The Superman pose: Malaysia youths on illegally modified bicycles risk safety, road users concerned

JOHOR BAHRU: Business owner Khairul Hakimin Muhammad was driving along a main highway in Bangi, Selangor last Thursday (Apr 21) when two cyclists sped past him, coming within inches of grazing both sides of his car.

The riders blew past a red traffic light 300m in front of him. Mr Khairul immediately applied his emergency brakes and swerved to avoid six other cyclists, presumably from the same group, who cut into his lane from the left. He remembered seeing two of them riding in a prone position.

He told CNA that he missed the group narrowly, and attributed it to the fact that he was alert enough to react in time.

“That was the second time in four days that I saw this group tearing down a hill into the main road at Bangi’s Section 16,” Mr Khairul recounted.

“All of them seem like they are still in primary school. Their bicycles are clearly modified, no brakes and (a) set up to allow them to plank horizontally, ”he added.

“There was no sense of fear and certainly no logic in why they would ride that way,” said Mr Khairul, who later made a report to the police about this “basikal lajak” gang.

Basikal lajak (modified speed bicycles) is a form of drag-racing using illegally-modified bicycles on public roads. It is popular among youths in parts of Malaysia.

These bicycles typically do not have brakes or reflective lights. The riders also do not wear helmets, padding or safety gear.

The races typically begin from atop a hill, and continue downslope into public roads, including highways filled with traffic.

While these modified bicycles have been popular among youths for years, they were thrust into the national spotlight earlier this month after a woman was sentenced to six years jail and RM6,000 fine (US $ 1,400) for reckless driving that led to the death of eight teenagers in Johor in 2017.

On Apr 19, driver Sam Ke Ting was released on bail pending the hearing of her appeal at the Court of Appeal.

The incident has triggered debate on where the blame should lie, given that the teenagers were cycling illegally on a public highway late at night.

The police have been active in enforcing the law, which bars the riding of illegally modified bicycles on public roads.

For instance, during an operation across two days in October 2021, Johor police apprehended eight youths who were engaging in basic lajak races. Police said the youths, aged between 10 and 15, were riding in a dangerous manner and brought them to the police station for “further action”.

Over the past week, some netizens have posted on social media about their close shaves with basikal lajak gangs, including Mr Khairul. His post garnered more than 100 shares and 400 comments on Facebook, with many fellow netizens expressing concern on how to eradicate such groups.

Another Facebook user Nurul Hidayah Sa’al recounted how she would see these basikal lajak groups around her estate in Selangor, usually at night.

She wrote that they would circle the neighborhood, riding recklessly on the roads with little care for pedestrians or motorists.

“They don’t stop at traffic lights, cars stop for them,” she wrote. “And we can’t even tell these kids off, they even throw rocks at my car.”

Five years after the accident that killed eight teenagers, what remains concerning is that basikal lajak groups are still active in some parts of Malaysia, where they continue to pose a road hazard for themselves and other road users.

Bicycle shop owners and professional riders interviewed by CNA say that such modifications should not be encouraged. To eradicate such practices, public education is key, they said.

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