by BERNAMA / pic by BERNAMA
PUTRAJAYA – Like the adage ‘One rotten apple spoils the barrel’, the foolhardy actions of some cyclists have created the impression among the public that all cyclists are reckless when they are on the road.
Regular cyclists, however, beg to differ, saying that the attitude of a few irresponsible riders has tainted the image of the cycling community that has for years been championing their rights and urging the local authorities to provide more facilities for them.
While it is irrefutable that there are cyclists who throw caution to the wind when cycling on the road, the public must understand that there are not many suitable areas where avid cyclists can ride without coming in the way of motorists and motorcyclists. To be honest, many cyclists themselves are not aware of the safety rules to observe while on the road, including the use of basic hand signals.
While reckless riding is a definite no-no, other road users such as motorists and motorcyclists should also be concerned about the safety of the cycling community who are vulnerable to accidents whilst indulging in their favourite recreational activity.
In Malaysia, cyclists can be categorised as veterans who have been cycling for more than 10 years and recreational riders who cycle in safe places such as parks and housing areas.
Then there is the other category – the ‘newbies’ – that has earned the wrath of road users for not heeding safety rules. This group has seen its numbers increasing sharply last year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation and sporting and touring activities were limited.
Bored with sitting at home, many people have taken up cycling as a hobby and have been buying bicycles and making their way to roads and highways without learning the basic rules such as using hand signals or fitting their bikes with safety accessories like lamps and bells.
Nazahiyah Mohd Hadzir, 35, who took up cycling as a hobby in 2011, said the new kids on the block are the ones giving cyclists a bad name.
“Their selfish and unethical ways are smearing our reputation and the culprits are mostly those who are new to recreational cycling… the only reason they have taken to cycling is that it is the trend now and not because they have a deep interest in it,” she said.
Acknowledging that Malaysia lacks suitable locations for cycling activities, Nazahiyah urged riders to plan their routes properly and observe all road safety rules.
“You don’t have to show off just because you are riding an expensive bicycle model. Remember, you are sharing the road with others,” she said, adding that motorists should also respect the rights of cyclists and refrain from obstructing them by stopping their vehicles on bicycle lanes.
Arif Billah, 35, who has been actively participating in cycling activities for over 12 years, said it is important for all road users to understand that cyclists have equal rights on the road too.
“People shouldn’t think that only motor vehicles are fit to be on our roads. (Cyclists have no other choice) as Malaysia doesn’t have facilities (for cycling) and the roads are not cyclist-friendly. If we want Malaysia to reach advanced status, then the people must think like the citizens of first-world nations, not third-world,” he said.
Arif, who has participated in the Ironman triathlon challenge in Malaysia that consist of swimming, cycling and running events, also advised cyclists to observe safety rules such as stopping at traffic light junctions when the light is red and being considerate to other road users.
They must also wear a safety helmet and ensure that their bicycles are fitted with front and rear lamps so that others are aware of their presence, particularly at night, he added.
“Newcomers should cycle more often with experienced cyclists as they can learn a lot from them, such as the use of various types of hand signals, cycling ethics and how to cycle in groups,” he said.
PLAN YOUR ROUTE
Edward Khoo, who is one of the founders of Kuala Lumpur-based Get Together Cycling Club, said although there was a lack of cyclist-friendly facilities in Malaysia, newcomers should not use it as an excuse to ride dangerously on roads and highways.
“Before going on the road, they should follow senior cyclist groups or learn some techniques or get information from the Internet. I would prefer newbies to train indoors before they go cycling outdoors,” he said.
He said safety-consciousness is crucial for cyclists when they are on the road because other road users are not aware that certain roads or highways are hotspots for cyclists unless there is a signboard reminding them to look out for their presence.
Khoo also advised cyclists to plan their routes carefully and avoid roads where heavy vehicles ply or areas that are always busy and congested.
He also suggested that newcomers join groups that have experienced cyclists who can lead and sweep the group to ensure that all of them are observing the traffic rules and riding safely.
“When they are on the road, cyclists need to know when to slow down, and when to focus on their front, left and right before they reach any junction or corner.
“They also need to take note and beware of the actions or hand signs shown by the cyclists in front when they follow them from behind,” he added.