KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 – When was the last time you rode a bicycle?
In this age of rushing everywhere, most of us are dependent on motorised vehicles to propel us to our next destination as quickly as possible. There is no time to stop and smell the hibiscus, as it were.
Jeffrey Lim, the creator of the Cycling Kuala Lumpur Bicycle Map, begs to differ. An advocate for urban dwellers to return to the good old days of pedal power, he believes many KL-ites enjoy riding around the capital. One issue of concern is the lack of safer cycling paths, which is where his cycling route map comes in.
A designer by profession, Lim has spent countless hours of his own free time developing the map with input from volunteer cyclists. He says, “My original idea was to get people on bicycles again, one way or another. In fact, my first project wasn’t the bicycle map but a bicycle building project. Basically this meant salvaging old, heritage bicycles that were thrown away as scrap metal and rebuilding them.”
However, the bicycle building idea didn’t work initially as Lim realised people didn’t want to get on the road due to the dearth of safe cycling routes. Now that his cycling route map, which is offered free to the public, has been published and available for a year, he is turning his attention back to his first project.
“Thanks to the increased interest in cycling in the city due to the map, I’m now able to start the Build a Village Bicycle Project properly. I would be sharing about bicycles with some of the folks who use the maps and soon it became apparent we had enough people to conduct bicycle building workshops,” he says.
On average, Lim has about six participants per class provided all of them manage to get their hands on an old bicycle. Part of the process involves scouring villages, the participants’ hometowns and even visiting antique dealers.
The bicycle building workshop itself is spread over a period of three months on weekends. Each programme consists of five sessions where participants learn about the history of the bicycles, how to source for spare parts and the actual rebuilding process.
All it takes is a few hours each weekend at RM50 per session to cover the costs of materials (such as aprons, gloves and cleaning detergent). The first session is free so participants only pay RM200 over the three months and have a bicycle they rebuilt themselves by the end of the workshop.
“The idea is not that they learn from me but that, through sharing, they document as much of the process as possible and then share what they learn with others. It’s sort of a ‘pay it forward’ concept. Some participants from the first workshop have already started sharing in their own bicycle building groups in Ampang and Sri Petaling.”
The participants are truly excited by the process and experience of learning how to build a bicycle from scratch, according to Lim.
He says, “The bikes look like trash at the beginning, and the final bike isn’t super-valuable either. What matters is the bike’s history or story – how old it is, who used to ride it, how did you track it down and more. It means something because you are preserving things and reconnecting to your roots, such as your kampung or hometown, along the way.”
Lim believes that by talking to relatives or people in the village, some of them strangers, cyclists can salvage a part of their history. He notes, “Everybody had a bike back then. Why not again?”
After cleaning up the bicycles, Lim takes his workshop participants to source for spare parts at local shops. He explains, “I don’t sell anything. This is not a for-profit project. I want to let them deal directly with the craftsmen. Every bit helps the community.
Community is the keyword here. The Cycling Kuala Lumpur Map’s most recently updated version will have a first print run of 10,000 copies sponsored by Art Printing Works. The printing company based in Bangsar (where Lim lives and works) has also provided the space for the map’s launch. This is truly a community effort.
Lim has also collaborated with Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). Discussions with the local authorities started in April this year and by August, DBKL reached the decision to build a dedicated cycling “highway” in Kuala Lumpur, tentatively by the end of the year.
“I gave DBKL my map, findings, and studies for free. Together we identified six major entry points. DBKL decided to start with the south-west entry first. The mayor was a major supporter of the project,” says Lim. “It certainly shows change is possible, especially if you get enough people believing in something.”
Cycling Kuala Lumpur Bicycle Map Launch
Date: Saturday, 11 October 2014
Time: 10am onwards
Venue: Art Printing Works, 29 Jalan Riong, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Official website: http://cyclingkl.blogspot.com
Locations for distribution can be found online at http://cyclingkl.blogspot.com/p/distribution.html
To volunteer or find out more about the Build a Village Bicycle project, please contact cycling.KL@gmail.com