1.    Introduction

Cycling is arguably the most sustainable form of transport particularly for urban areas suffering from traffic congestion. In May 2016, the Kuala Lumpur Centre for Sustainable Innovation (KLCSI) conducted a survey of the community to canvas ideas to encourage more cycling together with identifying the key challenges to cycling in Kuala Lumpur. This survey is part of “Eco-Rollability”, an overall scheme to persuade citizens to be less reliant on motor vehicles and take to the streets using non-motorised forms of transport. This report is broken down into:

  • Background
  • Survey methodology
  • Survey findings
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions and recommendations

 2.    Background

Cycling has emerged as a form of healthy, cheap and a sustainable urban transportation. In developed countries including many European countries, America, Australia and Japan, utility cycling has gained significant momentum in their cities; utility cycling comprises commuting to work, shopping and running errands, as well as social activities. In Kuala Lumpur, citizens are encouraged to adopt utility cycling through:

  • The launching of the first bike lane in KL connecting Dataran Merdeka and Mid Valley Mall;
  • The crowdsourced Bicycle Map Project undertaken by an independent public initiative, which has distributed more than 10,000 maps of cycling routes within KL; and
  • Bike share services in the planning phase by a few private entities like Kuala Lumpur Bike Share and Public Bike Share.

These measures have gradually restored the popularity of cycling among KL citizens; however, there remain constraints and barriers which impede any significant increase in the take up of utility cycling in Kuala Lumpur. These are likely due to factors such as safety, travel distance, vehicle-based air pollution, social status, weather and topology. To build on the efforts of local municipalities, corporations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to cultivate a cycling culture, KLCSI conducted an online survey to evaluate the current situation and the potential of cycling for the public. The survey results are useful in developing facilities that are suitable for cyclists’ needs in the most efficient and effective manner. The online survey furthermore seeks to propose solutions to develop cycling as a form of sustainable transport by identifying attitudes, problems and prerequisites necessary to promote utility cycling. In addition, the findings will help support public transit systems through facilitating ‘first and last mile’ access for the public to railway stations within the Greater KL region.

 3.    Survey Methodology

The survey tool was prepared by an in-house consultant and the survey link was distributed electronically through social media on Facebook for members of the public who cycle. The questions comprise three types:

  • Demographic profile
  • Factors/incentives conducive to cycling
  • Barriers to cycling

The survey is designed to gauge the level of utility cycling in KL and to assess people’s basic requirements and needs in order to take up short distance commute cycling. Data gathered from the survey was analysed, interpreted and discussed using resources available from desktop research. This online survey will be further supplemented in the future by face-to-face surveys in train stations to gauge the public sentiment, as well as the measures required to promote utility cycling as a first and last mile solution. The survey is hoped to advise a planned living lab project to promote utility cycling in Greater KL and the Klang Valley.

 4.    Survey Findings

Demographic profile

A total of 76 respondents participated in the online survey: 82% are males while 18% are females. Of the total sample, close to 70% of respondents are between the age of 26 to 45, while 13% and 12% represent youth below 25 years old and the age group 46-55 respectively. Senior citizens (older than 55 years) comprise 8% of the respondents (see Figure 1).

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While more than 90% of the respondents habitually use bicycles, which explains their interest in the survey, the majority (80%) cycle once per week or more. The main reason reported for cycling by most (45%) is for exercise/recreation, while close to 20% respondents conduct transport/utility cycling. A further 36% report that they cycle for both recreational and urban purposes (Figure 2).

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In terms of distance travelled, the majority (60%) indicate that they cycle 10km or more on average and 15% cycle less than 5km each trip. The other 24% average cycling distances in the range of 5-9km.

Factors/Incentives conducive to cycling

Figure 3 illustrates the specific types of infrastructure that would motivate people to take up utility cycling. More than 70% state that designated coaches in rail lines to carry bicycles, with dedicated bike lanes and an established bike lane network would lead to more cycling. More than half of the respondents also think transit connection and bike stations, transit points and shower and locker facilities at work would increase the frequency of cycling. 32% perceive that road safety education for cyclists and other road users is essential.

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Close to half of the respondents report environmental, health and economic reasons as the most important factors influencing them to cycle to work (Figure 4). Availability of bike storage (42%) would also make cycling to work more appealing.

 

 

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60% of respondents prefer to ride off-street on unpaved paths and nature trails while others like cycling on-street. Currently, the cyclists depend on a mix of pathways to travel around. A large majority (86%) use the current available roads, marked bike routes/ dedicated bike lanes (41%), back alleyways (32%), sidewalks (27%) and highways (19%). The respondents also find it useful to have improved bike route network to access to public transit, workplace and shopping area (See Figure 5).

