PETALING JAYA: An effort is under way to get “Mat Lajak” children off highways, and this entails opening up velodromes for them to indulge in their passion.
The Kuala Lumpur Cycling Association plans to hold discussions with owners of a velodrome in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, to kick-start the programme.
Its secretary Firdaus Arshad told theSun that in the past, the velodrome was opened to the public and children were able to use it.
“They could ride at high speed and get an adrenalin rush but within a safe environment,” he said.
At the time, the velodrome was operated by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, but it has since been sold to Jakel Trading Sdn Bhd.
Firdaus said the association, which is an affiliate of the Malaysian National Cycling Federation, was planning to have discussions with the company on the possibility of re-opening the velodrome to the public.
He was responding to a front-page report by theSun that police had arrested the parents of six Mat Lajak children for negligence.
Firdaus said before the term “Mat Lajak” was coined, these children were known as “Fixie Kids”, named for the bicycles they used.
Fixie bicycles come with fixed gear s but no brakes, and could be slowed down or stopped by reverse-pedalling.
“When the velodrome in Cheras was still open to the public, we even organised competitions for children,” Firdaus said.
Apart from the Cheras velodrome, there are three other such facilities in the country – Velodrome Rakyat in Ipoh, Velodrome Nasional Malaysia in Nilai and Velodrome Johor, which is under construction.
Head of the Universiti Putra Malaysia Road Safety Research Centre, Prof Dr Law Teik Hua, said police action alone would not solve the Mat Lajak problem.
“That is not a long-term measure. We must understand the nature of the problem before we can find a solution,” he said.
He suggested that a survey be conducted to understand the problem.
“We need to know why most of them are schoolchildren from middle to low-income families.”
As an immediate move, Law said the National Revised Road Safety Education Module should be used to raise awareness among children that it is dangerous to ride their bicycles on highways.
He also dismissed a proposal by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to build proper facilities for children to pursue their passion for cycling.
“How many tracks can you build to create space for these Mat Lajak? Do you think they would prefer a confined space? They always ride their bicycles on public roads and highways because it is more thrilling,” he added.
Last week, Syed Saddiq suggested that such children be given training at the National Youth Skills Institute to hone their talents to ensure that their passion “would not go to waste” but be “put in the right place”.