Sunday, 21 September 2008

51 Ideas For A Better Malaysia - #4


I was tagged by Michelle Yoon of I Am Malaysian about a week ago to participate in this blogger initiative started by Nizam Bashir.

The idea behind this initiative is to come up with 51 ideas on how to make a better Malaysia, with one blogger posting one idea per week.

This week, it is my turn to come up with:

IDEA #4: Courtesy On The Road

I am predominantly a socio-political blogger. Most of my posts are dedicated to either criticising the political system or highlighting instances of gross power abuse within the government.

Nevertheless, I couldn't conceive a single idea that was political in nature which hasn't been hashed out in some blog or the other.

And sometime last week, I stumbled upon it. The idea I was looking for, one I could completely identify with, though it wasn't the least bit political in nature.

You see, I get stuck in the traffic jam everyday, going to work, and on occasion while driving home. My commute is approximately a 50km distance one way, so I do spend a lot of time on the road.

I could blame the government for not building or implementing an adequate road system, including traffic lights, the timing etc.

And when they do in fact build new highways, they slap on a gargantuan amount of money on the driver and call it 'toll'. It's rather interesting, we pay a lot of tax, but we also pay for toll.

And with the recent, drastic reductions in fuel subsidy, I have yet to see any improvements being made on our public transportation system, which would ease the number of cars on the roads.

We need a change of government quite badly. The government doesn't even bother to hide the fact that it is steeped in corruption.

But it wasn't my intention to wax lyrical about the government. We need to work on them later, but for now, it's what we can and need to do when we're on the road.

Firstly, we need to follow the rules of the road. Emergency lanes are for emergencies. Two-lane roads are for, well... two neat lanes of cars. But not where I live.

During heavy traffic, the two-lane road miraculously transforms itself into four lanes. I kid you not. People ignore traffic lights and push their way through with no regard for oncoming traffic.

By the time I pass that disorderly mess of traffic, I'm usually in a foul and aggressive mood. I refuse to give way to any car signalling its intention to come into my lane.

And I humbly admit that I hate what I have become.

So if firstly, we need to obey road rules, then secondly, we need to bend our norms. Instead of refusing to let drivers into my lane, I'm going to stop or slow down to let them in.

And if I'm the one allowed in, I will wave my gratitude.

Now I know I'm going beyond the limits of what the Malaysian public, especially those living in Kuala Lumpur are used to.

It is entirely possible that drivers on the road will be so shocked at seeing me wave at them, that they may crash their car into the curb.

I may be singularly responsible for the most number of traffic accidents in one day due to a severe shock reaction from unsuspecting drivers in my path.

Who knows, maybe I might even get thrown under the Internal Security Act for being a threat to public safety (and thereby, achieve international fame). :)

Jokes aside, this whole road courtesy thing has to be give-and-take.

Once in a fit of reckless kindness about a year ago, I allowed a driver who had been waiting for a while at an intersection to turn into my crawling lane, jammed with traffic. I even gestured the invitation like some waiter of an upscale restaurant.

Folks. You have no idea how pleased the dude was. He beamed a smile and waved (I nearly had an accident from the shock of seeing a wave) and after that was so unbelievably courteous on the road with other drivers.

He even let a lady enter into his lane, who promptly smiled back at him. If the situation got anymore sweeter, I'd have had to make a trip to the dentist. ;-)

But I thought it was wonderful that for that day, I had initiated the courtesy and the good feelings that followed.

*Updated: Next nominated for pulling out a great idea is Patricia of The English Cottage, a site which is as cosy as it sounds! :)


Anonymous said...

Great idea this one. We so need more courtesy on the roads.

BTW, did you tag someone else for next Sunday? We need to keep the ball rolling. Should have said something about it..

Anonymous said...

nice one Crank, it's about time someone took the initiative to blog about it..for i see no other blogs have done so (not the ones i read anyway)

International fame in line for you perhaps??;p

The thing with us Malaysians, is that we're courteous no matter what, to the extent that we do not even raise any voice to the powers that be, but when one is behind a steering wheel...

i'd rather not go there at this point of time.

Courtesy on the road people, it begins with each and every one of us..

Pat said...

Thank you for this one. For a country supposedly known for its courtesy, we are awful on the road!

