Forty years ago, Kuching was a town comprising considerate, careful and courteous drivers, until recently. However, as the economy improved, many young people began to own cars and the city was transformed into a city of impatient and inconsiderate speed hogs.
About 25 years ago, for safety reasons, I requested that safety humps be built along the main roads in front of my house in the suburb of Tabuan Desa, and it was approved by a people-friendly mayor Datuk Song Swee Guan.
So I was quite excited when a building contractor was seen paving the sidewalks and covering the maze of monsoon drains in Tabuan Desa to make it safe for the residents.
However, I was amused that instead of building a pedestrian walk, the authorities were constructing a cycling track in a housing estate. Strange enough, there are only three cyclists living in Tabuan — one is a young man who owns a racing bicycle and two others, an elderly Chinese gentleman and a European and at least four scores of residents use the main road and streets within the suburb.
And to top that, there is an exclusive 1km cycling track at the neighbouring Stutong Forest Reserve about 400 yards away, which is always devoid of cyclists.
In the olden days when there was a very large bicycle population in Kuching and a few cars, there were two octogenarian brothers who cycled to work on a daily basis.
Sadly, one of them was killed when he tried to avoid a speeding car, fell and hit his head on the curb. His older brother, who was then 83, gave up cycling because of the heavy road traffic.
Since then the traffic in Tabuan Desa has increased three-fold because two leading institutions have been built in the vicinity since — three Lodge School properties and Rhema Kindergarten.
The suburb has also become a key junction or a crossroad
because it is a shortcut to the Kuching-Serian highway, the Kuching-Samarahan bypass and Petra Jaya.
Needless to say, on a busy day with parents sending their children to school, there would be unending traffic and the road becomes a health hazard, especially to the residents.
There is also a cycling track around the State Library in Petra Jaya, which has also become a pedestrian walk. The question now is, are cycling parks necessary or have they become obsolete?
Most residents use the road in the early hours of the morning to go to school and at sundown to the “Playground and Park” in front of the Lodge School.
Interestingly the 30-year-old Lodge School’s park and playground still does not have covered drains. For many years it was used by students as an athletics track, for both long distance running and sprints.
Later railings were built along the two-to-three feet deep drains encircling the park where pupils as young as 10 years old would take part in 50-yard sprints in the annual school sports.
In retrospect, it was one of the most dangerous athletics tracks conceived in a developing nation because a simple fall would cause substantial injury to the students.
Fortunately, the school later in their wisdom used the Jubilee Ground athletics facilities. Today, the park still has a maze of small drains and has become popular for all, both day and night.
Cycling for recreation may be feasible in some European countries where the mode of transport is by bicycle because in some countries about 30 percent of the people use bicycles to get to their destination.
And Tabuan Desa’s bitumen bicycle track may have been applicable in Kuching 60 years ago, but today one would be out of one’s mind to cycle to work from Tabuan Jaya to the heart of the city considering our inconsiderate motorists.
A guide for new developments and street renewals states that the key to enabling high cycling levels is choosing an appropriate location. It said, “People don’t
like mixing with heavy traffic.
Space for cycling is needed, away from motor vehicles, with care taken in relations with pedestrians, and mixing cycles with pedestrians on narrow footpaths is never acceptable.”
Another interesting development is the construction of two new road humps along the main road adjacent to the police quarters in front of Rhema School but strange to say, it was not built for the safety of the parents and children of Rhema Kindergarten.
In fact, it was built for upmarket residents of a condominium next to the kindergarten.
To add to that, the 80m-long, three-feet deep and four-feet wide drain running along the outer lane around Rhema remains uncovered.
This makes me wonder whether great thought is put into some of the projects when we introduce new facilities which would benefit the ordinary person.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.