Statistics by Royal Malaysia Police have shown that many kids ranging from 6 to 10-year-old were killed for riding a kapcai while teen bikers aged 16 to 20 consistently recorded the highest deaths every year among all age group for any type of vehicle.
Many underbone motorbikes below 250cc or commonly known as kapcai today are equipped with sturdy engine fitted within the underbone of reduced frame or simplified wheelbase. Kapcai nowadays are lightweight, economical, fast, nimble and offer good handling.
Unfortunately, these are among the contributing factors for kids and youngsters to speed and ride recklessly. In the first place, they should never be allowed to ride such fast motorbike.
It breaks my heart to learn about crashes during peak hours and deaths especially among schoolkids due to their recklessness or rather their naivety riding a fast nimble kapcai.
We can't rely on the enforcement all the time. Hence, there is a need to limit the availability of kapcai from the youngsters in stages.
For a start, teenagers and young adults from the age of 16 to 25 should only be limited to ride electric motorcycle with top performance of 70 km/h.
The authorities should make it compulsory that those with 'P' riding license are only allowed to ride the low powered electric bikes.
It is estimated there are nearly 11 million active kapcai on the roads in the country. On average in the past 12 years, around 4,100 kapcai users perished on the roads annually.
MIROS researchers concluded that economic losses and negative impact on the financial implications from injuries and deaths involving motorcycle users from 2015 to 2017 were RM18.15 billion.
We need to be bold and we have little choice. Malaysia must retire 'kapcai' or motorcycle below 250cc gradually.
I reckon the phasing out process of kapcai can be done within six-year production cycle. I believe this can be triggered by introducing additional tax structure or some unfriendly policy for kapcai to be sold in this country.
As a replacement for kapcai, the country can introduce attractive incentive or fresh automotive policy package to encourage more low powered electric motorcycles of top speed ranging from 60 km/h to 90 km/h to come in or to be manufactured here. This will lower the price.
Electric motorcycle is the future, it is the way forward. This is your chance Malaysia to be the hub for electric motorcycles production in the region.
Electric motorbikes are already flooding East Asia and from safety aspect, the traveling speed of the vehicle can be limited.
Hanoi with a vast population of 8 million has announced to ban 2-stroke bikes starting 2025 and a complete ban for all type of motorcycles by 2030.
My sources told me Vietnam is seriously looking to invest into electric motorbikes as the affordable mode of transport to tackle the pollution issue.
Throughout Vietnam, there are around 47 million motorcycles and our neighbour is ready to retire the low powered motorbikes gradually in the next seven years.
Imagine the envy to see at least 30 million low-powered electric motorbikes to be 'Made in Vietnam' and our neighbour becoming the distribution hub for Asean?
Do we want to miss out on this opportunity on electric vehicle economics shift?
For Malaysia, the proposed retirement of kapcai is related to safety and more about the apalling road deaths statistic.
If we phase out kapcai, this is more about curbing the motorcyclists attitude of 'I-am-always-in-a-rush' during commuting hours and the renowned racing culture by so many kapcai bikers in Penang, Klang Valley, kampung, small towns, etc.
Road safety experts opined that no biker can survive more than 50 km/h crash impact. The notion is supported by a research on the effectiveness of safety helmet by Dr Akira Shibata and Dr Katsuhiro Fukuda from Kurume University School of Medicine in Japan.
The research stated that, "helmet is definitely protective at a low speed of 50 km/h, but ineffective at high speeds of over 50 km/h."
We must go back to the real purpose of underbone moped, which was to transport people safely from Point A to Point B with travelling speed below 60 km/h.
I am sure many of us remember the good old days of Honda 'Cub' series which offered low speed performance, served us well to reach short distance and was not viable for long distance travel.
If we value 'nyawa' on the road and seriously want to reduce fatalities especially among the youngsters, Malaysia must decide on the characteristics of affordable motorbike for the future.
What do we want actually from a kapcai or entry level motorbike in the next 10 years?
Do we want kapcai as a workhorse?
Or kapcai as a racehorse?
I am alone writing this article and pursuing this cause. My conscience is clear. The deep thoughts about tens of thousands of innocent motorcyclists perished on the road over the years keep lingering on my mind and this spurs me on to complete this humble piece.
* Shahrim is passionate about road safety and public transport matters. He was part of the ICFJ-WHO Safety 2018 Reporting Fellowship. He received a special award from Asean NCAP in 2017 for his contribution and coverage on road safety issues in the region)
** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.