Give Us Back Our Bikes!

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I remember my first ride. It was my family’s old Daihatsu Charade. Although its windows were broken, interior rotten, it was still a privilege to operate as public transportation was shit back in the ’90s compared to today.

You’d have to pray not to get robbed at Central Market, the KTM trains from Subang Jaya (where I lived) into the city were sparse, and there were no Grab, Uber, or ride-sharing apps. There weren’t even smartphones.

My Daihatsu got me from point A to B. And that was good enough. But today, it isn’t. There are just too many cars on the roads and whatever event or activity you have planned might not happen because you can’t make it there in time. One look at Waze, 1hr into the city (?) to have dinner with a friend who’s working there? Forget it. I’ll send you a Food Panda promo code, on me.

Although we’ve scheduled our lives to work around the jam, many of us within the Klang Valley are struck with immobility. Just ask anyone driving back in this evening’s weather.

Recently, the MBPJ announced plans to reintroduce the scratch-and-pay parking coupons after terminating the contract of its current parking concessionaire. While complaints were heard because of the lack of ticket merchants within PJ’s commercial areas, this was a good move forward to dismantle those ugly and often-faulty parking metre-machines.

Everyone enjoys broad strokes being implemented ’cause it affects the way our city looks and works, but while one issue gets resolved, there are others in the wait such as the swapping to a card payment system for all tolls. Once all tolls are automated, that would clear up at least 2 to 3 ‘tunai’ lanes from queues that line up choking intersections.

Now, with the LRTs and train stations popping up all over our city, Klang Valley residents are coming along way from days of hopping over the dividers and strolling across main streets nonchalantly.

So why do so many people still drive cars? Aside from the obvious reasons of safety, convenience, and shelter from the rain, can’t we really rely on a combination public transport and apps to get us where we want to go?

For some, especially those who live near train stations, yes it can. But for the majority who don’t live within the vicinity of a station, paying for Ubers and Grabs everyday is a cost you’d factor when deciding to invest in a car – yes, we’re the only country in the world where I’d say that – invest in a car or face paying for rides and seeking their availability all the time.

This morning, we woke up to reviews of It the clown (the movie) and news of the MBPJ seizing bikes from bicycle-sharing platform company oBike. Just last week, there were red balloons tied to dozens of cars parked outside our office to promote It‘s big screen comeback. “Causing obstructions to sidewalks” is a weird thing to say considering the numerous amount of eyesores one has to go through on their way to work. Have anyone seen the Datuk Vida ice kacang billboard? I rest my case.

Red balloons tied to dozens of parked cars at D’sara Uptown to promote the movie, It.

While oBike’s marketing manager Elaine Chan said the company was aware its bicycles were being seized and was working with MBPJ to solve the issue (as reported by TheStar), it’s very sad to see this happening to a platform that has a 40% student customer-base.

Similarly, motorbike ride-sharing service Dego Ride was banned earlier this year due to similar issues of safety and licensing. It’s interesting to note, that both Dego Ride and oBike seem to cater to people within the lower income bracket. Why are we taking away cheap travel options from those who need it the most?

The MBPJ like all city councils, and the government, should wake up and smell the internet coffee – it’s a new age for digital businesses and transportation services can’t be regulated as they once were. And It’s not like taxis were well-regulated in the past – tempered metres, robbery and assault cases were as common back then with taxi-company drivers as they are today with Uber and Grab drivers (except for the tempered metres part).

I believe everyone who has ever travelled in the Klang Valley (whether back in the ’90s or now) takes into consideration their personal safety when travelling. They’d double check the drivers and road conditions if they’re driving themselves.

As myself and more urban residents decide to move away from being car-owners (something our parents would never think of), the question is – can city council, and in a larger sense, our government, make us believe that all this development – the new train lines, highways, toll and parking systems – is going to work? Are we going to get from point A to point B faster or are should we invest in a Spotify premium-account and better speakers to keep us company in the jam?

“lol aldy can see some are abandon road side” (source: Lowyat.NET forum)

And of course, we have to ask ourselves, are we ready to be responsible with the transportation we have? Or is this just all the making of an epic #whywecanthavenicethings post?

Read why the Uber Driver-Passenger Rating is massively screwed up in a country like Malaysia here.