KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29 — The growing presence of motorcyclists on the main carriageway of the Federal Highway is causing alarm among motorists who do not expect the two-wheelers to be riding at high speed between their cars.
Once sporadic, the closures of the dedicated motorcycle lanes have become a regular occurrence, encouraging motorcyclist to venture ever further into the highway — putting both theirs and other motorists’ lives in danger.
No longer content with riding on the left lane of the highway, motorcyclists now even speed on the furthest right lanes and compete with larger vehicles for the same space.
The problem is magnified during traffic jams, when the motorcyclists split lanes carelessly and at speeds far higher than the 20kph differential with other traffic, which is generally recommended for road safety.
Lane-splitting at high speeds is dangerous as it leaves the motorcyclists little time to react when cars change lanes as motorists may not be expect bikers to be approaching rapidly on the highway where they are not meant to be.
Corporate communications manager Ali Razali told the Malay Mail he observes accidents involving motorcyclists on the Federal Highway regularly during his commute from his home in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam to Menara TM in Kuala Lumpur.
“Yeah, every two to three days there’s always [sic] a motorcyclist lying or sitting on the road side with a mangled or damage motorcycle. Ever since the motorcycle lane has been closed for maintenance, they have all been on the main carriageway (for certain stretches).
“They weave in and out of traffic and in between cars like nobody’s business. They also honk at you from a kilometre away if they see you have your indicator lights on and need to change lanes,” he said.
“There are three to four (main carriageway) lanes and they don’t keep to the emergency lanes or their own. They would weave through all lanes,” Ali complained.
Lawyer Syahiza Radzi, who usually travels to her mother’s house in Shah Alam from her apartment in Subang during the weekends, said she noticed that motorcyclists start to become increasingly reckless once past the Batu Tiga toll plaza.
She also reported close calls with motorcyclists, whom she said would ride at breakneck speeds as they jostle for space on the highway.
“I normally see them during the weekends after nightfall. I don’t really see them from the Bangsar to Subang stretch but after the Batu Tiga Toll, they start showing up. I’m not certain if there are motorcycle lanes there but they are reckless.
“I think they’re (mat) rempits because they race each other while swerving around to avoid cars, doing their superman stunts and I’ve had near accidents before because they cut me off,” Syahiza described her experience.
Once, she saw a biker slam into a road barrier while trying to exit the highway and fall onto the road, saying he likely escaped being run over only because no other vehicles were close behind.
Auditor Diana Tan who travels from Kelana Jaya to KL Sentral transport hub described the behaviour of the bikers as infuriating.
“Before the Batu Tiga Toll abolition, it wasn’t as bad because there were also fewer cars on the road; people used the LRT and MRT more. Now, not only is there more traffic, it becomes harder to switch lanes because of the motorcyclists,” she said.
“They’re a dangerous nuisance. Once I was stuck in traffic, one of them clipped my side view mirror, breaking it. The guy didn’t even stop to apologise, he just turned and looked at me before sped off. I understand if they can’t pay the damages but at least say sorry,” Tan said.
The Batu Tiga toll on the Federal Highway was abolished on Jan 1, pursuant to the Budget 2018 announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last October.
Some drivers were more accepting of the motorcyclists’ presence. Hafiz Abdul Halim, a 40-year-old businessman who commutes from Shah Alam to the city centre, believed the bikers ventured onto the highway only out of need.
Hafiz suggested that inconsiderate drivers were a bigger issue than the invasion of motorcycles.
“I know that parts of the motorcycle lanes are closed and they have no choice but to get on the main road,” he said.
“Going home, I noticed many cars are driving on the emergency lane. This forced the motorcyclists to get on the main carriageway because cars are hogging their lanes.”
He also said motorcyclists should not solely be blamed for accidents involving motorists, explaining that abrupt lane changes by drivers who do not indicate their intentions were a bigger hazard.
The Federal Highway was the first in Malaysia to introduce dedicated lanes for motorcycles in a bid to segregate them from larger vehicles.
Various construction works and upgrades have left stretches of the 28.5km of motorcycle lanes inaccessible to bikers.