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Kuala Lumpur 5km South West Bicycle Corridor (Mid Valley > Bricksfield > Pasar Seni > Dataran Merdeka)

Probably the most talked about bicycle lane in KL town! Well the deepest fear again is that this conversation is just all happening within the cyclist community! As the bicycle lane itself is rather isolated from the motorized traffic (which is the purpose), the drawback is that not many people will get to know about it aside from press coverage. Earlier on i have covered on several other bike lane infra such as HongKong’s Shatin to Tai Po waterfront lane,  Hong Kong’s Kowloon Bay Bicycle Park, Sabah’s Tanjung Aru Bicycle lane, Penang’s Jalan C Y Choy bicycle bridge.. Ara Damansara’s epic failed bicycle lane.. However, this 5km bicycle lane linking the south west part of KL into the city center, comes close to many urban cyclists’ heart as it also aims to promote the cycling culture to mitigate urban congestion. Skeptical? Read on.

Cycling KL Bicycle Map Initiative

 Public Engagement Driven

The 5km bicycle corridor was launched in mid April 2015. What elevated this event is that by far it is a bicycle corridor project that has seen to have several rounds of engagement with Cycling KL: The Bicycle Map project. This Bicycle Map project started off 2 years ago which was led by Jeffrey Lim, with the intention of mapping the entire KL roads based on the hierarchy of the road traffic, which can facilitate bike commuters in their journey planning. You can download the MAP HERE . The completed map eventually led to several findings and indeed a skipping stone for many bigger plans ahead. Identifying this South West Corridor is also one of it, together with DBKL. Thus, one can say that this bicycle corridor is actually consulted with the grass root group. Unlike, personally i think, projects such as PJ Cycleways City Network is one with good intention in linking up PJ, but you really need to be a cyclist to know how bicycles move around the cities, they are not like cars.

Bicycle Corridor Under the Shade

The idea of the map is to visualize the movement of the bike commuter into the city. While we do acknowledge that we did not have a proper bike lane being built at that time, the idea is to plot out the highways and the residential routes, which in turn you can see how our car centric KL has ignored the movement of bicycle across the city. The lesser the connectivity and intersection of a low and medium traffic routes and the more freeways around that area, the obvious thing is to have a bike lane. In turned, the South West Bicycle Corridor connecting Mid Valley to Dataran Merdeka.

So why Mid Valley? One would be surprise to hear, however, common within the cyclist group, that the motorbike lanes of federal highway, KESAS highway etc, are actually frequent used by cyclist to commute as well. I can personally testify this, especially during off peak period without those rushing motorbikes, these lanes are actually very well maintained and decent to commute on. So looking from the map, the federal highway motorbike lane leads you to the picture below, which is also the junction to OUG/Seputeh.

Starting Point of the Bicycle Lane

The 5km South West Bicycle Corridor starts from here. However, note that not the entire 5km is dedicated as a protected bike lane. DBKL surely did the best they could to negotiate for dedicated bike lane, but we should always remember priority goes to pedestrian as well. It’s quite unfair if we have the nice riverfront lane only entitled to bicycles isn’t it? The initial starting point was shared with motorbikes until a junction after Mid Valley KTM.

Junction separating the Motorcycle and Bicycle

You can see how obvious the signage is below stating ONLY bicycles are allowed beyond those bollards.

Signage at the junction showing only Bicycles allowed

After this junction, you have a dedicated bike cum pedestrian lane. Well, with a complete scenic view, free from fumes from motor vehicles. It’s actually quite a nice spot to just lay down your picnic mat by Sg Klang. Hopefully River Of Life project will indeed beautify this space.

DBKL Bicycle Lane

The entire bicycle lane costed around RM700k. If you do the math, per meter run only cost about RM140, which i think it is deemed appropriate for road works. However, no street lighting provided, thus cycle at night at your own risk. I suppose also a portion of the cost goes to the very attractive bicycle crossing traffic light. Well, which often takes 5 minutes or too long to be crossed.
Traffic Light junction with Bollards

One can learn that adequate signage is not merely for the importance of sense of direction, but also a good tool to publicize the presence of the bicycle lane.

Signage and Blue Lane

There are indeed some tighter shared space such as below. Some part of the lane is quite narrow as the space for that specific lane needed to be negotiated with the rights of the surrounding land such as the piece around Prasarana’s monorail maintenance workshop. Again, it is a good effort as we need to look at the overall cityscape instead of just the bike lane alone. The impact of the bicycle lane does not just fall in connecting bike commuter from point A to B, but has also intangibly eliminated grey, or unused area, and connecting communities around, and perhaps, elevating the commercial value a bit?

Mixed Use Pedestrian Lane cum

There are a lot of news coverage on this bicycle lane instead of few of the previous ones i wrote about. A huge reason i can resonate to is due to the support of DBKL’s mayor, Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib, which seems to be very vocal in eliminating cars, and promoting bike to work culture. As a follow up, there are also another two bicycle path projects – a four-kilometre lane from Wangsa Maju to Taman Melati, and another from Wangsa Maju to Taman Batu Muda which stretches two kilometres.

Press Cuttings

There are indeed sufficient media attention, Astro Awani is also kind to keep up to date with the user rate of the bicycle corridor, as well as reporting the vandalism or stolen fence, which was quickly fixed by DBKL. Here’s some of the online links to some published articles.

