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When the pothole doesn’t discriminate


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Would it be too much to ask for smooth, pothole-free roads that are safe for all to travel, Adrian Lee wonders.

Potholes have come under the spotlight after minister tumbled from his bicycle after crashing into one. It was a painful experience literally brought him crashing down to earth.

As a cyclist, I empathise with the pain of hitting a pothole and the moment the gravel becomes most unforgiving. But my fall did not receive any media attention, not that I warranted any as a normal person.

Avoiding potholes has become part of our daily experience. We are all too familiar with potholes almost everywhere – in residential areas, trunk roads, city roads and highways, especially along roads with many heavy vehicles.

Potholes can appear overnight, especially after a heavy downpour. We know of a new pothole when it takes us by surprise. We are familiar with the existing ones that often go unrepaired – or if repaired, reappear soon.  

Potholes are so common on our roads. It is not uncommon to find a driver who has had the unpleasant experience of hitting a pothole.

When hitting a pothole, we’d cringe, perhaps curse, and then sigh as if accepting our fate of having to repair the damage to our vehicles due to this un-holey experience. I wonder if the term “alignment and balancing” is as popular in other countries as it is in Malaysia.

We all loathe the sight of a pothole, whether we use pedal power, press a pedal or rev a throttle. Riding or driving into potholes has damaged our vehicles, especially when it sounds as if we have fallen off a multi-storey carpark.

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Potholes come in many forms and sizes – long and oddly shaped ones, the small but deep ones, Mars craters, the unforgiving ones with the weirdest of angles, the giant spreading polka-dotted ones. Some areas have more potholed roads than others.

Besides potholes, there are also “humps” that seem like badly done “cover-up” patch jobs. “Bouncing” or crashing over one is almost inevitable, especially when these uneven humps are camouflaged or barely visible along badly lit roads or submerged during heavy downpours.

Potholes are no laughing matter, for they have claimed many lives. Over the years, we have read about motorcyclists losing their lives while others suffered serious injuries. Despite being highlighted in the media, has the number of potholes on the roads dropped?

So these potholes highlight once again the hazardous road conditions many have to endure during their daily commutes. It begs the question, are those in charge of our roads not aware of these potholes? Perhaps they use a secret pothole-free route only known to them?

Or is the sun and rain that beats down on Malaysian roads really that much harsher than, say, in neighbouring Singapore or Thailand, that our roads so quickly become damaged so soon after being laid with fresh gravel and tar?

Is there only a meagre budget allocated for filling up potholes that there aren’t any resources left to smoothen out the patchwork or entire stretches in need of repair?

While we wait for roadworks to once again repair already repaired roads, many Malaysians are often kind enough to place a brightly coloured stool (often red) or object or a huge tree branch into the pothole to warn motorists of impending danger. Not the best or safest warning signs, but better than crashing into a pothole.

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We are all too familiar with Good Samaritans who, after waiting for repairs that almost never happen, selflessly and quietly use their own resources to mend potholes without any heavy machinery, army of workers, expensive materials and disruption of traffic.

The pothole that the minister crashed into might have been hastily repaired, with a special apology to boot. I wish him a speedy and full recovery and hope nobody else has to experience the same unfortunate incident.

But enough of apologies and lip service. Get to work to ensure that the repair and maintenance of roads is quickly and properly carried out for the safety of all – ministers, politicians and ordinary people.

With the year 2020 almost gone, it is OK if we are not travelling in flying cars – as long as we don’t have to fly off our vehicles! Would it be too much to ask for smooth, pothole-free roads that are safe for all to travel, day or night, rain or shine?

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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