 

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The respondents were asked to rank the design features and facilities that would encourage and enhance their cycling experience (Figure 6). Dedicated bike lanes (which are buffered, painted and protected by barriers), as well as bike specific traffic light and bike crossings were chosen by more than half of the respondents.

 

 

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Barriers to cycling

To gauge the barriers to cultivating a cycling culture, the respondents were asked about the factors which inhibit them from cycling. Approximately 50% of the respondents report hazardous road conditions as the main deterrent to embrace cycling. Similarly, concern of bike theft and driver behaviour emerged as other major considerations. Lack of facilities for cyclists and personal safety are also regarded as obstacles by more than 30% of respondents. Notably, less than one-fourth of the respondents refer to the weather as the main barrier to cycling (Figure 7).

 

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Figure 8 and Figure 9 show the reasons behind respondents’ reluctance to commute by bicycle to work. A significantly large number of commuters (52%) cite heavy traffic and bad driver behaviour as the main obstacles to cycling. This is followed by barriers such as the absence of bike lanes between home and rail services (42%) and the lack of bike storage facilities (33%). A relatively high proportion of respondents state distance (38%) and commute time (33%) as their least concern when considering not to cycle to work.

 

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From the safety standpoint, respondents largely are concerned about the difficulties at crossings and the volume and speed of motor vehicles sharing the road. Respondents also report that poor connections with other transits like buses and rail lines are a factor. The absence of dedicated bike lanes was again reiterated by 40% of respondents. Distance and time aspects are relatively low on the majority of the respondents’ list of worries.

 

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The lack of availability of bike stations means respondents have to secure their bikes on any suitable structures found at their endpoint. Most respondents (45%) anchor their bikes to street furniture/structure. More than 30% secure their bikes to sign posts or street lamps, while other use parking meters or trees.

 

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5.    Discussion

For cycling to become a mainstream form of urban transport, it is clear that this must be incorporated into city transport planning. Allocation of land for cycling purposes is crucial. Bike lanes are travel routes for bicycles and other non-motorised forms of transport, generally 2-3 m wide and placed between parking and travel lanes. Some bike lanes are only used in rush hours and parking can be allowed in that space at other times. When a bike lane is separated from other lanes in the street, it becomes a cycle track. Cycle tracks are usually one way and wide enough for two people to cycle together or to pass one another. Care must be taken to maintain visibility for cyclists and motorists at intersections and driveways. Cycle tracks must also be distinctive so that pedestrians do not inadvertently wander onto them. Off-street cycle paths are not part of the formal road network and can be shared use with pedestrians. They can take a variety of shapes but usually require 3 m width to allow cyclists to pass one another.

Cycling often loses out in the competition for land. However, Singapore is a good example where much consideration has gone into transport planning for efficient traffic management and public transport systems. The Land Transport Master Plan 2013 has a comprehensive strategy to encourage sustainable mobility by improving the rail and bus services, as well as incorporating a national cycling plan and programs to promote walking within the city. Cycling plans, developed by three cooperating agencies, aim to increase bicycle paths from 230 km to a connector network exceeding 700 km for recreational and utility cycling. Some of the bicycle friendly features like bicycle racks, bicycle crossing, local information on cycling routes and facilities, signs, lighting and guidelines will also be developed concurrently. In addition, a cycling code of conduct has been drawn up to encourage responsible use of cycling paths.

At present, there are no international guidelines to cycling route design. The Netherland’s CROW (Knowledge Platform for Transport, Infrastructure and Public Space) Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic, is consistently referred to by many major cities in Europe and the United States. The United States National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), has also released its Urban Bikeway Design Guide complemented by NACTO’s Transit Street Design Guide and Urban Street Design Guide, which aims to achieve successful multi-modal streets. Malaysia has its National Land Public Transport Master Plan (2012-2020) to drive road transport reform. The Plan targets to increase public transport modal share in urban areas from 16.4% in 2011 to 40% in 2030. The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) also launched a regional master plan for the Greater KL/ Klang Valley region consisting of a series of subsidiary plans to guide public transit in the region. Specifically, utility cycling can feed into the Interchange & Integration Plan (IIP) as part of providing the first and last mile solution to encourage public use of the rail services that is being widely developed in KL region.

