SOCIAL media was abuzz this week over the new blue bike lanes in the Kuala Lumpur city centre.
What raised the ire of city motorists, particularly motorcyclists, was the raised dividers that separated the cycling lane from the motorcycles and cars that plied the route.
There was a viral posting on social media with a picture of a bloodied scooter rider next to a blue lane, although circumstances of the incident were unclear.
Many said the raised dividers were a menace to road users. Some complained that the material used was slippery and could cause them to fall.
It was a public relations nightmare for the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), which had built the lanes just in time for the World Urban Forum next month.
The plan was to build more dedicated bicycle lanes in the city and integrate them with the public transportation network, should the pilot project proved successful,
Implementing a bicycle lane in Kuala Lumpur is a uniquely challenging proposition because of the volume of two-wheelers that plies the city.
Developed European and North American cities do not have to contend with the swarm of kapcais and scooters that forms the backbone of Klang Valley transportation.
For many of these motorcyclists, who are already marginalised in many ways in the road-sharing hierarchy, the blue lanes are perplexing.
“The left lane where they usually travel on is now narrower,” said Mohammad Hisham Shafie, chairman of the National Road User Association.
Some people actually though the blue lanes were motorcycle lanes, he said.
The biggest issue, however, is the danger it may pose to motorcyclists.
“The association hopes this issue can be resolved quickly because we don’t want road users to slip or fall,” he added.
We visited the site and rode over the barriers in Jalan Sultan Ismail with a Kawasaki Ninja 650.
The barrier hardly fazed the motorcycle. However, a rider on a smaller motorcycle or scooter with smaller wheels could possibly lose control, especially if he hit the barrier unprepared.
Despite the backlash over the barriers, it is still in the city’s best interest to build more of them.
A study by Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York discovered that every US$1,300 (RM5,000) that New York City invested in building bike lanes in 2015 provided benefits equivalent to an additional year of life with full health over the lifetime of all the residents of the city.
The study found that providing bike lanes was way cheaper than most medical interventions currently in healthcare, and was just slightly more expensive than vaccines.
Therefore, despite their unpopularity with road users so far, it seems to be in the best interest of everyone to build more of those blue bike lanes.