JOHOR BAHRU: Just a few hours after the city was celebrating the Chingay Festival, the atmosphere of festivity was shattered by the shocking news of the fatal accident involving eight teenage cyclists in Jalan Lingkaran Dalam, near here early yesterday morning.
Another eight teenagers were injured, two critically, and all 16 victims were aged between 13 to 17 years.
According to witnesses who were involved in the incident and survived, there were about 50 to 60 teenagers on bicycles when it occurred while they were heading to the Johor Bahru City Square.
The location, which is quite ‘far’ from residential areas, is a favourite place for the people on weekends, especially for teenagers to meet.
This writer has on numerous occasions come across these groups of teenagers cycling on the road used by cars, motorcycles and heavy vehicles.
The route home is an alternative one to Pasir Gudang and Johor Port, which is frequently used by tankers and big cargo lorries.
These teenagers would cycle through this route and pass through several busy roads heading to the city simply to spend time with their peers with similar interests.
Even more alarming is that the teen cyclists used modified bicycles with no lights and wore dark clothes, which are obviously unsuitable for road use.
According to Johor Bahru Selatan District Police chief ACP Sulaiman Salleh, a total of 28 operations were conducted last year to combat such activities and 37 modified bicycles were seized.
So far this year, 17 such bicycles were seized from five operations that were conducted, he said.
This data indicated that the authorities were constantly carrying out their duties to curb such activities but to no avail.
Throughout yesterday (Saturday), the writer often heard colleagues and others saying these teenage cyclists were “gambling with their lives” on the roads with no trepidation on their faces.
Did the parents or local community take the matter for granted that such a tragedy would happen?
Or if the parents had supervised their children or members of the community took it upon themselves to “mentor” these teenagers, could the tragedy have been averted?
When such a tragedy occurs, someone will start to point fingers, finding fault with each other.
From another perspective, the public must play their role as prudent drivers on the road, which will certainly save lives should an accident take place.
In the incident at 3 am yesterday, the teenage cyclists involved were mowed down by a car driven by a 22-year-old woman.
Cycling is a great activity but the tragedy should serve as a lesson learnt that these teenagers needed guidance so that their interest was not being misunderstood and that they follow the proper channels.
This message was driven home by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar when visiting the family members and next-of-kins of the victims at the Forensic Department of the Sultanah Aminah Hospital on Saturday morning.
“The dead will not come back, let them go, this is also a lesson to parents not to allow their children to go out at night.
“Let them (children) cry, rather than us. I also had a son who had passed on never to come back, if I am sad, you as parents to the victims must be more so. This is my advice,” he added. – Bernama