I routinely give way to others, and stop to let others pass - much to the irritation of my daughter when she is with me. Know why? Hardly anyone every smiles, or says thank you. They just drive off in a huff, like it was my fault they were stuck in the first place!?

But so what? I still do it. And when someone does smile, it is a bonus :)

And when someone stops for me? I feel my karma has come full circle. But not often :(

But, I live in hope - and maybe I'll meet the new-and-improved you on the road one of your good days?


walla said...

I think the theme of a better Malaysia shows a yearning for something else which somehow hasn't been articulated. So if we use the hadron colliders in our minds, something more basic should come hurtling out. What should be that fizzbuzz?

Maybe it's quality. We all don't seem to have a clear, steadfast and enduring notion of quality. And because we don't, there's no vision to get captivated about anything. Without that vision which yanks something special for once out of the mundane and ordinary humdrums of our inconsequential existences, you won't get the driving force of trying to reach..that..defining.. objective.

A better Malaysia starts with a common driving force to achieve quality. From the hardest working laborer to the highest ceo, there should be a common bond to operationalize the achievement of quality.

I've left the definition of quality open so that people can seek the essence. It's like following your own clues and suddenly everyone meets the same cross-junction.

Now here comes the twists.

One of the most uplifting moments i can remember happened to me while on the upper deck of a double decker stopping at the lights of a cross-junction in downtown San Francisco many years back. There were only two other passengers with me, an elderly American couple. It was what the old man said. Look, hon, he pointed out to the cross-junction. Thirty two manholes! Man, was i relieved on hearing that. Indeed, there were thirty two manholes right there before our eyes. Haphazardly laid, no pattern at all, and for the life of all three of us, no reason whatsoever why so many manholes should have been laid on such a small place.

The reason why it's uplifting for me is that i have to find another country which applies that manhole philosophy. With all those damn manholes we have on our roads, i was feeling quite despondent. Now i am so relieved - we're not alone out there.

It's bad enough to have manholes on the road instead of where they should be, on the pavement. They have to also go amok with putting up humps. What are we, humpty dumpties? What's the frigging point of putting so many humps on a road? The damage done to your suspensions, tyres, brakes and fuel tank from all those badly laid roads not enuh ah?

And trees. I demand more trees. Not palm trees with useless foliage. Full-bloom arms-wide big big trees. If a storm comes and one falls on a motorist, too bad. Collateral damage. But trees, trees, trees. We need them more than they need us. We need them to give us oxygen and take away the carbon dioxide and monoxide ponged by those two in the last photo. We need them for shade to cool the tarmac so that we will be soothed to remember - what a wonderful life we have in Malaysia - hot mid-thirties and yet so cool. As it is, now we're not just uncool. Given the present lack of political options, we're also undead.

And then still on roads. They widen a road, then put those orange dividers along the curb so that people won't be able to park on the new lane. That narrows the road again!

And again still on roads. There was this nice straight road in front of KBU. Hey, only one hump, although that finished off the honda which overtook too impatiently. The road was nice. Because there were no cars. Then they came in to lay the big pipe. They dug up half the road along its entire stretch. It took weeks. Then they covered it up again. So badly a B-52 stratofortress won't dare to land for fear of bursting its tyres. Let me come back to quality. Please. Why can't they suspend the new pipes on top of the big drain by the side of that road. Who is going to use that drain, after all? The quality was: dig-pipe-cover. The quality should have been: suspend-pipe.

So, not manholes, not pipes, not shitty roads etc.

Just quality inside the mind, first and foremost.

And then 52, maybe. All folks should join the taiqi and waitangong groups in each housing estate. You see malay women doing it with so many of the chinese folks. Where are the malay men?

Of course, what's said here is not just about a simple morning exercise using a stress-less technique perfected centuries ago in another country.

It's about how for fifty one years, no politician has ever come out and say hey Malay folks - go join what they are doing because it's good for you, especially for circulation and digestion.

In this country, six tahils has never meant half a kati.

Pat said...


Did you see that Tehsin is not blogging anymore? I am so upset to hear this, but I didn't know what to say in her blog :(

So I'm telling you - for what that's worth.

I feel like hitting someone already!


Crankster said...

