IN early April last year, a woman was killed after she was hit by a motorcyclist who ran the red light at a pedestrian crossing in Burmah Road near the Pulau Tikus police station.
This senseless loss of life should not have happened. It occurred because of poor enforcement that has encouraged flagrant flouting of traffic rules particularly by motorcyclists.
On March 2018, two pedestrians were killed in separate incidents; one was hit by a teen motorcyclist and the other by a hit-and-run motorist or motorcyclist.
The problem of motorcyclists running a red light has reached epidemic proportions, yet I have never seen any offender stopped by the police.
These motorcyclists behave with absolute impunity and it is time for the police to crack down on this public menace before more lives are lost.
Malaysia has one of the highest per capita road accidents and deaths in the world, ranking 20th in deaths caused by road accidents.
In 2015, there were close to half a million road accidents and 6,706 road deaths. The number rose to 7,152 deaths in 2016, an average of 19 per day.
The 2013 statistics for Penang showed 360 deaths from road accidents of which 75% involved motorcyclists and 8% pedestrians.
It is shocking and unacceptable that pedestrians account for 8% of road deaths. Pedestrians do not speed; they are victims of road accidents and must be protected. But this basic fact seems to be alien to Malaysian motorists and motorcyclists who think they are kings of the roads.
It is often said that we need to educate people to obey traffic lights. This is a misunderstanding of what education means. You educate people and teach them new ideas when they are ignorant.
But everyone, especially motorists and motorcyclists, know they must stop when the light is red. There is nothing to educate them on this matter. We need strict enforcement, not education!
But we do need to educate the public that in ranking road users, pedestrian is KING, cyclist is QUEEN and motorcyclists and motorists are foot soldiers. The pyramid is inverted; pedestrians are at the top and motorists at the bottom. Pedestrians always have the right of way.
Two years ago when I was a city councillor, I initiated the “Pedestrian is King” campaign for the Penang Island City Council (MBPP). Unfortunately, I have to admit it wasn’t successful.
How many motorists stop to give way to pedestrians? Those who drive cars or ride motorcycles should know that not only do they have fewer rights than pedestrians, they are also guilty of polluting the environment and contributing to climate change.
I am not suggesting that we stop driving cars but rather that we change our mentality and embrace policies promoting public transport and walking and cycling over the use of motor vehicles. In many progressive cities in Europe, policies are in place to make it more inconvenient for people to use private vehicles. It is time for us to start implementing such policies.
We should not let the unfortunate demise of the three victims go to waste. Let us use this sad incident to learn some lessons and take action to prevent further deaths, and for this we need a multi-pronged approach.
First, we must start planning for people and not cars. Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey correctly pointed out that the policies of local, state and federal governments have encouraged people to use cars at the expense of the welfare of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.
Our politicians, planners and engineers have no qualms about spending billions to expand roads so that vehicles can travel faster, even in densely populated areas, while insignificant amounts are spent on improving lanes for pedestrians and cyclists.
This priority should be reversed. Burmah Road is an excellent example where making it a one-way traffic has increased vehicle speed. What we need is to calm traffic in urban communities, not to speed it up.
Second, we must wage a campaign against errant drivers, especially motorcyclists who run red lights. It is not possible to have police in every traffic junction but we can use modern technology more effectively.
For a start, instal more cameras at traffic crossings and CCTV systems along the roads. Local authorities and the police must strengthen coordination and sharing of information.
Local authorities should send daily reports and photos of motorcyclists and motorists who disregard traffic lights to the police who should summon the offenders.
Even members of the public can be encouraged to contribute to this process.
The motorcyclist who killed the woman in Pulau Tikus in March 2017 was filmed by a passing car with a dashboard camera. Police should invite members of the public to send in photos of traffic offenders and even consider paying a small reward to encourage citizen reporting.
With increased enforcement and punishment, the incidence of errant motorcyclists running red lights will hopefully be reduced.
DR LIM MAH HUI
Former Penang City Councillor