Cycling enthusiasts say they have seen a surge in the number of people taking up the hobby since the Covid-19 pandemic which limited recreational activities options but acknowledged that many of the newcomers do not know the rules well and are riding on highways.
This is amid a reminder issued by the police on Facebook that cycling on highways is illegal under Section 70(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987. Such action is punishable with up to a RM1,000 fine or up to three months imprisonment or both.
Thirty-four-year-old Mohd Salman Muhammad, who cycles 200km a month to train for a triathlon, agreed that cycling on the highway was very dangerous even for a stalled motor vehicle and more so for cyclists.
"I don't know why the new cyclists are using the highways... it's dangerous," Salman said, who prefers using federal roads.
However, he said cyclists could do with more infrastructure as the sports grow.
Salman (photo) gave the example of the Skylane Bangkok cycling track near Suvarnabhumi airport, which has a length of 23.5km.
"I suggest that the F1 circuit (Sepang International Circuit) is opened up for cycling activities. They can impose a charge if needed," the Johor Bahru native told Malaysiakini.
Meanwhile, 30-year-old Muhd Fahmi Muhd Redzuan Cheah said there should also be more signboards to guide cyclists on the do's and don'ts.
A 33-year-old bank executive who only wanted to be known as Iskandar admitted that he was among the cyclists to ride on highways.
Iskandar acknowledges the danger but lamented that regular roads in his areas are narrow.
He rides on the Kuala Lumpur-Kuala Selangor Expressway (Latar). The nine-year-old highway is relatively new compared to other established highways and has less traffic.
"If it is to say we can't use the highway, I'm 50-50 about it. In terms of safety, it's true that cars are speeding quite fast and it's dangerous for us.
"But we are unable to use some village roads... They are quite small and have only two lanes," he told Malaysiakini.
Iskandar, who cycles 50km a week, suggested that cyclists be allowed onto highways at selected hours.
The rule against using highways is long-established but not well known. The police's warning sparked a debate on the issue and received attention from national cyclist Mohd Azizulhasni Awang and also government ministers.
Azizul, the bronze medalist in the men's individual kirin at the Rio Olympics 2016, took to Facebook to advise cyclists against using highways and spoke at length about its dangers.
However, he also proposed the creation of a bicycle track.
Youth and Sports Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican has also taken up the issue, stating that he had discussed with Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong to ensure a balance between the sports and safety.
He also welcomed Azizulhasni's suggestion and said his ministry would look into the matter.
Malaysian National Cycling Federation president Mohd Saiful Abdul Jalil (photo) also echoed the need for more alternatives for cyclists.
He told Malaysiakini there needs to be more awareness about road sharing, noting that motor vehicles are using bicycle lanes and even parking on them.
However, he also reminded new cyclists to be mindful about the law against using highways.
"Any gazetted highway cannot be used for cycling. There are many new cyclists who do not know this and have not taken the effort to find out," he said, noting many such offences around Putrajaya.
But he suggested the authorities consider allowing this for non-peak hours.