A LOT of ink has been used over much of this year to print a proposal for segregated motorcycle lanes. I have consistently written in this column that such lanes are the single most effective means to curb the horrifyingly high death toll on our roads.
I had proposed the idea to the Safety First Group, a WhatsApp community with a very large following, and it quickly adopted the idea as its battle-cry to create greater awareness among motorcyclists and pillion riders on defensive or safe riding.
The group earlier this year met Transport Minister Anthony Loke and Works Minister Baru Bian to advance the proposal with convincing arguments on how this and another proposal – on lowering the speed limit of the two-wheelers to around 70kph – could indeed go a long way towards saving thousands of lives lost every year particularly among riders of kapcais or small motorcycles.
To our delight, both ministers promised to give the proposal due consideration, including for a specific law eventually to enforce these new measures for saving lives.
Just two weeks ago in this column, I upped the ante on this issue by appealing for motorcycle lanes to be implemented under the 12th Malaysia Plan, which kicks off in 2021.
Question time in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday seemed like any other day when Parliament is sitting but to me personally, it brought good news. In fact, the best news that I have heard or read for a long time.
And because it didn’t make the front page on newspapers or even a prominent space in the inside pages, not many people might be aware of it.
Loke, in reply to a question from Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof from Sarawak, announced that the proposal for motorcycle lanes would be submitted in the 12th Malaysia Plan.
You could say that I was the happiest person that day and I still am. It certainly not only made my day but my year as well.
“The Transport Ministry, together with Miros (Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research) and the Road Safety Department, encourage motorcyclists to go where there is a special lane for motorcycles, but it will be costly if a single motorcycle lane is created,” Loke said.
Loke said the ministry was encouraging the use of electric motorcycles with a lower speed limit but there was no policy barring the use of kapcais as most of the nearly 16 million registered motorcycles in the country are in that category.
Now let us catch our breath here. Imagine the number of registered motorcycles is equivalent to exactly half of Malaysia’s population.
Fadillah, who was works minister in the previous government, had asked whether the Transport Ministry had plans to replace kapcais with safer bikes to curb fatal crashes.
As consistently mentioned in this column, an average of 4,700 people died yearly in motorcycle-related crashes and the vast majority are youths aged between 16 and 30.
And Loke during Tuesday’s parliamentary session revealed the latest death toll especially among the millenials riding motorcycles but I chose not to mention the figure here as it’s too gory.
But to me, even without phasing out kapcais, a more practical and doable approach is for a law to be enacted for a lower speed limit as mentioned earlier and plus the possible separate riding lanes and with this, we can certainly see a positive impact in efforts to save lives.
It’s indeed long overdue for the authorities and stakeholders to do something drastic to change our motorcycle riding culture that has seen so much blood spilled on our roads bringing untold suffering and misery to families and loved ones of the victims.
The jubilation I had over the good news that motorcycle lanes could become a reality in the near future was shattered by news that a young couple on their way to work early Tuesday – the same day as Loke’s announcement in Parliament – was killed in a motorcycle crash at Jalan Syed Putra in Kuala Lumpur.
Tragically, a post-mortem revealed to grieving family members of the victims waiting at the hospital mortuary that the woman was pregnant with twins.
And the couple left behind their first child, now only 22 months old.
Earlier this year, another couple also on their way to work was killed on a high-powered motorbike along the motorcycle lane on the Federal Highway in Petaling Jaya, a rather rare crash involving big bikes on this stretch.
Their two children left behind were only two and six years old.
I am again calling for a law to be enacted to confine motorcycles to the left lane if it is not possible to build segregated ones because of the huge cost and equally important to lower the speed limit for smaller motorcycles whose riders are daily exposed to risks.
We have to put an end to the dangerous riding by motorcyclists zig-zagging in between big vehicles in the middle and right lanes and at whatever speed they fancy.
I know that Miros chairman Datuk Suret Singh is working behind the scenes to do his best on this score and with the political will of Loke and the government, the noble goal of saving the lives of mostly young Malaysians is achieveable.
The earlier this is done, the more lives will be saved.