Cops: Mat Lajak stealing rental bikes

MELAKA: It started as an ambitious bike-rental project, but it almost immediately became a boon for the notorious Mat Lajak groups here instead.

These bicycle racers have stolen at least 24 Ofo Melaka Eco bicycles, which are part of a 500-bicycle fleet launched by Beijing-based bike-rental company Ofo Inc, and converted them into racing bikes.

The bicycle-sharing service debuted here in August in line with the state government’s efforts to promote the cycling culture and make Melaka an eco-friendly city.

But the efforts have been hampered by the actions of these unscrupulous youths who have no qualms vandalising and stealing the bicycles.

The Mat Lajak are teenage boys on modified bicycles who terrorise the roads in the city centre, near Kota Laksamana and tourist hotspots here. They are usually in action after midnight every day and even earlier during weekends.

Melaka’s top cop Deputy Comm Datuk Abdul Jalil Hassan confirmed that the bicycle racing menace, which was first uncovered in Johor, has now spread to Melaka.

Expressing his disappointment over such acts, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said the number of stolen bikes could be higher as some had gone unreported.

“It is our intention to provide value to tourists and it is also in line with the state’s green technology practices. It’s a shame the bicycles were stolen,” Idris told The Star yesterday.

Founded in Beijing three years ago, Ofo operates more than 10 million yellow-coloured bicycles in 180 cities worldwide.

In Melaka, it has placed some 500 bicycles at strategic tourist hotspots including Menara Taming Sari, Taman Rempah, Dataran 1Malaysia, Melaka International Trade Centre and the Rural Transformation Centre in Sungai Rambai, Jasin.

The bikes have a QR code that users scan (with their smartphones) to pay, unlock the bike and ride, at rates as low as RM1 per hour. First-time users are offered a free trial of two hours.

The first theft was reported on Aug 4, a day after the launching of the bike rental service that was attended by Idris, State Secretary Datuk Seri Naim Abu Bakar, Mayor Datuk Zainal Husin, Ofo Eco Green Asia Pacific business head Lawrence Cao and Malaysia Eco Green Ofo managing director Eric Li.

A police report was lodged after 20 bicycles from Jalan Kota Melaka were stolen.

On Oct 16, a 32-year-old supervisor lodged a police report that four bicycles were stolen at Taman Melaka Raya.

Melaka Historic City Council publicity officer Ricky Tan said some faked the registration for the bicycle service by using fake e-mails before making away with the bicycles.

He said stones and blunt objects were used to damage the lock that had been installed with GPS and the thieves repainted the bicycles to avoid detection.

“We have heard that the bicycles are being used for racing purposes and some have ended up in rural areas,” Tan said.

DCP Abdul Jalil said his men regularly stopped and inspected the cyclists and would make them undergo urine tests.

“We also contacted their parents and advised them to monitor their children’s night activities,” he said.

“The parents should also check where their children got their bicycles from.”