JOHOR BAHRU: Business owner Khairul Hakimin Muhammad was driving along a major highway in Bangi, Selangor last Thursday (April 21) when two cyclists sped past him, coming within inches from both sides of his car.
The runners passed a red 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 rolling around in a prone position.
He told CNA he narrowly missed the group and attributed it to being alert enough to react in time.
“It was the second time in four days that I saw this group rolling down a hill in the main road at section 16 of Bangi,” said Mr. Khairul.
“They all seem to be still in primary school. Their bikes are clearly modified, without brakes and (a) configured to allow them to plank horizontally,” he added.
“There was no sense of fear and certainly no logic in why they were driving this way,” said Mr Khairul, who later reported to the police about this “basikal lajak” gang. .
Basikal lajak (modified speed bikes) is a form of drag racing using illegally modified bicycles on public roads. It is popular among young people in parts of Malaysia.
These bikes usually don’t have brakes or reflective lights. Riders also don’t wear helmets, padding, or safety gear.
Races usually start at the top of a hill and continue downhill on public roads, including traffic-laden highways.
Although these modified bikes have been popular among young people for years, they were thrust into the national spotlight earlier this month after a woman was sentenced to six years in prison and fined RM6,000 ( US$1,400) for reckless driving that led to the deaths of eight teenagers in Johor in 2017.
On April 19, driver Sam Ke Ting was released on bail pending a hearing of her appeal in the Court of Appeal.
The incident sparked a debate over responsibility, given that the teenagers were riding their bikes illegally on a public road late at night.
Police have been active in enforcing the law, which prohibits the riding of illegally modified bicycles on public roads.
For example, during a two-day operation in October 2021, Johor police apprehended eight youths who were taking part in basikal lajak races. Police said the youths, aged between 10 and 15, were driving 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 contacts with basikal lajak gangs, including Mr. Khairul. Her post garnered more than 100 shares and 400 comments on Facebook, with many other netizens expressing concern over how to eradicate these groups.
Another Facebook user, Nurul Hidayah Sa’al, shared how she saw these basikal lajak groups around her estate in Selangor, usually at night.
She wrote that they would drive around the neighborhood, driving recklessly on the roads without caring about pedestrians or motorists.
“They don’t stop at red lights, cars stop for them,” she wrote. “And we can’t even deter these kids, they’re even throwing rocks at my car.”
Five years after the accident that killed eight teenagers, what remains worrying is that basikal lajak groups are still active in parts of Malaysia, where they continue to pose a danger to themselves and other road users. of the road.
Bike shop owners and professional cyclists surveyed by CNA say such modifications should not be encouraged. To eradicate these practices, public education is essential, they said.