The horrific crash that took place this past Saturday along the Federal Highway is still fresh in our minds. But it will not take more than a week or two for the news to wither away into the past to be forgotten. Which is exactly the problem, we forget!
This is not the first example of us forgetting our tragedies, it has happened countless times. These tragedies, as sad and horrific as they may be, provide a unique opportunity to learn and educate ourselves.
Why did it happen? What caused it? Is it human error or mechanical? Is there a fault with the road design? Do we lack signage? Is there adequate lighting?
These are just some of the questions we need to be asking, but I’m not saying that we don’t. Perhaps we do, but like a three year old child, we often lose interest before we get the answers.
Saturday’s incident once again put a spot light on a very old problem, motorcyclists riding among the cars on the Federal Highway and completely avoiding the bike lane.
The powers that be have spoken up about the dangers of it, the Police have tried to nab the culprits, many have lost their lives, while the lucky ones have survived but will do it again if they have to. Which begs the question why?
If the bike lane served its purpose, why are so many riders avoiding it? It is something that none riders will never understand.
Flooded roads caused by unmaintained drainage not only causes unnecessary inconvenience, but it also deposits slippery sands and oils on the road. These things are a biker’s worst nightmare as it causes an immediate loss of grip, and we all know what happens next after you lose grip, you fall hard!
Potholes and bad patching work are just among the few things that wreak havoc on the biking lane, but the other thing that bikers try to avoid is Police road blocks.
We at Bikes Republic are all for ethical riding, and we cannot emphasize enough the need for proper lessons, licensing, and to adhere to the law and to live a crime free life. We are advocates of that.
But we can also relate to the frustration of riders who have to endure standing in the tropical heat amongst the blistering heat and dust kicked up by other riders and their machines. It is inconvenient and time consuming. If you live in a city there is a very good chance you have to adhere to a tight time schedule, so waiting in line to be checked by a Policeman just after you have been checked the day before can be very frustrating to say the very least.
We are not saying that you should completely avoid the Police, but we can relate to the frustrations involved in using the bike lane on the Federal Highway. Perhaps Police blocks should be conducted during times when criminals are more likely to be on two-wheels, perhaps 1am is a better time than 10am?
The other thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the infrastructure. A quick check online reveals that the bike lane was originally intended for bicycles and for speeds below 60km/h. That may have been true in the 60’s, but today there is a completely different scenario.
The number of motorcycles on our roads today has exceeded our best expectations and there has been no great upgrade to accommodate the growth. This has resulted in congestion and accidents.
Couple that with mismanagement, neglect, and a lack of motivation from either side of the political divide to fix things up, and you get motorcyclists weaving in and out of cars on Federal Highway. But is that really the cause of the kind of accidents we saw on Saturday night?
Not quite, there is another important element missing – education. Or the lack of it.
With the right focus, leadership and funding, world class infrastructure is quite easily attainable. But without the right education and training, the best roads are only as good as the worst driver or rider.
Take the North South Highway for example, take a drive up to Penang or anywhere for that matter and you are bound to come across bikers tailing trucks and buses so closely that there would be no time to react to an emergency. Heck, an unlucky biker might never know what hit him.
But would they have done it had there been proper infrastructure to accommodate motorcycles? Like a proper lane for bikers to cruise at highway speeds? Again, the invincible finger points to a lack of knowledge, and infrastructure to accommodate the rising number of bikes.
Our rider friends who were sadly involved in Saturday’s fatal accident also should have known that standing by a major highway is extremely dangerous. Imagine the difference it would have made had they stood in a safer area away from the drivers.
We all know that the dudes on the highway tailgate for the aerodynamic comfort; we also know that it is extremely dangerous. And what about the 10 year olds who are riding in the villages on narrow dirt roads at circuit speeds? And those who are just about to take their licenses? You will not see any short term effect, but in the long term, proper education, training, and support will create better drivers and riders.
No one is asking to reinvent the wheel and create biker-friendly trucks and buses (but we do need more biker friendly highways). No, all we need to do is to concentrate our resources away from the things we do not need (RM74 million on political advertising for example) and spend some of those resources to educate license holders on the perils of such behavior.
You reevaluate your training methods, you go back down to the basics, the grassroots. There will be quite a bit of money involved, but the future gains are endless because you can’t put a price on an educated society.
The finger pointing can go on forever and we will continue forgetting our fallen friends, but we all have a role to play and lives can only be saved once we start realizing that our methods are dangerous and not producing the results we so desperately need.
As for today’s riders, people like you and I, we have a role to play too – look over your shoulder when you’re about to overtake, avoid weaving through traffic, use the correct lanes, do not speed in traffic, keep your tires in check, do not ride with your emotions, don’t charge into a corner you are unfamiliar with, and make sure you have the proper experience before taking on a much larger, more powerful bikes. This will bound to keep more riders safe and going home to their loved ones.
That’s all we care about.