Motorcycle lanes save lives

IN several of my earlier columns expressing concern over too many deaths caused by motorcycle accidents, I have cited the Federal Highway, our very first expressway, as one model that other states should emulate because it has dedicated motorcycle lanes.

Motorcyclists using what is arguably Malaysia's busiest highway stretching from Kuala Lumpur to Klang are assured of a safe ride.

The reason being they don't come into contact with cars and other heavy vehicles on the highway virtually round the clock.

My interest in frequently highlighting safe motorcycle riding stems from the fact that most of some 6,700 people killed on our roads annually are motorcyclists or pillion riders.

And I am sure the traffic police will be able to confirm that along the Federal Highway's dedicated motorcycle lanes there have been very few accidents all these years, let alone fatal ones.
Motorists, too, have peace of mind driving along the Federal Highway because they do not have to worry about motorcycles zigzagging in between cars with at times hardly six inches separating them from the two-wheelers.

Plenty of accidents result from such battle of the wits between drivers and motorcyclists that at the end of the day contributes to the nation having perhaps the highest rate of motorcyclist deaths in the world, population-wise.

The fact that thousands of people, most of whom are young, die on our roads yearly in motorcycle tragedies is another story as they leave behind loved ones at the prime of their lives. It's more tragic when the victims are the breadwinners in their families.

But what is surprising is that lately, motorcyclists who all this while have been using the dedicated lanes along the Federal Highway built for them, have been taking to the main highway as well.

Why is this so?

At least two reporters have been working on investigative reports to find out why no action is being taken against motorcyclists using the Federal Highway lanes meant for cars, vans and lorries.
The "invasion" of motorcyclists along this once motorcycle-free highway has reached chronic proportions and this is aggravated by what one daily described as the confusion over which agencies are in charge of the highway.

These agencies are also confused over who runs the highway.

The confusion has been magnified by the abolition of the Batu Tiga toll on Jan 1 when PLUS, the tolled highway concessionaire that previously managed the highway returned it to the jurisdiction of the federal government .

The traffic police said they needed to check on the status of the highway as to whether it had been gazetted against the use of motorcycles before any enforcement could be done.

But one might ask, why the confusion now when all the while things were working well and motorcyclists have kept to the dedicated lanes?

Why not maintain the status quo with the traffic police keeping an eye on the two-wheelers to ensure that they do what they have been doing all the while?

The bottom line is the safety of the motorcyclists and pillion riders.

We want to prevent fatal accidents and when they do occur, there will be the usual finger-pointing over jurisdictional responsibility while precious lives are lost.

A Petaling Jaya Municipal Councillor said the Federal Highway and its motorcycle lanes are under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Department which has full power over these stretches.

We have seen so many cases of bureaucracy hampering what could be the smooth running of things but red tape should not be tolerated when lives and limbs are at stake.

The larger question is not just the Federal Highway but the safety of motorcyclists per se.

Dedicated lanes for motorcycles ought to be the standard all over the country and not just at this premier highway.

Such lanes should be a mandatory feature of all highways because only then can we expect to reduce road fatalities.