Shunsuke Kimura, Kimura-san as he was affectionately known was a 52, Japanese expatriate working in Johor Bahru and an avid recreational cyclist and jogger, died on 28th November 2017 when a car ploughed into him at 7.29 in the morning while cycling with his friends on Lebuh Raya Sultan Iskandar two days earlier.
In memory of his death, cyclists from Johor, Singapore and expatriates from various countries took to the roads of Iskandar Puteri as tribute to a fellow cyclist in a 28 kilometre ride following the planned route that the late Kimura had intended to take but did not finish. On 6th January 2018 his fellow cyclists completed this route for him.
Organised by cycling communities in Johor Bahru, the event provided the opportunity for cyclists to spread the message of consideration and sharing to motorists and other road users; to share the roads with them and to be mindful of their presence when driving.
The event also provided the opportunity to plead once again with the authorities for improvements to the infrastructure so that cyclists can cycle in a safe and conducive environment, be it cycling recreationally, training for sporting events, going to school and to work.
“We are here to first pay our respects to the late Kimura-san and secondly to spread awareness that there are more cyclists on the roads in Johor Bahru and for motorists to give us space and be aware of our presence,” said Dr Sharifah Shahira Syed Hashim, committee member for the ‘Ride For Kimura’ event.
“We are also pleading to the authorities to provide bicycle paths and lanes, to put up ‘Beware of Cyclists’ signboards, to place more speed humps and to install bicycle crossing lights on all State and Federal roads.
“The committee is also pleading for ‘road transformation’, that is to convert emergency lanes into bicycle lanes as has been carried out in other countries such as Japan and Singapore,” she added.
“We are sad that a death had to happen to a fellow cyclist for this event to take place,” said committee member Dr Liew Tuan Hock.
“As responsible cyclists, we ride with safety accessories such as helmets, bright and reflective clothing, lights and we ride in single file and never abreast. But we need to educate motorists to share the road with us,” Liew added.
They hope that Johor Bahru will emulate Penang which, they say is targeting itself to be a cycling city by 2020.
Dr Ahmad Khan was with Kimura-san in a group of three when the accident occurred.
“I cannot understand how it could have happened. We were in the innermost lane, it was a bright sunny morning, there was little traffic, and he was a seasoned cyclist with over five years of experience,” he said.
“His death was a needless waste and a big loss to us. He was a General Manager with a large multinational company, he had a family in Japan; wife and two grown up boys, and I cannot imagine what the family went through when they learned of the accident,” he added.
According to committee member, Claudine Loh, they have written to Kementerian Kerja Raya twice, signed by about 50 cycling clubs all over Malaysia requesting for cycling safety infrastructure and signage be put in place, but have they not received any favourable response to date.
The community has heard that the authorities have not been willing to accommodate cyclists because there are still not that many and so the numbers lack critical mass to justify the cost.
“Where Johor is concerned we have tried with the State government pleading our case without success, then we became less ambitious and we approached Johor Bahru council also with no response and now we are trying our luck with the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) and hope to make progress here because it’s the agency administering Iskandar Malaysia,” said Dr Sharifah Shahira.
According to statistics the committee obtained, 200 cyclists cross the border every weekend from Singapore and throughout the year and many riders from the UK, South Africa, China, Singapore and of course Malaysia itself, cycle around the country in tours and expeditions.
Cycling not only encourages a healthy lifestyle and all the benefits that go with it for the country as a whole, it also attracts ‘tourist dollars’ too; this they say should be good enough reason to think about the safety of cyclists when building roads and other infrastructure.
The organisers distributed 1,100 ‘Share the Road’ car decal stickers with graphics to indicate that a motorist should be at least 1.5 metres away when overtaking a cyclist.