New Cycling Lanes are Changing the Penang Experience


This bridge, spanning over Sungai Pinang, comprises two S-sections connected to gentle ramps running parallel to the river on both sides. Instead of just a straight route, you get the bridge and some crooked lanes, and that’s what makes these cycling lanes interesting.

We test the East Coast Cycling Lanes and find them to be surprisingly up to snuff.

Penang is leading other Malaysian states in promoting cycling and does that by trying to provide good cycling infrastructure. In August 2013, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng implemented the idea of shared cycling lanes. These are lanes outlined with green paint on existing roads to indicate that they are shared. At the launch, Lim also hinted at more to come, and this has partly materialised in the form of dedicated cycling lanes on the east coast of Penang Island.

With these lanes, locals can commute to work safely and easily. To further encourage cycle commuting, there is a regular “Bike to Work on Friday” routine that has been going on for more than a year. Participants meet at Persiaran Karpal Singh and then cycle in groups to work.

The lanes also give visitors a good way to acquaint themselves with the island since they pass scenic spots of moored fishing boats, and give great views of the two Penang bridges and some parks. Families can also bring their children along for a good ride. Visitors can simply rent a bike from the many shops in town and ride along the lovely shaded lanes. There is even news filtering down that a public bicycle sharing system, like those in bike-friendly cities, will be implemented. Users just pick up a bike from one of many strategic stations and conveniently drop them off at any other station.

There are grand plans for a cycle-friendly Penang: a masterplan with guidelines for cycling lane design and construction has been laid out, and within that plan is a framework routes proposal with lanes that loop the island and criss-cross with radial links that serve the inner sections. Phase 1 of the East Coast Cycling Lanes has been completed while Phase 2 is in progress and proceeding at a rapid pace.

At Jalan Gurdwara, it starts in an unassuming way, running along the pavement in front of some of Penang’s favourite nasi kandar shops before crossing over to Jalan C Y Choy. It becomes a shared lane cutting through a light industrial area before coming out to a bridge.

The bridge leads to Persiaran Karpal Singh. With the blue towers (a sculpture titled Celebration of the Blue Sky by renowned Japanese artist Hitori Nakayama) reaching for the sky, it is a favourite gathering spot for people to exercise, socialise or relax. In the evening, this place gets crowded, so do cycle with care or dismount and push..

East Coast Cycling Lanes Phase 1

Phase 1 of the East Coast Cycling Lanes runs 13km from Jalan Gurdwara (just opposite the north end of Jalan Penang) up to the second roundabout after Queensbay Mall. These lanes were completed a few months ago with only some short stretches yet to be connected in a proper way. For most stretches, the lanes are fully dedicated for cycling; some short sections are shared with motorised traffic while others are shared with pedestrians.

Karen Lai

Stretches near the Gold Coast Condominiums and the Penang Bridge that run through very green areas.

A short stretch that runs under the piers of the Penang Bridge

Small parks with colourful sculptures. At other areas, benches are provided for cyclists to stop, sit and admire the sea.

Riding along these lanes, I found them well constructed with either tarred or broomswept concrete surfaces. They run smoothly and one would not expect a bumpy ride. Guardrails line the sides for safety.

Karen Lai

Hughes's engagement photo.

Separate bridges and ramps have also been constructed for the use of cyclists. There are some frustrations though: even though physical barriers have been put up to deter them, motorcyclists frequently encroach into the lanes.

East Coast Cycling Lanes Phase 2

Phase 2 continues from Queensbay Mall, runs parallel to Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and, after about 10km, ends at Batu Maung, which is an interesting destination where you can find good ikan bakar (grilled fish) served at Teluk Tempoyak, the War Museum and a giant footprint of Admiral Cheng Ho. Work is in progress and has, at the end of March 2016, almost reached the Second Penang Bridge.


Syerleena Abdul Rashid

This phase has been well designed – the lanes for the most part meander some distance from the highway (to keep cyclists a safe distance from fast-zooming traffic) and run below shady trees. Where presently there are no trees, new ones are being planted. And when the lanes run next to the highway, steel guardrails have been put up.

What the Future Holds

Syerleena Abdul Rashid

With plans for the lanes to radiate inwards, Penangites can look forward to cycling infrastructure that will rival or be even better than that in many other cycling cities. But good as they may be, there is always room for improvement, such as providing clean public toilets along the way, lighting at dark stretches, directional signage especially at exit points, distance markers, more parks and adjacent food courts, and perhaps the addition of cycling lanes on the two bridges so that cyclists can cross over to the mainland without using the ferry.

The AhPek Biker, aka Joseph Tan, is a cyclist in his late 50s. His cycling adventures have taken him to many interesting places such Borneo, the Batanes in the Philippines, New Zealand, Japan, etc. Read more about his cycling adventures at http://ahpekbiker.

Related Articles

Feb 2013

Cindy Gallop connecting change-makers

One of the featured speakers at the 2012 TEDxGurneyDrive, Cindy Gallop chats with us about being a feminist and changing the world.

Nov 2017

George Town Festival at a Crossroads

Now in its eighth year, Penang's festival of the arts has come a long way.

Sep 2016

A Properly Financed Transport Plan for the Long Haul

Striking a balance is the rationale of the Penang Transport  Master Plan.