Hi Michelle, been away from the internet since Saturday when I last emailed you. So sorry for the delay, it's been a manic few days.

Hi Sam/Asir - fame for sure! ;-)

Pat, exactly, we're courteous for everything but our road habits. That and our horrible reputation for having nasty taxi drivers.

Walla - wow, that went deep into other themes as well! :)

GobloKing said...

ohh..thank you for the tagging idea michelle! I am so goblok I didn't know the dang buttons for it. going to do so NOW AND blog on it

As for road courtesy dearest crankshaft..Door courtesy same thing. I end up many times being doorman (keeping lift or public doors open for those passing after me) & fr experience 1 out of 10 (when I get lucky) thanks me

When ppl don't even say glance at me, I shout after them "THANK YOU"!! Malu tak?

Anonymous said...

Great post Crankster! Echoes the thoughts in my head. As for the fame thing, maybe Discovery or NatGeo will do an expose on you for being one of the rarest breed of drivers in Malaysia.

The way most drivers in Malaysia drive, you'd think that they're the only ones in a rush, or that the indicator lever would somehow bite their fingers off. (it doesn't...really!) sam/asir is definitely right when he says courtesy begins with each one of us.

Man, I could go on and on regarding this topic, but I'll spare you the torment of it. To everyone out there, a little courtesy goes a long way, not just in driving, but in every aspect of life too.

Think about it. Especially you queue-jumpers at the LRT stations.(another topic for another day maybe)

Crankster said...

Haha tc, I have my bad days too, but I'm working on it.

When I'm stuck in an infernal jam which moves 2 metres in 10 minutes, there's always bound to be some fool who feels compelled to use the emergency lane and cut into someone's turn.

You say the same thing I always say, "Are they the only ones in a rush?". Seriously. Is not everyone else also eager to get home?

jugular said...

The traffic situation could also be helped by better road and street signs.

I was shown round Malaka by a Malaysian friend of mine and she found it really difficult to find her way anywhere. ;)

Unknown said...

Hey Crankster,

Hello from Agra! I like the deviation from politics for the moment, although you seemed to have problems actually slipping away completely :). Over in Terengganu, most people seemed polite, although not friendly (not so much the waving, but they would let people in). Maybe you should just move out of KL? Which reminds me, how did the Melaka thing turn out?

I did notice this little contradiction, though:

"I have yet to see any improvements being made on our public transportation system, which would ease the number of cars on the roads."

But then you complain that they put tolls on the highspeed highways and have drastically reduced the fuel subsidy. In economic terms, these are both disincentives to "driving" and possibly the most cost effective ways to keep traffic down.

Which reminds me, what station was I looking to get you to in 2 or fewer transfers? Putrajaya?


Crankster said...

Jugular, Melaka is confusing because of the one-way streets. I was there again for the company dinner about a month later and I could remember the roads perfectly!

I don't think the authorities have any clue how to put up proper signs without getting confused themselves.

Kev, hey! I've been keeping up with your blog and getting educated about India!

Politics is in my blood, how could I slip away completely?? :) Last week was a crazy week for me and I tendered in my notice of resignation. Now I'm jobless or will be in 2 months. The Malaysian word for my new situation is penganggur. So I'm definitely NOT going to Melaka.

Improvement in "public transportation system" refers to the buses and trains connectivity and efficiency, not roads.

You will have to be on a train during the peak hours to experience how packed it is, and how long people have to wait for buses to finally arrive.

Remember how we bet on lunch that you could devise a route to my office with two transfers while I was willing to take three?

I know I eventually paid for lunch (only because I'm such a nice Malaysian) but there was no way I could make it to my office under 5 transfers.

My office is in Cyberjaya but the ERL train only goes up to Putrajaya Sentral.

My route would be bus-LRT train-ERL train-bus-bus. And it would cost me a bomb, more than driving does and also take me much longer.

Using the tolls are alternatives, which people opt not to, because they're so expensive. So they jam up the roads.

The fuel subsidy was good for 4 months after it was implemented. Then people got used to it and adjusted.

The roads are back to being jammed, and worse now that the fuel prices have gone down to RM2.45 a litre.

zewt said...

50km one way????? holy shit..!!! that's a looooooooong drive indeed!

Unknown said...

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