It took Covid-19 to force people to rethink their lifestyles and seek personal mobility in the form of walking and cycling in Malaysia. Over the past few months, there has been a bike phenomenon – a walk into your bicycle stores in Malaysia from high-end bike shops such as Specialized and USJ bicycles to even low-end bike shops like Decathlon, all bikes have been sold out until October.
We are seeing a shift in spending on usual conventional leisure activities to something simpler and more solitary, cycling and even walking.
The blue lanes in Malaysia may have faded and the infrastructure, barely-there lanes and construction may have become a civilian obstruction. With plans to make KL a pedestrian-friendly city by 2025 and the River of Life slowly coming to fruition, cycling and walking offers a chance for Malaysians to change their mindset and experience the intricacies of local urban culture.
Learning the value of human power and watts
Many of us underestimate the uniqueness and versatility of a two-wheeler; cycling was a childhood activity that we cherished and a forgotten pursuit as soon as we wheeled into our adult lives. The simple two-wheeled vehicle has come a long way in serving us, and even playing a green player in transportation, health and the environment.
According to, the most electrical energy generated by pedalling on bicycles in 24 hours was achieved by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Hong Kong) in 2014 by Brian Cha. Human power will never be able to replace the “power of the world” simply put, but it offers a way to pay itself back.
This fact alone could serve as inspiration to young innovators who may find a way to harness the opportunity available through pedalling and making the switch from all that talk of green culture to the real green.
Cycling and walking is simple, but is it too simple for our highly-charged lifestyle?
In recent years, our demand for the latest phone and highly-charged mobile-centric lifestyle has overshadowed the simplicity of the humble bicycle. The start-up culture had resulted in tech trying to look to things we haven’t invented yet as “solutions”.
In reality, a lot of really good examples which already existed get swept under the rug. The bicycle is a classic example of this. In fact, a prime example of city merging tech to complement an urban lifestyle and city infrastructure, instead of competing with it is Finland’s Lahti.
Lahti in Finland is the first city in the world to experiment with a, exploring new ideas and methods for energy saving, emissions reduction and environmental protection. The EU-funded CitiCAP project allows individuals to track their carbon emissions as they move.
By choosing sustainable travel modes, such as walking, cycling or public transport, the user can earn virtual credits, then they can exchange them into sustainable services in the marketplace of the application. Can we see Malaysia seeking inspiring ways and putting urban mobility as a centrepiece in our green development now that cycling is on the rise?
Infrastructure vs the weather rant
Occasionally, as I cycled often and seek new routes within Klang Valley and outside of big cities, the major rant among the public is often about the weather and how it is not possible to cycle or walk in our city. However, I beg to differ. There are pockets of time available during the morning and evening hour for people to walk and cycle and see new urban neighbourhoods in a new light.
Getting up early to beat the heat of the day is also a mindset change and a lifestyle change. Safety and poor infrastructure, as well as dangerous drivers and narrow Kuala Lumpur roads, were cited as some reasons, and why cycling lanes were not suited for Malaysia in a poll carried out by New Straits Times last year.
In 2018, the government as part of DBKL’s green initiatives cycling-only blue lane and car-free mornings may seem like a weak attempt to encourage Malaysians to cycle; more needs to be done for Malaysians to seek confidence in navigating the streets. Even though the government has plans to make KL a pedestrian-friendly city by 2025 and the introduction of River of Life, the onus falls on the city-slicker to seek other routes to find best ways to experience on a two-wheels instead of a wait-and-see approach.
There are enough Facebook groups, resources, a cycling map and alternative routes giving way for a new urban frontier. Cycling has the potential to solve what is often referred to as the “first-mile” problem, the challenge of getting people to a public transport hub. The KTM already offers a chance for people to bring their bike on the train and according to a recent Facebook post, MRT will soon be making headway in offering bike storage facilities in the oversized station.
It's time to experience the joy of riding through a city, and not experience the start and end of destinations. From cycling through KL’s Petaling Street or even using the motorbike lane from KL to Klang, you may realise how each town is not a homogenous place; it’s an intricately connected tapestry of neighbourhoods, businesses, history, character, open spaces and people.
by Pashmina Binwani, Author of environment & travel blog, The Gone Goat