Cycling and walking should be introduced as a central feature in our public health policy. The benefits can be enormous for the better health of Malaysians and these activities can save the country billions of ringgit in health and productivity costs.
Yes, cycling is becoming popular among Malaysians for recreational purposes. It is time for the Government to tap on this popularity and make bicycles a mode of transport, thus making cycling a daily exercise routine for Malaysians. This can be done through a National Cycling Policy to provide safe and convenient infrastructure for cyclists. These 2 issues are the main hindrances for the use of bicycles as a mode of transport. The regular and widespread use of cycling to workplaces, schools and for errands will increase physical activity among Malaysians, in turn creating healthier and more productive citizens.
Physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality, accounting for 6% of deaths globally. Regular physical activity is crucial to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes by up to 50%, and is also important for good mental health. Increasing physical activity levels in the population will help prevent or manage over 20 conditions and diseases, including cancer.
Malaysia is the fattest country in South-East Asia. 60% of Malaysians above 18 are overweight. In 2002 chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes accounted for 71% of all deaths in Malaysia. All these unhealthy outcomes are partly due to the inactive lifestyle of Malaysians.
In 2004, it is estimated that physical inactivity in England cost £8.2 billion (RM42.3 billion) annually (this included the treatment of chronic diseases like coronary heart disease and diabetes). A further £2.5 billion (RM12.9 billion) each year is spent on dealing with the consequences of obesity.
According to a report, “The British Cycling Economy” by the London School of Economics, the health benefits from cycling saved the British economy £128 million per year on absenteeism. Projected gains for the next decade showed that regular cyclists could save the economy £2 billion in terms of reduced absenteeism alone. Over the same period, a 20% increase in cycling levels could save the economy £207 million in terms of reduced traffic congestion and £71 billion in terms of lower pollution levels.
Dutch and German cities have invested heavily to expand and improve bicycling facilities. From 1978-96, the Dutch doubled their massive network of bicycle lanes from 9,282 to18,948 km. Similarly, the Germans almost tripled the extent of their bicycle path network from 12,911 to 31,236 km during 1976-95.
A comparative study on the improved facilities for safety of walking and cycling in Germany and Netherlands showed that these initiatives brought down injuries and fatalities when compared to less safe and inconvenient facilities in the USA. The improved facilities in these 2 countries also encouraged more walking and cycling.
A National Cycling Policy should have the following features:
— An integrated cycling infrastructure policy which focuses on making cycling safe, easy and convenient.
— Infrastructure and road design must be adapted to cyclists’ needs.
— A well-organised cycle network which allows cyclists to reach destinations easily.
— Careful design choices must be made in each specific situation.
— Create easy availability of bicycles by giving incentives for bicycle ownership and for affordable citywide bicycle rental systems.
— Encourage schools, institutions, employers (including government departments) and organised groups to promote cycling and provide the necessary infrastructure in their premises.
A National Cycling Policy will go a long way to promote public health in Malaysia and will bring tremendous benefits to the country in bringing down health, transport and environmental costs. On the other hand it will increase the nation’s productivity. By addressing the safety and convenient infrastructural needs of cyclists, cycling as a mode of transport and as an exercise routine will be given the best possible boost.
CAP together with the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, the Department of Environment, the Education Department and the Bicycle Club of Bukit Mertajam is organising its 16th Cycling Campaign in Bukit Mertajam on 22nd September. The CAP Cycling Campaign started in 2006 and the interest in cycling had grown tremendously since then.
For those interested in joining the campaign, please get the entry forms from the following contacts:
JAS Pulau Pinang (Suffian: 04-5751911)
JPN (Azizan: 019-4584410)
CAP (Ooi Kim Aun: 04-8299511/012-5549651)
KBBM (Fong Choo: 012-4005987)
Hassan : 017-4758862
and bicycle shops
The closing date for entry is 10th September.
Press Release, 27 August 2013