Teen cyclist repents after pal dies

Ahmad Fairuz Othman and Halim Said

“Having a friend die while riding his ‘basikal jempol’ made me realise that enough is enough.”

This was what young cyclists who used to ride modified bicycles had to say about the accident, which killed eight teen cyclists when a car hit a large group of them here on Feb 18.

Another 22 young cyclists were also arrested for gathering at the same location where the accident occurred during a police raid on Saturday.

Mohd Bihamdi Mohamed, 16, said many of his peers continued to join late night rides from their homes in the suburbs to the city centre.

He said he and many other youngsters in his neighbourhood got involved with the mosquito bike gangs to enjoy a sense of belonging.

“We wanted to be part of a group of like-minded people. We have a bond because we love modifying and riding our bicycles,” he said. 

Bihamdi said mosquito bike gangs often tested their skills at a hilly stretch in Johor Baru Inner Ring Road, near the Mahmoodiah Muslim Cemetery.

“Since the accident in February, many of them have stopped doing it. But there are others who still continue their rides, albeit in smaller groups. 

“I was supposed to join my friends on that fateful night on Feb 18. We were supposed to gather at a friend’s house, but I arrived late and by that time, the rest of the group had left for the city centre.

“Thankfully, I did not go. The next day, I heard that eight cyclists died.

“I was shocked,” said Bihamdi, who was a friend of Mohammad Azrie Danish Zulkefli, 14, one of the eight victims .

He said his parents forbade him from joining the mosquito bike group since the tragedy.  

Mohd Nor Hakmairwan Hussen, 17, said the number of mosquito bike riders in his
neighbourhood in Taman Sinaran Kempas had dwindled since the tragedy.

“In the past, there would be about 20 mosquito bike riders in a group, but now that number has decreased to about 5 or 6 cyclists.

“Many have stopped doing it, but I don’t know how long they will stop or whether they will continue in future.

“The last time I joined
the mosquito bike rides was during New Year’s Eve. But since
the tragedy that killed eight teenagers, my parents stopped me from joining the group again,” he said.

The Form Five student at SMK Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat said many teenagers who were in mosquito bike gangs enjoyed tinkering with their bicycles.

“We would only modify our bicycles when we could buy the spare parts.

“We save up our monthly allowances to get tyres and bearings to make the machines move faster. Besides, there is nothing much to do in terms of recreation in my neighbourhood.

“The football field has more patches of sand than grass, and there is no park for sports,” he said.

Hakmairwan said not all teenage bicycle gangs were bad because he was part of  a group that would ride into the city accompanied by an adult chaperon.

“We wear the same T-shirts and ride in a single file, accompanied by a leader.

“We did that during last year’s Merdeka celebration,” he said.