THE wide road that curls around nondescript ‘‘Bukit K” is my favourite stretch in Jenaris.
Especially deep into the night when the shadows of ferns and trees stand as spectators as 22-year-old Shadowfax and I whizz by, both of us touched only by wind and wonder.
This has been my life (and the Shimano’s) for 20 years, cycling with the wind and against it, but never without.
In Jenaris, though, not many souls seek the enriching company of bicycles and breeze.
Not nine million, which Katie Melua delightfully suggests is Beijing’s bicycle population. No, not even 100. They are far fewer — the adventurous children on their mosquito bikes, the stoic migrant workers and the determined weekend exercisers.
I travel at all times of the day in this old corner of Kajang, and do not see a soul cycling to work.
Well, maybe just the “recycling” brother who fitfully wills his old bicycle and sidecar on, heaving and sweating under the burden of sacks filled with things used and things unknown.
There was a time, though, when more cycled to their place of labour and love.
A grizzled uncle (a grandpa to younger readers) tells me he would cycle 5km from one end of the town to another to get to his office.
“Those days there were few cars. How else could we get around? We didn’t think much about traffic, rain and sun. It was the obvious and necessary thing to do.”
In fact, for love, a man would pedal until his muscles ached as much as his heart, and still he would not dare show a hint of weariness to the lady of his longings.
Of this I can testify to, as I grew up in the 80s when bicycles were many, and their sunset days were yet far away.
But those are times long gone, and the memory of such chapters in human history resides only in a few who live in 2019.
Now we observe attempts to resurrect these memories in the form of cycle lanes in Kuala Lumpur. Surely it is a good thing to provide another way for human beings to go hither and thither in the city. I do not think many will use these lanes to go to work, though. Or to pick up a lady.
What would she say to her wide-eyed mother? “Ma, my boyfriend is taking me shopping on his bicycle.” Such are the new “values” we have grown accustomed to and which we believe are the way they should be.
The cycle lanes connected to the suburbs would be useful to those seeking to make body and soul better by means of exercise.
That is as much as we can hope for. My friend, Kian Leong, who used to work in a Khazanah Nasional company, and who loves the bicycle dearly, says he won’t use one to the office “because our weather is too hot”.
It is true then that unless a cataclysm (economic collapse, war, asteroid strike) were to overwhelm the globe, and overthrow all our so-called modern machines, we can never again have the cycle-to-work-or-to-the-neighbourhood-store culture.
Humans in some countries may now have a semblance of these “green” practices, but they alone cannot carry the burden of the world and make a great difference.
But there is something else from the past that is worth restoring, if that be within our power in Malaysia. It is the cycle-to-school culture.
Years ago, the premier schools in Kajang, KHS and Convent, had armies of students pedalling into their grounds in the morning and in the afternoon. They shared the roads with cars, motorcycles and buses. But there were fewer of the fossil fuel machines then, and perhaps people were a little more tolerant and less inclined to fits of road rage. So there was amity on the road.
The thing is, cycling to school, if it can be made safe, is a good way to make more than a dent in the obesity epidemic consuming our young and contorting our future.
After all, is it not correct that a great many schools are in close proximity to residential areas in cities and in towns? Cannot we provide this cycling avenue to our children, besides the grandiose dreams of richness and wellbeing that we have for ourselves?
Sigh. A great many of us would have to make sacrifices for this to come to pass. One of it is this: no single-occupancy cars on the roads between 6am and 8am, and between noon and 1.30pm, to reduce traffic and to ease the cyclists’ terror. I can already hear motorists groaning.
Another challenge to this dream are the prices of bicycles. How high have they reached. Are those frames fashioned from gold so that a poor man cannot buy one for his son?
An “uncle” who runs a neighbourhood bicycle shop tells me people often fret about the price tags. “Apa boleh buat? Ini harga pun saya punya untung lebih kurang saja,” he says from under a mop of greying hair as he sits on his haunches.
Doubtless, if this does not change, nine million bicycles in KL and 100 bicycles in Jenaris will remain but a dream, and I shall continue to have that fern-rimmed stretch around Bukit K all to myself.
The writer is NST production editor