Podium Kids Malacca project saving mosquito bikers, one Saturday at a time

ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL


MALACCA: With an approved programme to look forward to each Saturday, mosquito bike teenagers engaged with the pioneering Podium Kids Malacca project will be less likely to roam the streets and make a nuisance of themselves at night.

It is this conviction which provides the programme's coaching director, Fairoz Izni Abdul Ghani, the motivation to continue his voluntary effort to keep groups of kids on bikes safe, while shedding negative perceptions the public may have of them.

But Fairoz warns of the need to focus on maintaining the sustainability of programmes aimed at affecting change for mosquito bike activities, and the Podium Kids Malacca project could be the first to produce a module emphasising that.

"This is the bare grassroots, done from ground zero, and we should look at it that way. It isn't about running a multi-million ringgit project, but one that can be done continuously to be of benefit to the community," he said.

The Podium Kids Malacca programme, initiated just two weeks ago following the Johor Baru bicycle tragedy in which eight teenagers were killed in an early morning mishap, has thus far already attracted a strong following among the targeted youth.

"We have to be sure of the target groups, which are the children from lower income families for whom these bicycles are their main source of (outdoor enjoyment)," said Fairoz.

Yesterday, another programme was run for the pioneer group of children drawn from the surrounding areas of Bukit Serindit.

After the first week of technical and safety courses, yesterday, Podium Kids Malacca participants were pitted against each other in simple races for the first time.

"These are activities which should be kept at low cost, in order to ensure they are sustainable throughout the year. Our objective is to keep the children away from activities that cause them to be seen as a public nuisance," said Fairoz.

Next Saturday, the group from Bukit Serindit will be given their first run at riding in a convoy, or peloton, in a disciplined manner, and will join another group for activities in Klebang.

"We have thus far identified groups of such riders around Malacca, but in order to maintain safety, we do not want them to come and gather in the same place. That would mean that those from Klebang would have to ride over to Bukit Serindit on the road.

"This can only be done when we have ensured that all the children riding these bicycles are given the know-how and possess the safety equipment to ensure they can ride long distances on the road safely and in a disciplined manner," he said.

Several contributors have stepped forward to provide children in the programme with safety gear, such as helmets and brakes, as well as prizes for the competitions held during the programme.

Each Saturday’s programme is usually run between 7.30am and 11am.

"Eventually, we will need more volunteers to come and join us and help run programmes for these boys, as (I am) on my own and can only be running one area at a time," said Fairoz.

"We can already see the children – who (were more) keen on being known as (members) of bicycle gangs – now looking at how they can race properly. Their attitude is changing and those who are part of the programme are now aware of the importance of safety," he said.

Fairoz said thus far, word of the programme has spread around Malacca in a positive manner and children riding mosquito bikes (known in Malacca as 'basikal tongkang'), ‘fixed gear bikes’, or ‘gravity bikes’ from areas across the city have contacted him to find out what the programme is about.

"The boys from this group in Bukit Serindit will then help pass the word and influence children in other groups, such as the infamous RDHM (Raja di Highway Melaka) and the Paletimun (Cucumber Heads) from Ujong Pasir, to come on board," said Fairoz.

"Next week, we will start to engage with the groups in Klebang. So, I hope when they see the group from Bukit Serindit arriving with helmets and brakes on their bicycles and riding in a disciplined manner, they, too, will be influenced to adhere to the guidelines," he said.

The programme will be holding weekly sessions, safety briefings and races for the children until all bicycle gangs in the state are engaged and taught the basics, after which programmes will then be spread out to once every fortnight or once a month.