PETALING JAYA, April 6 — Cycling infrastructure and programmes should be made available to draw children in Johor Baru away from the dangerous “lajak” bicycle craze.
On Sunday, police picked up 22 teenagers who returned to Jalan Lingkaran Dalam to race their modified bicycles at the same spot where eight teenage cyclists were killed last month after they were mowed down by a car.
A 38-year-old teacher from Johor Baru said many of the children involved were from poor families where both parents were busy working and could not monitor their children.
He suggested the state government or local authorities emulate Terengganu with its cycling programmes for youths.
“Terengganu dealt with troubled children by not making them the enemy, but by embracing and guiding them towards becoming potential cycling professionals,” he said.
“This takes them away from illegally modified bicycles to proper bicycles to keep them off public roads. This is also why many of our country’s top cyclists come from the east coast.
“These children (in Johor Baru) are lost and severely lacking in guidance and discipline. We need to nurture them and tap their potential for good use. Let’s not make them the enemy,” he said.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) corporate affairs deputy director Abdullah Mohd Nawi, 40, believes designated cycling tracks and educational programmes could be a start towards addressing the problem.
“Infrastructure would help. Having a bicycle track would provide an outlet for these youths. However, there’s no guarantee this will solve the problem,” he said.
“There has to be concerted effort from society, and especially parents, to get such youths to toe the line. Everyone knows of the dangers. Just like smoking, smokers know it is not healthy, but continue to smoke anyway. The same concept applies here.”
Sharon Arasu, 37, an accountant from near the scene of the tragic accident, echoed Abdullah’s sentiments.
“The solution has to be a combination of stick and carrot. A purpose-built cycling arena might help, supplemented by training programmes and races to positively feed to channel their interests and energy,” she said.
“These kids will probably move on to being ‘Mat Rempit’ when they get older. Perhaps they could be subjected to community service and rehabilitation by enrolling them in courses prioritising safety, riding etiquette and even learning how to become professional cyclists.”
Noor Ashikin Aziz, 47, founder of triathlon and cycling apparel brand Purpose, said youths and their parents had to be educated on the dangers of the “lajak” menace.
“It’s a hard issue — the fact children were out riding in the same spot where their friends were mowed down is telling,” he said.
“Perhaps a grassroots educational campaign or outreach programme could be implemented to educate them on the dangers of their actions.
“Educational programmes should not just be for the kids but for parents as well, as they must play a more active role in the lives of their children.”
Gary Lee, 44, a motor sports industry executive who is an avid cycling enthusiast and parent, believes that with proper guidance, these youths could turn over a new leaf.
“They must be given every opportunity to indulge in their hobby but with the proper facilities available to them. Their parents must also support them and be part of any programme,” he said.