My Thoughts

I think i need to make this clear that i believe DBKL did whatever they could under the given circumstances. For a layman, it’s very easy for us to say build a bicycle lane from Point A to Point B without recognizing the challenges, especially legislative issues. Despite my applause for DBKL and anyone who makes this milestone happened, here’s my brief comments.
Commuting Purpose
Does the South West Bicycle Corridor provide a safe access for commuters from the South West? It’s a debatable. Typically as per South West entry, bike commuter will be coming by Bricksfield, through KL Sentral, and sharing the car road towards Pasar Seni. It is a road with decent shoulder for you to be on. If i am someone who prefers an isolated lane by its own, separated from fumes and enjoy the scenic view of trees, i will go for the new South West Bicycle Corridor. BUT, if i am up for speed (not to say cycle racing, but time) as i am commuting to work, i will still take the main route during peak hour. Why? Relatively speaking the road will be slow moving and congested, making it save. Another thing is that the Bicycle Corridor itself has considerable amount of breaks and corners in between, which is time consuming.
Safety Security
I believe the safety issue is another chicken and egg topic. I always believe the more users going all out to proclaim the street, in this case bicycle corridor, the safer it becomes. But however, i believe most concern go to the need of lighting at night. There is no provision for lights at the moment. Another aspect of security is the design of the lane itself that can be very narrow at certain parts as well as protruding objects which might hit the cyclists.
Aside from the 2 comments above, i believe it is a very scenic and functional bicycle corridor during the weekends, especially in conjunction with Car Free Morning Sundays where many will take advantage of this corridor to commute.
But well! Again that’s what i think. There’s a survey conducted on the user’s satisfaction on the South West Bicycle Lane. Having 90 people who took part and 45 people who fully answered the questionnaire, here’s some methodology on the survey. This survey is distributed online, however, there’s also a physical ride that took place in conjunction with this.

GEnder

Shows that the population of survey is well.. having two thirds of the crowd to be Male.

AgeGroup

Shows that the population of survey is fairly distributed. Will be good to have the younger crowd as well.

TypeofCyclist

Some may argue that there’s a difference in opinion of daily commuter and leisure cyclist towards bicycle infrastructure. But to be fair, we have a fairly representation of various cyclists.

CyclingExperience

This is also to show the diversity of cycling experience among the sample. The 37 people short listed in this survey result have actually cycled the entire lane, extracted out from the available 90 survey result entries in total.

SignificanceLevelFrom the response, we can see that the users emphasize a lot on the common sense of the bicycle lane, which is the connectivity of locations, while other parameters come along with all of them being recognized as somewhat significant at least.

ThisbicylelaneSo in short, the 37 people generally somewhat agree at least to all of the 5 statements above. However, the interesting part of the questionnaire lies in understanding the preference of the cyclists generally throughout the 5km route. So given the diagram below which demarcates the different segments of the 5km lane and also the following picture which illustrates the segment’s design, the questionnaire asks which is the most favorite segment, as well as which segment needs to be improved the most?

99 bicycle route map 150508 SIMPLIFIEDb4e85ae5-9a59-499c-bd63-231f89145b50These 2 questions were asked in an open ended style so the participants are free to express reasoning behind their choice. In here, we can see that a huge majority 83% favored segment C the most, which is also the segment with significant natural shading and decent width of the lane.

Enjoyedthemost

Well since there are many participants who voted segment C, i will just paste the screen dump of the reasons given (well quite obviously what we know). But i think a very interesting one which i was hoping for more to note about is that, there’s 1 response on Segment E, which notes on the preference of sighting of daily life of the indian community.

response

Another question, which is actually the aim of the survey, is to investigate what improvements can be done throughout the lane. There is a considerable wide spread of feedback here, but i will briefly describe the concerns for Segment F, Segment B and Segment D.

Improvedthemost

Majority of people which voted for Segment F stated that wider lane is needed, and the blue color bollards like ventilation pipe needs to be removed. Also, some say that the surface needs to be more evenly made as the connecting between the concrete slabs are uneven and affects the pleasure of the ride. As for Segment B, some suggested on a wider lane and also concern on safety as it shares with motorcyclist partially. Lastly, Segment D is the one of the few segments that share lanes with motorized vehicles. Among the concern are motorized vehicles as often there will be cars parked on the demarcated blue lane.

Again i think it’s a very exciting start and definitely more to come. As much as i know that the conversation has really yet to move on to the greater public mass and still somehow within the cycling community, i am confident as i believe this is merely one of the many strategies to eventually shift away from car centric city center design. There is still a huge gap of perception towards bike to work in Kuala Lumpur i suppose, while it’s completely normal for some of us to cycle to work along side with the traffic, cycling around the garden is already a concern for some people in this time of high crime rate. Not surprise, we still have a lot of work to do indeed. Firstly, just ride!

There’s a video which i have compiled for the survey ride! Enjoy!

  • René K

    Thanks for this great write-up! I am temporarily in KL and use this bike lane almost daily to go from Taman Desa to Sentral. Very convenient and a big step into the right direction! But somehow the stretch from Pasar Seni/main post office to Merdeka Square is not accessible anymore. There is a lot of construction work ongoing. Hope it will change in the near future.

    • Japheth Lim

      Thanks Rene for actively using the lane! Yes it is unfortunately there’s a lack of space for the new River Of Life site so thus a temporary inconvenience!