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World Bicycle Day and how we can cycle more in Malaysia

  • Let’s not only reduce carbon but also save our medical bill by cycling more.

By Ravindran Raman Kutty

My recent trip to Europe especially to Amsterdam, Holland inspired me to pen my thoughts on cycling. It is extremely interesting to watch office workers, parents, students, teenagers, and market goers, zigzagging on the streets of Amsterdam. Me and my wife were at many times, were cautioned by the dashing cyclists who were moving so fast without much noise. They were all looking so happy riding bicycles unperturbed by the motor vehicles. They have also improved their air quality to 65% NOx per kilometre travelled.

There are more than a billion bicycles in the world, twice as many as automobiles. In recent years bike production had climbed to over 100 million per year (compared to 50 million cars). Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and since then have been and are employed for many uses: recreation, work, military, show, sport etc. For example in the USA, people use bikes for slimming and better feeling because cycling burns 600 calories an hour, but in China or other parts of Asia people use bikes mostly for transportation needs. For these reasons in some countries bikes are especially popular. There are top 10 countries with most bicycles per capita.

In Belgium 8% of all trips are made by bike. The average distance cycled per person per day is 0.9 km. Cycling is a national sport for the Belgians. Belgians are very serious about their bike. A real Belgian keeps an expensive, quality bike well maintained with functioning breaks and inflated tires and usually wears a helmet and a bright yellow vest to make him or herself visible to car.

In Switzerland 5% of all trips and 10% of trips to work are made by bike. Switzerland is a cycling country. Here this is more than just an activity; it is a healthy way to enjoy the nature and the hospitality of local people. The Swiss even have “Bike to Work“ campaigns when employees ride their bike to work.

In Japan 15 percent of trips to work are made by bicycle. In recent years more than 10 million bikes are sold every year. In Japan bicycles are widely used as an alternative to motorcars. A lot of people use them to ride to the train stations. Today more and more Japanese are taking up bicycling to work for health reasons and to avoid traffic jams and crowded trains. Many people don’t lock their bicycles even when they leave their bikes outside railroad stations all day or overnight.

In Finland 9% of all trips are made by bike. The average distance cycled per inhabitant per day is 0.7 km. Fins ride bicycles without reference to the age or social status, both children and grown-ups: tourists and housewives, pensioners and students. Although the cycling season in this country traditionally starts in spring or summer, some fans of bikes are afraid of neither the rain, nor slush, nor event winter snowstorms. The love of Fins cyclists to the bicycles can be compared with their love to dogs, or to fishing, or to sauna.

60 percent of local cyclists in Shanghai (most populous city in China) pedal to work every day. The city is home to 9,430,000 million bicycles and 19,213,200 people.

In Norway 4% of all trips are made by bike. In Norway, with a population of 4,943 million people and 3 million bicycles, 60.000 bicycles disappear each year, never to be seen by their owners again. Most bicycles are stolen from places owners assume are safe.

Malaysia is also jumping on our bicycle seats to promote cycling in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur despite of some glitches have constructed more than 10 Kilometres of cycling lane, more than 42 stations from Ampang/Sri Petaling and Kelana Jaya lines have ”Bike N Ride” service.

We see an increasing number of local authorities adopting bicycle lanes as part of their sustainability or green manifesto. They include MBPJ’s PJ Cycle way Project at Ara Damansara, MBSA’s 10km bike lane along Taman Tasik Shah Alam, MPPK’s Kota Kinabalu 5.3km coastal bike lanes linking Tanjung Aru to University Malaysia Sabah, MPP's Georgetown Jalan CY Choy Bicycle Bridge, MPSJ’s Subang Jaya Bicycle Lane.

While the enthusiasm to construct bicycle lane among the local authorities is extremely encouraging, but maintenance, safety, signages and the design of the lanes are always a key question among the cyclists who are serious in riding a bicycle

While Malaysians encourage and welcome zero pollution and agree to zero carbon impact through cycling, Malaysians are still apprehensive due to lack of education and promotion on cycling, efforts should be targeted at improving safety and roadway behaviour among cyclists through educational programs, campaigns and promotion in the mass media.

In the medium term, measures should focus on programs to promote cycling and increase awareness of cycling among the general public. For instance, program such as ‘smart trips’ can be implemented in which events such as riding a bicycle in the neighbourhood can be organised so that Malaysians, become more familiar and comfortable getting around using alternative mode of transportation.

Other programs such as ‘Take your cycle to the shop today’ program, promoting cycling to work and promoting cycling to school can also be implemented. In the long term, efforts should be aimed at promoting cyclist-friendly environment for sustainable development in neighbourhood areas. An ‘all ages and abilities bicycle network plan’ can be prepared to plan and to provide an interconnecting system of bicycle lanes and facilities, which are comfortable and attractive for a broad array of users, such as children, youths, families and seniors in the study area.

Events like Tour De Langkawi since 1996 till to-date has generated great amount of publicity and awareness of Malaysia among international audience and has also generated a great amount of publicity within our country. We must have more events organised using cycles so that more and more Malaysians will be attracted to cycling.

Malaysians must cycle more. We need to show our horse power by pedalling more. If most of us have cycled to school, when we were young, how about doing it now?. Let’s start cycling to our nearby shop, club or even visiting our neighbours.

Let’s not only reduce carbon but also save our medical bill by cycling more.

(Ravindran Raman Kutty is an active social worker.)


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