Malaysian social media has recently been up in arms after an article calling for the banning of underbone motorcycles or kapchais surfaced. The issue has been covered by paultan.org previously as far back as 2017, which you can read about here, here, here and here.

What should be noted is this call seems to have come out of the blue, without any reasoning aside from “the death rate amongst kapchai riders is high, therefore kapchais should be banned. While the motives of the person issuing the statement are yet to be determined, it is a fact that motorcyclists represent a disproportionate number of fatalities on Malaysian roads.

From police Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department (JSPT) statistics, motorcyclists are 6.2 times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident with death or serious injuries compared to riding in a car over the same travel distance. As a percentage of the road population in Malaysia, more than 60% of fatal road accidents involve motorcyclists.

But statistics are only half the story as no numbers were provided to indicate the cause of the accident. While it is easy to point a finger at those “crazy bikers” it should be remembered there is usually no single cause for a traffic accident.

Shahrul Yuzy

A query directed to JSPT asking whether statistics were gathered as to the causation factor for accidents involving riders, the answer was a negative, in that the Accident Investigation Officer’s (AIO) finding was taken prima facie. This ignores the fact motorcyclists are often involved in accidents through external factors such as weather, bad road conditions and inattentive drivers, amongst others.

To that end, we approached Shahrol Yuzy, motorcycle racer and race team principal, and president of the Motorcycle Sports Association of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. Yuzy, as he is popularly known, had some rather forceful things to say about the calling of the ban on kapchais while forwarding some suggestions of his own as to how this issue should be dealt with in a manner equitable to all parties.

Yuzy started off by saying, “when I read about this (ban on kapchais) I was very upset. My first thought was who is this person to come out saying kapchais should be banned purely on safety grounds?” Yuzy continued by saying kapchais are an essential part of the transport ecosystem and the economy in Malaysia, and a ban would be a foolish thing to do.

“If they ban kapchais, how is the economy, the businesses in Malaysia, especially in urban areas, going to function?” said Yuzy. “The typical kapchai rider is from the B40 segment and cheap, reliable transport is necessary for them to go to work, to get provisions, to provide services such as food delivery and despatch. If you take away their only means of transport, how is this part of the economy going to function?” he added.

Yuzy added calling for a ban on kapchais just because the death rate is high for riders would call for the same analogy to be applied to examples like distracted drivers using handphones. “A driver using a handphone on the move is more likely to cause or get into an accident. Does that mean we should ban handphones?” said Yuzy.

Iterating that laws are already in place to ensure disciplined road behaviour whether amongst drivers or riders, Yuzy called for education to be stepped up instead. “A lot of problems with undisciplined road users is caused by a lack of education. Our driving school syllabus is only geared to teaching you what the road signs mean and how to pass the practical test. Once the “L” student gets his or her “P” plate, everything is forgotten,” Yuzy said.

Calling for road user education to begin at primary school level, Yuzy believes a solid foundation in proper road discipline and etiquette, whether for a driver, rider, cyclist or pedestrian, will bear fruit in the long run but efforts must start now. “Look at us in the 70s, we had road safety taught in class, campaigns at school level, road safety competitions sponsored by oil companies. Where is all that now?” asked Yuzy.

Parents also have a big role to play in this, said Yuzy. “Children follow by example. If they see dad riding through a red light or mum using a handphone while driving, they accept it as the norm and follow suit,” Yuzy added.

Yuzy also said he advocates making the driving license in Malaysia harder to get with refresher courses being made compulsory. “See the driving test in Germany or Japan. They make it very hard to get your licence but very, very easy to lose it. Things that come to you easy are not treasured,” added Yuzy with a smile.

Emphasising that in Malaysia too many drivers and riders feel they can get away with offences like speeding and using the handphone because they don’t get caught, Yuzy said enforcement needs to be stepped up. “And even if they do get caught, they do what? Pay RM150 or RM300 for the compound? That’s too easy,” says Yuzy with a shake of the head.

At the basis of it, Yuzy feels the negative perception of motorcycle riders is down to the riders themselves. “No one is asking you to ride like a demon on the road. What are you trying to prove? Nak tunjuk skill datang kat track (You want to show your skill, come to the track.)”

“A ban on kapchais does not make sense at all,” Yuzy said when rounding up the interview, “instead, the government should focus on proper road safety, better driver education and efficient public transport.” “It doesn’t matter if the kapchai is banned and replaced with electric motorcycles, if basic road safety is lacking, things will not change.”