Jeffrey Lim of Village Bicycles. Photo: Mabel Ho.
Jeffrey Lim of Cycling Kuala Lumpur / Bicycle Map Project. Photo: Mabel Ho.

KL-ites are quick to air their grievances when it comes to driving around the city. Yet, it often seems that we are resigned to the time lost to commuting. Traffic has become part of our daily lives, affecting the way we plan each day.

Jeffrey Lim, a graphic designer by trade, really wanted to find a solution. He is the driving (or rather, cycling) force behind Cycling Kuala Lumpur. It’s a community project which has lead to the creation of a bicycle map of Kuala Lumpur (with some parts of PJ included).

Arriving on his classic gentleman’s bicycle for our interview, Lim had cycled from Sri Hartamas to Damansara Perdana, meaning he had to go through the Penchala Link. I was in disbelief when he told me – that highway tunnel is known to be a stretch for motor-vehicles to hit the gas hard.

While Lim does not recommend the route, he concedes that there aren’t many alternative routes for bicycles, west of the city centre. He points it out to me on the map which he, along with other cycling enthusiasts, has created over the past two years.

Photo courtesy of the Bicycle Map Project.
Photo courtesy of the Bicycle Map Project.

The cycling map has only recently been completed. Lim tells me that it was a labour of love. Together with a group of volunteers, he mapped out Kuala Lumpur and PJ and all the routes that are viable to cycle. “The map project is about connecting the entire city by cycling.”

What started as a simple project grew organically to become something of a starting point for civic consciousness, social activism and sustainable living. The map is more than just a map, it also has a basic guide to cycling in KL, as well as points marking bike shops for repairs. Lim says it’s intended to build confidence around cycling: “Because there are no cycling facilities in the cities, there are a lot of blurred lines to whether cyclists are allowed on the road.”

 

“When you want to walk the talk, cycling is just one aspect. If you really want to think about sustainability, this is just one of the projects.”

 

But beyond cycling, there lie the questions of safety, parking issues, weather issues, crime – such a project takes on a behemoth of obstacles. “A project like this covers so much ground. You have to be answerable to a lot of things, so we have to find ways to provide solutions,” says Lim. “When you want to walk the talk, cycling is just one aspect. If you really want to think about sustainability, this is just one of the projects.”

Lim started out with a “blank” base map of the city. Having had experience in map design, this wasn’t completely foreign to him, but he needed help with data collection. Lim handed this basic map and a few guidelines to volunteers, who spent their spare time recording routes. The map became a crowdsourced effort.

“The brief was to mark down any route that you could cycle on… like what would be a really busy road, a quieter road, where (you would) use a pedestrian path, where you can cross… but it’s up to them to mark as much as they like. I didn’t want to limit them at the beginning, and I got all sorts of feedback.”

Once the areas were marked, Lim would go with the volunteer who marked that particular section and “look into details like road directions, rain shelter, hazards and elevation.”

Photo courtesy of the Bicycle Map Project.
Photo courtesy of the Bicycle Map Project.

The final map is multi-lingual, in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese, and is currently distributed for free from certain points in the city. “I knew I could only reach a certain target audience, like the urban crowd and those who spoke English, because the whole project was in English,” says Lim. “That’s why we had to engage some cultural ambassadors: people who could speak the language. They were all volunteers for their project.”

In the past few years, various levels of government have been seen to promote urban cycling. So, how did local councils react? “It’s an independent project so they were inquisitive about what this project was about. We showed them our studies, took them for a survey ride; showed them what commuters and cyclists would face and how it would help them in deciding their future routes.”

 

Construction on a “bicycle highway” running from Mid Valley to Dataran Merdeka is scheduled to start before the end of this month.

 

DBKL took their efforts seriously. Construction on a “bicycle highway” running from Mid Valley to Dataran Merdeka is scheduled to start before the end of this month. MBPJ has also been looking into a proposed cycle network comprising a 56km loop. Lim and the cycling community gave feedback on these plans too.

Related post: New South West Bicycle Lane to Open in KL

The proposed PJ City Cycleways Network aligns with Lim’s objectives of reducing traffic pollution and improve connectivity for people of all backgrounds. However, Lim reveals that these efforts are slow to be realised.

“While [local councils] do see it as a viable form of transport, they can only do so much; there are a lot of legal implications. When you talk about cycling as a viable transportation system, you have to think of the bigger picture,” he says.

So what would it take to make cycling a more realistic option for more people? “It would take a lot of involvement from JPJ (Department of Road Transport) and a bigger working committee of a variety of these departments.”

In the meantime, Lim and his cycling volunteers have created a map which will help to make cycling more accessible, even with our current road infrastructure.

“There are a lot of complexities and challenges, but I’m taking it one step at a time and every step is positive,” says Lim. For DBKL, it is already radical that they’re talking to us. We’re a grassroots movement. It’s radical all the way.”

Find out more about the Bicycle Map Project and where to pick up a map.

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Are you keen to cycle, but not sure where to start? Poskod.MY has exclusive beginner’s cycle map of the Lake Gardens, courtesy of the Bicycle Map project, free to download here. This is one of the easier routes to try.

  1. Start from the Bangsar LRT, using the pedestrian path highlighted in green.
  2. The pink route highlights a crossing (OH meaning overhead, ST meaning stairs and SL meaning street level).
  3. The pedestrian path continues past Muzium Negara.
  4. You’ll come to another cross, (UP meaning underpass) which brings you into Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik Perdana).
  5. The pink lanes are private areas with the opening times from 6am to 12 midnight.
  6. The yellow lanes are secondary roads with medium to low day traffic and quieter streets.
  7. The blue lanes are main roads with heavy day traffic and streetlights at night.
  8. The dotted yellow lines will take you to attractions around Lake Gardens, such as Parlimen, Tugu Negara, Police Museum, Islamic Art Museum and National Mosque.

Note: The bicycle icon near Muzium Sejarah Nasional marked with 11 is a bicycle rental facility, KL By Cycle.

Download the Lake Gardens map here.

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