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Spare a thought for the lady in the cycling tragedy

 | February 22, 2017

Think of young bicycle racers as training for the time when they can finally own kapcais and become Mat Rempits.

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Imagine yourself driving at night on a dimly lit road and your headlights suddenly shine on someone on a bicycle or motorbike who seems to have come out of nowhere. He’s in the middle of the road or, worse still, on the wrong side of the road, and coming towards you. His bike has no lights and he’s wearing dark clothes.

Even if you’re driving at, say, 40 kilometres an hour, you may not have enough time to avoid hitting him, especially if there’s a bend in the road or if the bike is going fast.

Now imagine that there’s a group of cyclists instead of just one. You swerve to avoid one, but it’s more than likely that you’ll hit one or more of the others.

Has anyone driven along a lonely road and been accosted by a group of Mat Rempits? They appear out of nowhere, knock on your window and challenge you to a race. You ignore them, but they keep goading you, banging on the roof of your car. Their eyes are bloodshot, they snarl at you, and your only thought is to get out of there as quickly as possible.

I have experienced coming across cyclists in the dark and being chased by Mat Rempits. It is a scary experience, especially if they are bunched together and you are on your own.

Those who accuse the 22-year-old lady motorist of deliberately ramming into the group of cyclists in the recent tragedy in Johor have probably never had such an experience.

Most people are used to driving on well-lit roads, but not all lanes have lamp posts and many lanes on the outskirts of towns are not lit. Most people observe the traffic rules, like driving on the right side of the road, switching on their lights to be visible to other road users and wearing light or luminous clothing at night.

Sadly, this is Malaysia, where Mat Rempits sometimes take over our roads and terrorise other vehicle users.

It’s likely that the teenage cyclists who were out at 3am were racing with other cyclists. The police are aware of such activities and have tried, on numerous occasions, to disperse them. The place is a well-known hub for racing.

Think of young bicycle racers as training for the time when they can finally own kapcais and become Mat Rempits.

A few years ago, 14-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah was shot by policemen in Shah Alam. He was a joy rider.

Of course, he did not deserve to be shot 17 times. But most people overlooked the ease with which he was able to get hold of the keys to his sister’s car and take it for a ride. He was too young to have a driving licence. His family did not know he had left the house until the police came to say that he had died, a few yards from his home.

The parents of one of the cyclists killed in Johor Baru said they could not be accused of neglecting their children. It is true. Neglect is the wrong word. The children were overindulged.

Neither the police nor the school can do the job of parents. Sometimes, parents must learn to be tough in order to be kind. Discipline, like charity, begins at home.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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