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Cycling in Malaysia during COVID-19 Restrictions

Photograph courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash

On 18th March 2020, the Malaysian Government implemented a nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) as a preventative measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. There was a general prohibition of mass movements and gatherings across the country, including religious, sports, social and cultural activities.

The MCO was in place until 3rd May.

The main message during the MCO was:

Photograph courtesy of Alexas Fotos on Unsplash

The Malaysian government replaced the MCO with a Conditional MCO (CMCO) on 4th May. Outdoor sports activities not involving body contact were allowed on the condition that participants practised social distancing. Inter-state travel was prohibited.

On 7th June, the Prime Minister announced that the CMCO would end on 9th June, with the country entering the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase from 10th June. Among the activities reinstated under the RMCO was inter-state travel.

Increasing COVID-19 case counts led to the reinstatement of the CMCO in selected states on 14th October, including the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor, which surrounds Kuala Lumpur. This time, the prohibition was not just on inter-state travel. We were not allowed to travel outside the district where we lived.

MCO restrictions were re-introduced in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur from 13th January 2021 following a surge in COVID-19 infections. In addition to the inter-district travel ban, travel was restricted to a 10km radius from where you lived.

On 5th March, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur exited the MCO lockdown and reinstated CMCO restrictions. Interstate travel was still prohibited, but the requirement to stay within a 10km radius and stay within your district was lifted.

This is how the various movement control orders affected my cycling in 2020.

Graphic courtesy of VeloViewer

I didn’t ride very much during the first few months of 2020. Partly due to some travel in February and March and some consulting work, also in March.

Increasing concern about COVID-19, first identified in December 2019, must have played a part. Those worries amplified when the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern at the end of January 2020.

We had to stay indoors during the early stages of the MCO. Even going for walks was prohibited. A week after the MCO started, I snuck in a ride around the block where I lived. Then people started getting fined for being outside their homes. I stayed off my bicycle until the CMCO came into effect.

There were mixed views about the wisdom of cycling during the CMCO. We understood little about how COVID-19 was transmitted. So to ride or not to ride turned on how risk-averse or risk-tolerant you are. I rode a lot in May. Mostly, by myself, and sometimes with two or three others. The phrase “I didn’t get dropped. I was just social distancing” entered the cyclists’ vocabulary.

One definite plus in the early days of the lockdown was the empty roads, apart from the food delivery riders. They continue to provide an essential service, even after restaurants were allowed to have dine-in patrons again.

The sign translates to “Jointly tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Photograph courtesy of MalayMail

Interstate rides, like trips to Port Dickson or Teluk Intan, were a distant memory. Masks joined helmets as mandatory items on every ride.

Photograph courtesy of Mike Baumeister on Unsplash

It didn’t take long for the R@SKLs to make an interstate trip after RMCO replaced the MCO on 10th June. It was “Hello Port Dickson!” on 12th June.

Photograph courtesy of Terry Shim

We were in Port Dickson again at the end of July.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

I averaged 1,000km in May, June and July. That trend continued the following month. Helped by an Audax 300 ride on 30th August.

There was another inter-state ride in September. We devoted eight days to pedalling to Penang and back.

Photograph courtesy of Yaopey Yong on Unsplash

The first few weeks of October were a washout as far as cycling was concerned. I put it down to an attack of idleness following our Penang ride.

A surge in COVID-19 infections in some parts of the country, including Kuala Lumpur, prompted the move back to RMCO status in mid-October. This time with a prohibition on inter-district travel. The fine for transgressors was MYR1,000 / USD250. That kept me off my bike for most of the rest of October and November. I rode a total of 450km during those months.

By December, a weariness of the COVID-19 restrictions was setting in. More and more cyclists, including myself, were taking a chance on riding across district boundaries. I rode further in December than in any other month in 2020.

That enthusiasm was curtailed in January 2021.

Not only were we playing under MCO rules in mid-January, those rules included travel limited to a 10km radius around where you live. That 10km radius looks like this for me.

Map courtesy of 2kmfromhome.com

The imposition of the 10km radius limit coincided with a newfound enthusiasm to cycle amongst some friends. Friends who live within a couple of kilometres from me. Having someone to ride with, I have ridden on 50 of the past 56 days. Who would have guessed?

i have a new appreciation for the views within 10km of home.

On 5th March, we went back to CMCO rules. No 10km radius limit and inter-district travel prohibition any more. So my ride on the 6th was with friends I haven’t seen, let alone ridden with, since the end of 2020.

COVID-19 restrictions did curtail my riding in 2020. Especially in March, April and October.

2021 is off to a good start. I hope that with vaccinations on the way, we will have this pandemic under control. At last.

Photograph courtesy of Aljoscha Laschgari on Unsplash

About alchemyrider

I left Malaysia in 2008 as a non-cyclist. I am back home now with three road bikes and all the paraphernalia that goes with being addicted to cycling.

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