Life's most precious commodity is time. Once spent, we cannot regain it. Yet, every single working day, many of us waste this priceless gift of life getting stuck in traffic jams through no fault of our own. We lose some two hours going to our workplace and another two hours returning home.
Four hours or more wasted on the road just like that.Four hours given away for no good reason; hours that could have been better spent with family or on recreation and more productive work.Time lost affects our productivity, which robs the nation of it a whole lot more when added together. It impacts everybody - rich, poor, old and young.
We, the common people, must say, "Enough of this." We must find ways of gaining our time, with equal value or more. Let us think for a moment about our country's infrastructure.Priority is given to building more roads and highways.Our transport infrastructure is created in such
a way that it encourages people to drive.It is not created for safe walking or cycling or better mass transport.
What is the compounding effect of this? More private car ownership.Since cars are relatively cheap, car buyers continue in crease and lone drivers contribute to traffic jams. Since infrastructural development caters mainly for cars, other options like riding electric scooters, walking or cycling are secondary to driving.
In future, with more people buying cars, the time wasted in traffic jams will increase. Households today already have multiple cars. Some even have four to five cars. To reduce congestion on our roads, our government builds more highways, only to bring us to traffic jams faster!
In the long run, this becomes unsustainable.More highways means more vehicles. More vehicles means more fossil fuel being burned and the more this happens, the quicker the depletion of this natural resource and the more carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. This contributes to global warm ing that impacts everything on Earth, more so the sustainability of all humanity as a whole. This is not a small matter.
Traffic pollution affects our efforts to secure our own survival. We must go all out to have negative carbon footprints from our movements. And we must remember that our country does not have a perpetual reserve of oil to power millions of vehicles forever.
So, stop building highways that are not driven by necessity. It is time to rethink and spend the people's money on sustainable infrastructure.We may start by urging the government to stop allocating funds to building urban highways and reduce support for private transport. While I understand about the gross domestic product contribution of the automotive industry to our economy, I am making this call to action for the long-term sustainability of our nation as a whole.Therefore, the government should spend more money on improving our mass rapid transport system and create an infrastructure for micro mobility.
This involves the development of convenient, safe and comfortable pathways for walking, cycling and riding. What is also more urgent now is addressing the weak nesses in the mass public trans port, particularly the first- and the last-mile connections.The first mile is about convenience, to get from home to the mass transport station, while the last mile involves leaving the station to get to our destination. We must have more effective feed-er transport services, ample parking space at all stations, and riding and walkability infrastructure that fulfils the criteria of safety, comfort and convenience.
Look at countries that have done much better than Malaysia, such as The Netherlands,Sweden, Norway and even Singapore. They have fewer cars because owning and driving a car has become very expensive and the infrastructure has been planned in such a way that mass public transport is the preferred way to get about. In Amsterdam, everybody walks, cycles or rides electric scooters.This is called micromobility. That is the most efficient environment-friendly way to get from points A to B. The infrastructure for such micro mobility has been built to be convenient, safe and comfortable.
Singapore has also created effective mobility and walkability. Mobility is underground with the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit).Hong Kong's mobility includes above-ground transport, with buildings interconnected with pathways. Along the routes, there are shops and eateries that provide convenience.
In developed countries, it is not only the poor who take public transport. The rich ones do, too.In Malaysia, whether we want to go near or far, we still drive our car. Many of us have negative views about our public transport and consider walking and cycling inconvenient and unsafe, so driving has always been our first choice even when our destination is very near.
Now, many Malaysians go for recreation al cycling.If this could be turned into work mobility, people could do it daily.Cycling to work has many benefits, including keeping fit, reducing obesity as well as reducing carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuel.
The recent decision by RapidKL to allow full-sized bikes into the LRT(Light Rail Transit), MRT,BRT(Bus Rapid Transit)and Monorail coaches and buses at no addition-al charge is a step in the right direction. However, passengers are only allowed to bring their bikes on weekends and public holidays, among other conditions.
Foldable bikes and scooters are allowed on all Rapid KL lines for free during designated non-peak hours on weekdays and longer hours on weekends and public holidays. The stipulated conditions are not conducive to encouraging daily commuting to work on bikes and leaving our cars behind. We should do both:incentivise people to use public transport as well as buy foldable bikes and electric scooters - thus solving the first- and the last-mile problem. Next, create safe and convenient infrastructure for people to ride the foldies and scooters. Additionally, give rebates for the purchase of electric cars.We should not make cheaper cars that run on fossil fuel but make cheaper electric cars instead.
Use the money allocated for the build ing of urban highways to subsidise public transport and provide incentives as mentioned above. Thus people will embrace the various alternatives to driving. It is time for us to get together to find more effective solutions. We need to do it today for our future sustainability, other wise humanity will hurt. And Malaysia will hurt as a country.