Cycling integrates well with public transit because it can mitigate the first and last mile challenge, increasing public transport ridership. Cycling significantly expands the transit catchment area, and therefore potential public transit ridership, provided that basic safety features and infrastructure for cyclists are in place. As the survey shows, better integration involves the carriage of bicycles on public transport, and providing secure bicycle parking at points on public transport routes. The bicycle – public transport integration can be improved by providing high quality routes to and from the transit stations, weatherproofed and well-located bicycle parking, optimised public transport lines and stops, increased availability of bicycles for egress trips, good and low cost facilities on the right spot, quality of public space and safety for cyclists, with continued investment to enhance the infrastructure.

 To add to the value of a bike/transit integration, bike share schemes can be introduced to provide easy access of bicycles and reduce cost and hassle associated with ownership. Bike sharing began in the 1960s when Amsterdam proposed a scheme to address the city centre automobile congestion. Bike-sharing ventures now exist in more than 600 cities, from Dubai to Hawaii. Bike share works on the simple principle that a user can borrow a bicycle at a self-service station at a cheap price and then return it to another. Bike-share has two key advantages: it has relatively low implementation cost and a short timeline compared to other public transportation modes. Aside from alleviating the congestion and environmental degradation, bike share system can improve accessibility, enhance a city’s image, provide complementary services to public transport, improve the health of the residents, attract new cyclists, and promote social interactions of the urban environment. When coupled with other measures to discourage driving (congestion tax, high parking fees, remove fuel subsidies etc.) and the presence of bicycle friendly routes and facilities, bike share can significantly increase the mode share of sustainable urban transport. At the moment, a few private companies in Malaysia are pushing for the implementation of bike share ventures in cities across Malaysia, with the historic centre of Malacca being the first to operate the first public bike scheme due in the next coming months.

 6.    Conclusions and Recommendations

There are challenges to incorporate utility cycling into the land transport planning in Kuala Lumpur. As shown by the survey findings, members of the cycling public want:

  • Dedicated bike lanes, with access to crossings and traffic lights
  • A linked up bike lane network across the city
  • Carriages which accept bicycles
  • Transit points that connect public transit stations with bike lanes, with facilities like bike parking spaces and designated bike lanes
  • Workplace facilities like showers
  • Bike storage facilities where bicycles can be locked up safe from theft

One major challenge that the survey did not go into involves the lack of understanding and awareness of environmental sustainability. This may result in plans devoid of environmental considerations or programmes without sufficient technical details to be carried out effectively. Lack of such awareness at the political level may result in a weak institutional set up to promote cycling as an environmentally sustainable transportation.

In Malaysia, the jurisdiction of bike lane designation falls into dozens of local municipal councils and different government departments. Lack of co-ordination, both horizontally and vertically, can cause biased policy planning and implementation problems. The absence of a road transport plan that incorporates cycling leads to insufficient impact, financial resources, and an incomplete implementation of a cycling strategy. It is only with the awareness and political will, supported by relevant data and best practice reviews, that the development of sustainable utility cycling in cities like Kuala Lumpur can flourish and benefit the citizens.

Our recommendations therefore are that a more concerted effort to implement a bicycle friendly environment in Kuala Lumpur will increase utility cycling as a complement to the well-connected train network in the Klang Valley.

As part of an overall cycling master plan for Kuala Lumpur, we should implement:

  • Dedicated bike lanes
  • Bicycle parking
  • Support facilities such as storage and shower access
  • Provide education and awareness campaigns to enhance road safety
  • Apply strict enforcement to stop abuse of cycle lanes and other facilities by other transport users like vehicles and motorcycles.

We further recommend development of localised solutions which will offer great opportunity for collaboration among local policy-makers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and non-profit organisations to create a change in society’s mobility choice. Faced with a rapidly growing urban population, cycling provides the means towards a liveable and sustainable city with thriving communities.

 Useful References

  • Cohen, A, Simon, D, Martignoni, M, Olson, J and Holben, C. 2014. The Bike-Share Planning Guide. Institute for Transport and Development Policy. New York.
  • Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister Department. 2013. Eleventh Malaysia Plan: Providing Seamless Transport System, Strategy Paper 13.
  • European Conference of Ministers of Transport. 2004. Implementing Sustainable Urban Travel Policies: Moving Ahead National Policies to Promote Cycling: National Policies to Promote Cycling. OECD Publishing, Paris.
  • Singaporean Ministry of Transport. 2014. “Making public transport the choice mode.”
  • World Bank. 2015. “Malaysia Economic Monitor, June 2015 – Transforming Urban Transport”.