Wait, hold up. Kuala Lumpur? You can’t be serious. Well, actually; I am serious. No, I have not made a mistake, this is Kuala Lumpur indeed on my Living Cities list. Unlike the other cities I have talked about, Kuala Lumpur’s cycling infrastructure development and bike commuter culture is still at its infancy. As Kuala Lumpur is now my home, it would be criminal not to explore what the city has to offer. So this post is more about sharing where things are at, share what progress the city has made and be a part of its evolution into a REAL living city.
Before we get into life in KL, I’d like to share a bit of my background, how I came to my love of bike commuting and realizing how much active commuting improved the quality of my life. I didn’t get my drivers’ license until the ripe old age of 21, when I saw it necessary to secure employment in a car access only industrial area. I was also additionally motivated by a new found interest in surfing, where carting a well over 6 foot contraption on the one hour bus ride to the beach was just not going to cut it.
I spent the next two years following graduation, in a small industrial town (population 30,000) or so where I lived 10 minutes away from work by foot. That was my entire work commute. My driving habits were limited to road trips on the weekend through country roads and the fortnightly jaunt to visit my sister 700kms away. The car was fully relegated to the weekends.
By then, my “commuting habits” were well formed and when I moved to the big smoke of Brisbane City, I was absolutely determined to only commute by self propelled means. I settled on a location as close as possible to the city cyclepaths which hugged the Brisbane River, that cuts through the city. Five days a week (and the odd bus, train, ferry ride to work), 7km every day. I had a safe, low stress, fun and cheap way to get myself to work. This was where I began my real love of cycle commuting, more than eight years ago.
When I moved to Sydney in 2010, the CBD cycleways were still non-existent and my first cycle commute was an adrenaline filled, bus dodging, death defying experience. Over the next few years though, Sydney’s cycling scene quickly evolved and grew. Although my first six months or so riding through Sydney’s streets, competing with traffic had made me a competent and confident commuter cyclist, the city’s growing cycleways were God sent and made me a more committed bike commuter. Living in an inner city Sydney suburb where commutes also included riding on quiet roads, through parks and alleyways, my bike commuting life came full circle when I finally sold my car in January 2015.
When I finally decided to return to Kuala Lumpur a few months ago, the loss of cycling as part of my everyday life had always been high on my biggest list of worries. I was largely out of touch with urban developments in my home country and was very (pleasantly) surprised by the existence of Kuala Lumpur’s first cycle superhighway in the heart of the city. We have KL’s cycling advocates and the support of former Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur’s (DBKL) mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib for the growth in the city’s cycling infrastructure.
I finally got to participate in my first KL car free morning recently to explore the city’s cycleways. Here are some photos and anecdotes from the day.
Riding from Bangsar, south of the CBD before entering the cycleways leading towards Dataran Merdeka. The cycleway hugs Sungai Klang and reminded me of the early days of the Brisbane River cycleways (and I can’t wait for KL’s cycleways to grow and become the amazing piece of infrastructure the Brisbane River cycleway is). We were running a little late for the event, and are quickly overtaken on the road by a friendly rider on a fixie. Cars are surprisingly patient and accommodating of us bike riders. A welcome experience from the somewhat antagonistic, media fuelled attitude towards bike riders by quite a number of Sydney drivers.
It’s definitely heartening to see DBKL together with Kuala Lumpur police providing so much support to active modes of transport such as cycling and Malaysians increasingly embracing cycling either recreationally or as a serious mode of transport. As a kid growing up in the sheltered suburbs outside of Kuala Lumpur, it’s also given me a refreshing and insightful experience of inner city Kuala Lumpur.
If you haven’t checked out the growing cycling facilities in Kuala Lumpur, do look up the links I have included on this post and on the RESOURCES page. See you all on your bikes soon!