This article first appeared on The Star. Image above sourced from The Star.
PETALING JAYA: Modified frames, spruced-up handle bars, lowered front forks and safety brakes removed. These are some of the modifications done on bicycles used by school kids and teenagers in their dangerous mat lajak menace.
Comprising mostly those aged 18 and below, they often “show off” their heavily modified rides and their dangerous “superman” stunts on social media. Sometimes they upload videos of how they modified the bicycles themselves.
If the basikal lajak activities are left unchecked, the youngsters will progress to the more dangerous mat rempit activities, says Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Assoc Prof P. Sundramoorthy.
“Besides the adrenaline rush and excitement, the boys tend to show their machoness in the presence of many,” he said.
“Their application of extreme sports is wrong as it endangers themselves and also motorists,” he said of the case where a car slammed into 16 teenagers in Johor a few days ago.
Eight were killed while an equal number were injured when the car driven by a 22-year-old woman rammed into them while they were riding their bicycles in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
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Sundramoorthy said a recent study by one of his PhD candidates revealed that a majority of the active mat rempit only started off as mere spectators who wanted to simply pass the time out of boredom.
“They also want to be part of the group – and that’s where the herd mentality comes in,” he said.
“When some of them start to perform stunts or break traffic rules, the rest follow,” he said. “It is no different from the mentality of the mat lajak,” he said, adding that it was becoming a major social menace.
G. Club Penang Cyclists chairman Datuk Dr Lim Seh Guan said those who cycled long enough would have suffered from a fall before.
“All bicycles from reputable companies are made to be safe for use. If you tamper with its brakes, modify the parts and everything else, it poses safety hazards,’’ said Dr Lim.
Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) deputy president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said the mat lajak was a dangerous trend.
“Every now and then, some new sensation-seeking or risk-taking behaviour becomes a trend for a short while and the youngsters become attracted to it.
“They need to channel their energy and creativity into something productive and they must be guided to do so by their parents and schools.
“Parenting skills include being able to value the positive qualities and achievements of their children, however modest they may seem and praise their children for it so that the children do not have to seek peer approval through basikal lajak,” he said.
Dr Mohanraj said parents often expressed dissatisfaction with their environment and became overly critical about issues surrounding them.
He said this will indirectly fester anger and dissatisfaction among children and youths, resulting in them defying conventions or rules deliberately.