Motorbike Taxis take to the streets of Kuala Lumpur

With the completion of the MRT and LRT, the availability of Grab and Uber cars, and now the introduction of Motorbike Taxis, the public transportation in Malaysia is possibly complete. Automologist LING is more than happy to use all those modes of public transport…except the last one. 

I’m going to do some armchair reporting and write about the new motorbike taxis that have hit the roads of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, without even trying them. I have a valid excuse. When I was little, I visited my relatives in the then undeveloped town of Bukit Mertajam (that’s in mainland Penang), and a trip to the shops had me dangling off a motorbike, with my uncle in front, my cousin behind him and me bringing up the rear. The roads were untarred and every loose rock violently jolted the rickety two-wheeler, which threatened to throw me off to free itself of its surplus passenger. If the second rider on a motorbike is pillion rider, what is the white-knuckled third person holding with every might of buttocks suction she has onto the bit of space remaining on the seat? TERRIFIED. I’ve not gotten onto a motorbike again since.

But I digress. Motorbike taxis are the rage in this region. Uber has UberMOTO in Bangkok; there’s the local startup Go-Jek in Indonesia and Grab has similar services in those two countries as well as in Vietnam. Motorbike taxis only became available in Malaysia last November when Dego Ride, with its fleet of 5,500 riders, began offering its services.

The rate is RM2.50 for a distance of up to 3 kilometres only; while that limits the destinations one can reach using the service, it also offers a solution to the “last mile” conundrum. According to Dego CEO, Nabil Feisal Bamadhaj, the service caters to the lower income group, for whom the taxi or ride-sharing options are too expensive to use regularly.

Not only is this a great option for those who have to tighten their belt (if you haven’t heard, the Malaysian economy isn’t doing that great and the Ringgit is as weak as water), but motorbikes are THE WAY to get to your destination quickly and on time in Kuala Lumpur traffic. Those white-lining two-wheelers are the bane of my driving experience, but I cannot help but envy them as they zip past while I am stuck in my car in stalled traffic, late for my appointment and bursting for the loo.

Unfortunately, the bane of the motorbike rider’s experience in turn is the Malaysian weather. One moment it could be sunny and dry, the next, dark clouds loom over. And Dego Ride ceases services even when it drizzles because, well, those who live here long enough know that in just one moment, a drizzle could become a downpour. But that also means, from a business point of view, there could be many long, unpredictable periods of downtime for the riders. Still, it’s good to know that Dego Ride takes the safety of riders and passengers (and the other road users around them) seriously.

Dego Ride doesn’t have an app (for now), but passengers can book a ride by messaging a number via Whatsapp and filling in a form. Every passenger will be loaned a clean helmet and given a new hairnet for the ride. It only services the Greater Klang Valley area for now (find out if your area is included in the coverage area here) but will be expanding soon.

In the short time that it has been operational, Dego Ride found that 70% of its customers are female, which has driven the company to start aggressively recruiting female riders. I, for one, am always supportive of any business/NGO/initiative that encourages women to be independent and deviate from the path expected of them, which generally is to be a good wife, mother and homemaker (oh yes, it is largely still expected here). Whether it’s encouraging more women to become riders and earning their own income or providing easy mobility for working women, Dego Ride serves both purpose.

So maybe…just maybe…I might bring myself to use the service, if my car doesn’t start one day and I find myself running desperately late for a very important appointment, and there is no Grab/Uber car that will accept my request. Well, okay, that just means NEVER. I blame my uncle.

top image: Harian Metro

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