The Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor wants to ban small capacity motorcycles, or ‘kapcais’, from entering the Kuala Lumpur city centre. The three main reasons that he gives for the suggestion is that it would eliminate carbon emissions, reduce crime and lessen congestion in the city.
But of course, the suggestion that is being mooted by the minister comes across as too off the cuff and without any valid research and basis. Basically, his idea is just based on stereotypical and generalised thinking. It is also very elitist and shows that he is probably out of touch with reality.
Firstly, his suggestion ignores the fact that there is a significant number of people who aren’t as privileged and cannot afford to own cars. Hence, a kapcai is the most affordable mode of transportation for them to enter the city to earn a living.
The minister probably can’t see it from the perspective of blue-collared workers who rely on the cheapest and most convenient mode of transportation. Purchasing a car is not only expensive, the petrol and toll charges to enter the city can be quite a sum, too. Ministers, of course, are chauffeur-driven with police outriders everywhere they go.
The argument that it will reduce crime is a pretty offensive assumption. Of course, there are many cases of snatch theft happening that involve motorcycle riders. But that isn’t a reason to demonise all of them. To curb crime, the authorities need to address the underlying causes rather than the symptoms.
Why are the snatch thieves committing their crimes? It can’t just be because kapcais are allowed to be ridden into the city centre. There has to be more underlying social issues that we need to understand and be able to address.
In fact, even the police have made a statement asking the minister to do more research and reconsider his proposal of banning kapcais in the city. Crime Prevention and Community Safety Department director, Rusli Ahmad, says that although it might be possible that it could reduce crime, the minister needs to consider those from the lower-income bracket.
The argument that it will reduce carbon emissions and lessen the traffic congestion in the city is probably the most logical and rational reason given by the minister. However, it is a flawed reason because kapcais, although they do release carbon emissions, pale in comparison to other vehicles that the minister is not urging a ban for.
Tengku Adnan’s colleague in the cabinet, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, has stated that the pollution from such small vehicles are very minimal. Bigger vehicles are the ones that cause the most pollution and so if a ban was to be imposed, it should be on the larger vehicles.
If pollution really is the reason for proposing to ban kapcais, then big lorries and trailers should also be banned because they cause the most carbon emissions. In fact, cars should also be banned because they emit more polluted smoke than a small 50cc motorcycle.
Main cause of congestion are cars
And for any commuter who travels into the city, it is obvious that traffic congestion isn’t caused by the motorcyclists. The main cause of the congestions are cars. They take up the most space on the roads and so many of them are driven by one person only, hence the person to car ratio in the city can be said to be really low.
Another question that crops up if the ban is imposed would be how would these people who rely on motorcycles go to work commute if they can’t use their vehicles? Would there be adequate alternatives available for them in order to leave their kapcais home? Is the public transportation system able to support the massive number of commuters who now have no other alternative?
As we all are aware, even with the new line extensions of the LRT and the launch of the new MRT, Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas are still far from being efficiently connected. The last mile problem still is a big problem. And, as stated by the Federal Territories PAS Youth chief, Khairilnizam Khirudin, the cost to take public transport is higher than riding a kapcai.
The minister needs to realise that no one has come out in support of his proposal. However, there are many quarters asking the minister to reconsider and to conduct more thorough research before making any rash decisions. It comes from both sides of the divide, from his own ruling party cabinet ministers to the opposition lawmakers and also members of the public.
ZAN AZLEE is a writer, documentary filmmaker, journalist and academic. He doesn’t know how to ride a kapcai but he still believes that it shouldn’t be banned.