We’ve been using the public transport MRT and LRT to test the possibility of solving the last mile problem with bicycle. Well the short answer is yes, bicycles do solve the last mile problem of endless waiting for the feeder bus or walking like 45 minutes to cover the seemingly so damn near 3km distance to reach home.
Our old government and our new government both agreed that the biggest problem to our public transport system is the last mile problem. Our new government even proposed to have Grab to solve the last mile problem. We are not rich by any mean so paying Grab RM 20 everyday just to cover that 12km is out of the question. So, rather than waiting for our government to solve the problem without burning our wallets, we took the issue into our own hands and tried to solve the last mile problem with our trustworthy folding bicycle.
So what’s last mile problem?
Let’s start with the fact that my house is just 2.3km from the nearest MRT station. Walking will take 27 minutes according to Google maps and waiting for the feeder bus normally takes around 30 minutes. And the best part is, the feeder bus doesn’t go anywhere near my place so I’ll have to walk the last kilometre home, up the hill against gravity.
The distance between the shop we used to have and the nearest LRT station was 2.8km or 35 minutes walk according to Google maps. Yes there are 2 feeder buses connecting the two places. But, other than the waiting time, the route is bloody long and it will take like 20 minutes to reach. So, either walking or taking a bus will cost about the same minimum 35 minutes to reach the shop.
So, with or without the feeder bus, I need 2 hours in total from home to MRT, then LRT to shop, then shop to LRT, lastly MRT to home. Plus the MRT to interchange then LRT time, it took a whopping 4 hours per day just on travel on public transport alone.
Mind you, the total driving time for me to reach the shop from home was only 35 minutes when the traffic is smooth. The worst jam took me 90 minutes. Generally, the travel time is 40 to 45 minutes one way. On average, I spent 1.5 hours daily on driving to and from work. So I had really wasted a hell lot of time by doing this experiment.
Can bicycle solve last mile problem?
Well you have read the short answer from the first paragraph, the answer is yes, a big YES! Any bicycle would cover the same 3km distance in about 15 minutes. And the distance is so short that you shouldn’t be even sweating unless you’re going uphill or it’s a hot sunny day.
So the final results, I can cut the time needed one way from 2 hours to 1.5 hours. Ok the 30 minutes time saved might not look big, but if you’re looking at percentage it’s an obvious 25% gain. But the only problem is, if you’re comparing to a drive or even a motorbike ride, you’re seriously wasting your precious time on our Malaysia public transport. A waste of an hour per day is like losing one whole day every single month. There goes our productivity.
You should have noticed by now. Our comparison doesn’t include bus. That’s because we don’t like to wait for bus. And the bus trip would be about the same time for walking. And, it would add on RM 1.00 per feeder bus which means it will be even more expensive than driving an old inefficient car.
Should you be using public transport?
Well this is a very hard question to answer. And frankly, we don’t really recommend riding to MRT / LRT stations unless the bicycle lane cover the start to the very end of your trip. Our bicycle lanes are so poorly designed and integrated. We’ve seen bicycle lanes suddenly ends for no obvious reason. Bicycle lane starts at right side of the road, then moved to left side of the road, and moved back to right side of the road on the very same Jalan. And we had even punctured our tires due to a giant hole on the bicycle lane.
If there’s any construction work needed for the road or even far from the road, the contractors would just put everything on the bicycle lanes as if it’s their warehouse. And at this rate of development, I can guarantee that you’ll be forced to go down the main road from bicycle lane no matter which area of Klang Valley you’re living in.
Riding on the road is seriously scary even for a 2 lanes road. Some nicer drivers will overtake bicycle riders only when the other lane is empty. But most drivers and especially motorcyclists will just squeeze through without giving a heck about your precious life.
However, we must say that taking MRT or LRT to work is seriously relaxing compared to driving. There’s no jam, no crazy driver to scare the shit out of you, no road bully to threaten you when you make mistakes while driving, no trucks or buses hogging the LRT / MRT rail. The benefit of better mental health is definitely there. As our test subject kinda addicted to ride to work every time he’s free.
What about Electric Bicycle?
Yes we tested it as well, at the expense of our supplier as they loan us a test unit for our experiment. But for the sake of sanity, DON’T!
First problem is, our MRT system only allows folded bicycle on board. Which means you’ll need a folding electric bicycle. If your journey doesn’t require a transit between LRT and / or MRT lines then yes you can. If not, you’ll be lugging 22kg transiting between stations. Yes it can roll even when folded, but frankly controlling a 22kg thingy from tumbling is not easy task and it requires a lot of muscle power.
Second problem is, the electric bicycle simply cost too much. The initial purchase price looks alright to most people. But the running cost is insane. The tyre and inner tube cost twice as much as a normal bicycle tyre and tube. No, don’t try to save money by putting normal bicycle tires and tubes into electric bicycles, they’re totally different. Normal bicycle tires will be totally gone in about a month as they’re not designed to take on that much torque from electric motor. And the electric components like battery, connectors, sensors, and controllers starts at RM 50 and can go up to RM 1,000 easily.
The last problem is, reliability issue. Frankly, there’s no way an electric bicycle can be as reliable as an old fashion bicycle. There’s too many electrical parts and components that increase the risk. Yes you can still ride the electric bicycle when it’s broken. But the lightest one weight 22kg, the heaviest one weight about 50kg, riding it will be like training for Olympic gold medals already man! Lastly, parts shortage means you’ll be having your electric bicycle like normal bicycle for a long long time when it’s broken down. And we still cannot understand why electric bicycles distributors can’t stock up their components like our “old men” bicycles distributors.
Our best suggestion for electric bicycle is, please buy the most expensive one you can afford. Preferably from major European bicycle brands with long warranty period. Or you can wait. We’re literally waiting for Honda or Yamaha Malaysia to have their electric motorcycles officially imported. We’re sure that the parts availability and cost will be very reasonable if it’s from Honda or Yamaha.
Our conclusion is, the bicycle solved the last mile problem. But, our government need to do better in designing and laying out the bicycle lanes as a whole along the road. Else, the solving last mile problem will create another bigger problem which is bicycle riders’ safety issue. And frankly, we don’t see our government having a chance to solve the last mile problem. As our fellow Malaysians have already voted with our money by buying more cars and more motorcycles. Bicycles are for leisure and / or better health only.