Malay Media and Police Mount Perverse Counter Narrative after Borneo Cycling Tragedy

Driver who victims say was speeding and using a mobile phone kills eight teenagers after crashing into a group of thirty people. Rather than address the violence police and media rally for night curfews and parent prosecution.

Februrary 18th, 3:30am: A driver killed eight and left as many in intensive care, after crashing into a group of thirty to forty people who had gathered by the roadside early Saturday morning. The catastrophe occurred on Jalan Lingkaran Dalam in Johor Bahru, a Maylan border town just north of Singapore. The victims had congregated as part of a decade old tradition of night-time cycle meet-ups that take advantage of the empty streets. Some show off custom builds, others race and ride around the sleeping city.

Nineteen year-old survivor and painter, Muhammad Zulfadli Yusri, said he had no time to react and could “clearly see” the woman was speeding whilst using a mobile phone just prior to impact. With a 50kph limit, good street lighting and unobstructed vision, an unimpaired driver should have had about eight seconds to act responsibly, sixteen if the group was moving.

Excluding malaysian, the first english online reports were typically sterile. Free Malaysia Today counted the dead and minimally described an unavoidable tragedy.

Tragic Johor, 8 boys killed near cemetery by car

[Police] said a 22-year-old woman is believed to have ploughed into the group when she failed to brake in time. The driver had minor injuries, was sent to the hospital as she was traumatised, and has been detained to help investigations. The driver was apparently not drunk or speeding when the incident occurred.

The (Malaysian) Star says the “parents will be getting counselling”, but further sympathy wasn’t forth coming. In The Sun Daily, “Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar” calously wanted the event to “be a lesson for parents”. FMT followed with a janky “as a cyclist” opinion piece largely condemning the youth of today:

A cyclist reflects on Johor tragedy

There was a time when cyclists were safer because they rode more safely.

During the afternoon reports became vicious. Police issued a statement asking “the public to report late-night cyclists” and made a big deal about “the dangerous trend of [illegal] modified bicycles”. Anyone could believe these teenagers are attaching two-stroke motors, perhaps not doing so may have been their actual mistake. But the reality is more mundane. Frankenstein bikes with oversized disc rotors mix canabalised junkyard hybrids and custom paint jobs.

Too Wheeled Too Furious this was not.

Authorities looking into joyriding cycling groups

“We want to reach out to these students and advise them to give up the habit of joyriding at night,” said head of ed, Saharudin Sharif. (The Star)

Sad, but not tragic, says Nur Jazlan of Johor deaths

Deputy home minister offers condolences but also [wants police crack down] on a “new generation of delinquents”. (FMT)
  • Family of Haizad has asked him to stop cycling (Sun Daily)
  • Driver speeding using phone says cycling mishap victim (Mail Online)
  • Driver in cycling mishap wasn’t using mobile says police (FMToday)
  • Schools told to detect students involved in bicycle gangs (Post)
  • Road safety awareness should be instilled in youngsters (AA)

To add insult to death and injury, The Malaysian National Cycling Federation, stepped up as enablers, and it’s worth quoting at length:

All cycling enthusiasts, especially the young people, should not ride at night as the risk of being involved in accident is very high. PKBM secretary-general Ibrahim Mustapa said despite being equipped with safety gear and reflective vests and helmets, the risk remained high.
“Naturally, there will be less light at night, and human’s visibility will be limited and that factor alone can be the main cause of road accident. Night is also the time when most people return home from work, tired and sleepy. So, it is not a good time for cycling activity, let alone on the road.”
He said cycling enthusiasts, especially the young people, should be aware of these things to prevent untoward incidents. (Astro Awani)

Still the press went on the following day, and FTM thought there wasn’t yet enough condemnation so published the petty grievances an Uber driver.

For some, frustration, not sympathy for dead cyclists

I nearly crashed into one group myself, says Uber driver. They play hide and seek with cops, says worker. Shamsir said the teenagers who liked to race on the road did not care who scolded them.
“They aren’t afraid of the cops. They are immune to being chased, caught and having their bicycles confiscated. To me, it is good that this has happened because it becomes a lesson to other teenagers.”

As evening came with children still waiting for surgery, the Borneo Post lectured a grieving community on their failure as parents. And whilst the driver was released on bail, it was the victims’ families who were told to fear prosecution. Police Commander Wan Ahmad said they “would not hesitate to charge parents”.

Sunday was no day of rest either.

  • Social Activist calls for crackdown on night joyriders (The Star)
  • Call to ban underaged youth from late night loitering (FMT)
  • Teen bicycle racers promise to stop dangerous activity (Malay Star)
  • I saw my friend cut in half, says teen cyclist (FMT)
  • Woman driver in cycling mishap released on police bail (FMT)

Shortly after a world war that nobody won save for a few major industrialists, Henry Ford had a colonial mishap in the Amazon. Trying to circumvent Churchill’s global rubber cartel (much of it in Malaysia) Ford sought to colonise a chunk of rain forest. In 1926, two merchant ships landed in Brazil loaded with everything from watertower and icemakers, tools and hospital equipment, to bring a prefabricated image of Dearborn, Michigan, through thousands of miles to the Amazon.

Everything was micro-managed to failure. Disease blighted a plantation packed too dense. Alcohol, women and tobacco were outlawed. Rooms were routinely searched, ID badges worn. Weekend square dancing was mandatory, but in the dark — and after curfew — wily youths paddled moddified canoes up river to midnight dance meets and contraband, safe from the roaming headlights of the American managerial class. In the end, the whiteman’s burden broke on a riot of canned food and forced-fed midday labouring. The mini Butlins-Buchenwald collapsed before a single rubber tree had matured and within five years the open-air sweat shop of ten thousand were gone.

The Malayan project was far more successful.


  • A video of what the driver could (and possibly should) have seen.
  • Pictures of the type of bikes used.