Recently my wife and I decided to drive down to the seaside resort town of Port Dickson. We wanted to spend the day by the beach and to enjoy the sea breeze, some drinks and a light meal.
We began the drive at about 10.00 am and drove on to the city of Seremban in a leisurely manner. We then chose to take the tolled highway to Port Dickson and this was when we were quite unexpectedly treated to a spectacle of sheer recklessness by a group of about nine, young, helmetless motorcyclists. This group suddenly overtook us at speed almost from nowhere in a show of foolish bravado and complete disregard for other road users.
Taking Leave of their Senses
A while later they began zigzagging about on the highway in some sort of organised manner. The group then started to tailgate a car in front of us. We slowed down and began to prepare for some evasive action if need be. There was not much traffic on the highway at that time and this may have emboldened the group who then put on a show of downright stupidity.
About three young men in the group then rode their bikes at some speed, spread eagled over their machines with their heads over the petrol tanks and their legs shod with slippers hanging out over the rear of their seats. They also delighted in looking sideways to see the reaction of their fellow mates and other road users. The others in the group increased their speed and began weaving in and out of their lane without first checking to see if it was safe to do so.
Not an Isolated Incident
At the first available opportunity, we took another longer route to Port Dickson via the town of Lukut and in the process lost this group of crazy dare devils. This was not our first experience.
We have seen such reckless behaviour on at least four other occasions. Our only explanation for this show of madness on the road is that they were probably high on drugs!
Stopping when the Traffic Lights turn Red is Optional!
Another very common habit that I have noticed with concern is the fact that the majority of young motorcyclists seem to think that they have the option to disregard the traffic lights when the lights turn red! The immature, young motor cyclists do not seem to stop these days when the lights turn red and seem to believe that this is only meant for those who drive cars, trucks and buses. Or maybe they think that because they have been exempted from paying any road tax, they also enjoy exemption from observing traffic rules!
As far as these motorcyclists are concerned when the lights turn red, green and orange they can choose to observe or disregard! They conveniently forget that traffic lights are installed at intersections for valid reasons. They are meant to regulate the flow of traffic in an orderly, fair and safe manner.
Overtaking on the Left and Right at Will
Another worrying habit is that unlike in the past few decades when motor cyclists always kept to the left lane, these days they seem to think that they are kings of the road. They will overtake you from the left and the right at will and then cut right in front of you disregarding the fact that they are creating dangerous conditions for other motorists.
And if they knock into you or your wing mirror, they just ride off without a care in the world. They know you cannot do a thing because often as is the case, you are stuck in a traffic jam.
Ignoring Motor Cycle Lanes
In instances where there is a provision of specific motor cycle lanes, here too these motor cyclists do not always use them. Quite a number still choose to use the highway disregarding the lanes specially provided for motorcyclists!
Here is yet another instance when they choose convenience over safety. This reflects a typically Malaysian tidak apa ( could not care less ) attitude.
Riding in the Opposite Direction
Another dangerous habit is the unexpected behaviour of a few motorcyclists to ride in the opposite direction especially on highways. This is a clear case of stupidity but they choose to do it for mere convenience. You can observe this behaviour in the cities and even on the highways. I once had a narrow escape on the Federal Highway near the Subang National Golf Club because as I came round a blind corner I saw a motorcyclist riding towards me! My quick thinking averted a tragedy but I was badly shaken by this incident.
I could probably go on with instances of such stupidity or recklessness. What I cannot fathom is why they continue to persist in these death defying acts throughout the country. I have travelled to Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam many times where there is widespread use of the motorcycle as a humble means of transport. In all these countries, I have observed that the motor cyclists, as a whole, ride in a responsible manner. In Vietnam, in particular, where crossing the road is quite a task, the motor cyclists take great care in ensuring your safety.
Big Bikers are a Breed Apart
The big bikers in Malaysia, however, are another story and a good one at that. Many are senior level corporate executives, professionals or successful businessmen who have the means to indulge in this pastime. These bikes are expensive, some very expensive. Only those who are well heeled are able to buy and maintain these bikes.
On the roads and highways, I have noticed that the big bikers, mostly in the late thirties or forties, in their shiny Harley Davidson, BMW or Honda usually ride in single file, with dignity and with due consideration for other road users. They are all properly attired in black leather pants and jackets, with proper knee and elbow guards, with their helmets properly strapped into place and they all invariably wear boots.
In contrast, many of the young motor cyclists can be seen to be riding with their helmets unstrapped and with Japanese slippers or sandals! Some even carry three or four passengers on the small bikes. In many cases, these are young children, sitting precariously on the petrol tank and sandwiched between the father and the mother!
If such wild behaviour continues unchecked in the years to come, I fear where this will ultimately all lead to. There has to be ingrained respect for traffic rules, for the welfare and consideration of other road users and for basic good manners among these young motorcyclists. Dare we hope for a change for the better?