Okay, so you’re driving down the highway and about to change lanes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a little kapchai zips in-between you and the next lane, causing you to swerve and holler out a few mothertruckin’ words. Why can’t these motorcyclists stick to their own special bike lanes? It’s not as if the bike lane is jammed, right? It’s not like cars have gone and used up their lanes, right?
In case you didn’t know, the segregated special lane just for motorcycles is for their safety and the safety of other motorists around them. If we (car drivers) had a super duper special lane, wouldn’t we use it?
So why don’t motorcyclists use their special, exclusive unique lanes? We asked a few motorcyclist friends to set the record straight.
1. It may look ‘exclusive’, but the roads are actually kinda bad
Practically all the motorcyclists we spoke to said that the conditions of the bike lanes needed to be improved. One common grief shared by car and motorcycle users in Malaysia seems to be one thing: POTHOLES.
For cars, it’s mainly the suspension that could be affected, but for motorcyclists, it’s actually a lot worse. Sadly, one Malaysian man even got disfigured because he rode into a pothole. Muhamad Aizat Onn, 25, said that one rainy day in 2014, he rode into a pothole thinking it was a shallow puddle of water on the road’s surface. The pothole, in Subang Jaya, caused Aizat to fall in head first, which resulted in his helmet’s visor breaking and cutting deep into his face.
But that’s not all…
“The worst thing about bike lanes are the badly maintained road surfaces. Sand, gravel and potholes are present at many spots. Typically, the constantly-under-maintenance status of almost everything, inclusive of our Kota Darul Ehsan (diverts back onto the road using jersey barriers), leaves a lot of junk on the bike lane.” – Yee Hou, 30, Weight Management Consultant
Potholes have become such a blight on the rakyat that motorcyclist, Azlan Sani Zawawi, decided to patch the roads himself. In 2014, Azlan and the Silaturrahim Brotherhood, a group of combined national motoring clubs, raised money from their own savings and went ahead to fill up potholes around Kuala Lumpur. Azlan was reported to have said that he has lost friends through accidents involving potholes and, so for him and the group, filling up potholes that is said to have been neglected by DBKL is a priority.
And if that’s not all, check out this cool story about Taiping’s octogenarian who patches up potholes in that area. The cool 86-year old, who has been patching potholes for 36 years, says: “I will continue repairing potholes till my last breath… Whenever I repair a hole, I need to squat. It helps to loosen my joints.”
2. It can flood up like a drain!
If you think you have it tough in the car when it rains like crazy, maybe it might be good to peep outside when you are stalled in a jam on a stormy day.
“When it rains, GET OUT of the motorcycle lanes. They flood up big time. Those motorcycle tunnels you see near Jalan 222 in PJ? They flood up all the way till your knees when on the bike.
I once witness a guy who went into the flood and had to swim his way out. He didn’t see all of us signalling him to stop. Needless to say, his bike was dead. ” – Yee Hou
He adds that the blind spot curves in all these lanes means you will not see the impending flood till you go over the curve. But that’s not all the hazards…
“Sometimes when it rains, while you’re riding at a certain speed, you are caught off guard when there is a bike in the tunnel protecting themselves from the rain, chances to hit them could be high too.” – Charles, 28, Oil & Gas
So you see, flooding in tunnels doesn’t only mean you might end up chest deep in water (in which case, your engine will fail because the water woulda entered your exhaust), it also means that many bikes patah balik, causing danger to the oncoming bikes who are unaware of traffic coming from the opposite direction. This leads to accidents, obviously!
3. The roads look like a doodle by a 5 year old
Well, at the least the bad road conditions, coupled with blind spots and badly-designed turns might be a form of entertainment for some. Yee Hou says, “Riding on the bike lane is actually a pretty fun thing. I feel like I’m riding a roller coaster!”
“Another bad thing about bike lanes are the curves, corners and blind spots on these lanes. My oversea friends always comment that these roads seems to have been drawn out by a 5 year old’s doodle… Then again, I guess this observation can be said of ALL of our roads, seriously these road planners think they are drawing a race course, nationwide.” – Kee Jun, 25, publisher
“The lanes are extremely tight, leaving no space for overtaking and safe manoeuvring.” – Yee Hou
According to motorcycle group Ikatan Silaturrahim Brotherhood, the motorcycle lanes along the Federal Highway are not wide enough to accommodate bikes with large engines. The group says that with the number of super bikes on the rise, and also with the number of motorcyclists on the rise, bike lanes especially along the Federal Highway are not large enough to accommodate the numbers and size.
4. You can come out of the tunnel without your wallet o_O
Ah! This one is the biggest worry among the motorcyclists we spoke to.
“My tyre got punctured because some idiots left a few nails purposely on the lane. This was the worst thing to happen to me.” – Asni, 34, Personal Trainer
Kee Jun adds that he has a friend who was robbed while riding on the motorbike lanes:
“He was riding his bike passing through Shah Alam and he could see ahead of him three kids barely out of high school on their bikes. As he neared them trying to overtake, they slowed down their bikes and that was it, the prey has stepped into the trap gracefully. They ambushed him on one of the corners and he was robbed.” – Kee Jun
In fact, news of alleged rompakan along the bike lanes on highways, especially on the KESAS highway, has caused many motorcyclists either to avoid the bike lane or that highway completely. Yee Hou says, “I avoid KESAS like plague because there are too many rumours about robberies, initiated using tripwires.”
In fact, this writer has heard of stories on the KESAS where cyclists were robbed of everything but their clothes riding down to Port Klang!
Motorcyclists actually want to use their special lane la.
It wouldn’t be fair if we never highlighted the good of Malaysian bike lanes too. Of course there are some good and bad in everything that we do. The motorcyclists we spoke to really like bike lanes. If given a chance, they’d pick the bike lane in a heartbeat.
“You have your own private lane without having fear of any cars that could hit you at anytime,” says Charles. Kee Jun adds that there’s also a very different view when travelling on these lanes. “KESAS will be a good example; on the highway it is a broad boring highway, on the motorbike lanes you see a lot more of the surrounding areas.” It also limits the risk of colliding with crazy Malaysian drivers. “Yes, I would use the motorbike lane if the highway has one and it is safe enough to use because I want to avoid getting hit by big vehicles such as lorries or buses,” Asni tells us.
But perhaps the best benefit for a nation with cities that are perpetually jammed, is this. “Imagine getting from Masjid Jamek to the Kelana Jaya during rush hour in only 25 minutes! This was really the reason why I started riding,” says Yee Hou. If you were to take the car, it would easily burn an hour off your day!
But with all the horrible conditions of these lanes, the safety of being on these lanes itself makes you question what are the real benefits after all the risks. So perhaps it’s good that the Federal Highway will get a RM3.13 million upgrade, as reported in August 2016, which will include brightening dark areas, installing pump houses at flood-prone areas, painting road lines and tunnel walls, widening of lanes, building overhead ramps, additional signages and repairs of intersections.
So in the meantime, we guess we’ll have to share the road and look out for each other in the time being….