing it.
“In fact, cycling has a multiplier effect and can help reduce the number of cars on the road by 20%,” he said, adding that he found using his foldable bike to get around saves him some 10 minutes compared to driving or using a combination of bicycle and public transport.
Bike Map Project founder Jeffrey Lim said the group wanted to come up with a map to make cycling in the city easier.
It gives information on ‘shortcuts’ such as pedestrian bridges as well as tips on when to avoid certain roads.
“The information is provided by volunteers and the map has been more than a year in the making.
“We hope to complete it by April. One of our aims is to put cycling in the city on the agenda,” he said.
Lim said one of the main concerns about cycling in the city was safety, but he opined that accidents could happen whether one was on a bicycle or in a car.
Most cyclists would agree that one of the best things about cycling is the opportunity to discover things they would otherwise miss or never realise were there.
From good food spots to unique photo opportunities, it is a good way to get some exercise while taking in the sights, learning about a city and meeting its people.
Some, like Yvonne Chan, 40, a freelance cycling guide, have completely given up their cars when travelling on their own.
She finds cycling in a group preferable as riders are less likely to get bullied. However, there are also passionate advocates of solo cycling as well.
“Just make sure you are visible and know how to give hand signals when on the road. One should also be alert because some drivers are impatient and inconsiderate,” freelance computer technician Aedewan Adnan, 35, advised.
The authorities should do their part to encourage cycling, including introducing more parking spots for bicycles and making sure drain cover grooves are not on a cycling path, which can cause a cyclist to get stuck and fall off their bikes.
Italian Milena Ciroli, 51, who lectures at Universiti Malaya, said cycling had made her realise how unique Kuala Lumpur is with nature existing alongside the concrete jungle.
“When I got here in 2011, I tried cycling out of my neighbourhood in Bangsar but found it very dangerous,
“The road system and signs were confusing too, even in a car. It was only after I was introduced to the Bike Map Project that I began learning the routes,” she said.
Ciroli believes bicycle lanes are a good idea to create awareness on cycling as an option.
She said local motorists must be civic-conscious and not drive or park on the bicycle lanes.
Ng said the authorities should look into segregated bicycle lanes along main arterial roads that connect the various cities, creating connectivity.
Robert Holbrook, 41, a language teacher who has started a running and walking group, said that pedestrian walkways too were badly designed with many safety issues.
“I have to lift my baby’s pram up and down the kerbs and there are sidewalks that are only 50m-long.
“Sometimes, I find the roads are smoother than the sidewalks, but walking or cycling on them can be quite dangerous.
“Missing drain covers are also common,” he said.
Last month, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) launched its Car-Free Morning initiative, which takes place every first Sunday of the month.
It also has a bicycle Heritage Trail that starts and ends at Dataran Merdeka, with bike rental available.
“It is not that easy to implement bicycle lanes in the city as our roads are narrow.
“Kuala Lumpur is not a planned city like Putrajaya,” said a spokesman from DBKL, adding that the Car-Free Morning was a good start.