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Have Bicycle, Will Travel
Being stuck in traffic has become such an intrinsic and exasperating part of Malaysian culture. This perpetual problem might finally have a solution.
It is shocking that 1.1 billion Ringgit is spent every year by Malaysians just being stuck in traffic. That number is roughly 2% of the national GDP. It’s undoubtedly a waste of time and money.
Hubert Fong, founder of Public Bike Share (PBS) is adamant on solving this problem. He proposes a healthier, cheaper and more efficient way to travel. One that revolves around bicycles.
A Penangite and an avid cyclist himself, Hubert studied in Melbourne and spent seven years there as an engineering consultant, developing the Australian public infrastructure. Now he has returned to Malaysia, determined to make home a better place.
His motto? To make cities in Malaysia livable again, creating an escape from the day in, day out traffic congestion that city dwellers are constantly burdened with.
The reasons for switching from car to bike are clear. For one, you save a whole lot of money. PBS as a travel alternative strives to be as pocket-friendly as possible. Bike sharing costs only RM3 for every 30 minutes the vehicle is used. Plus, you save on petrol, toll, tax and car maintenance.
Also, Malaysians get more active. If we could cycle to and from work every day, there is no longer need to carve out gym time into our busy schedules. The travel process itself is already a workout.
Malacca is the first city in Malaysia to launch PBS. The Dutch Square, A’ Famosa and Parameswara stations were opened to public this Merdeka. PBS is glad to announce that they are being very well received by both tourists and locals alike as a cheap and convenient way to maneuver around the city’s congested streets.
However, initiating the bike sharing service wasn’t a breeze. The preeminent challenge Hubert and his team faced when establishing Melaka Bike Share (MBS) was to gain political willingness from the city government to embark on the project. Collaboration was key. Without both parties aligned with the intention to reduce cars and promote healthy and active mobility, MBS would not have been born.
PBS, being pioneers of this greener travel option in Malaysia, had to carefully strategise how to integrate this new system into the existing travel structure. It was imperative to discard the conventional framework of a car-centric traffic plan and instead place people as the crux of the design. This is a drastic shift for Malaysian city governments due to the countless amendments that must be made to existing laws and infrastructure to accommodate bike sharing as well as to protect the users of this service. Currently, there are no laws defending cyclists against drivers. Hence, cyclists’ rights are one of the many things that PBS is pushing for in the midst of this development. With all these issues in mind, PBS will draft an agreement with the city on how the entire system will be planned, operated and run.
PBS aims to launch in its second city by the end of 2016. After that, Hubert has plans to introduce PBS into four cities every year. So if you’re living in a city, you’ll be seeing those high tech bicycles around your neighbourhood very soon!
By Chee Sue-Anne
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