Zigzagging in Malaysian Traffic

I was buzzing through Georgetown today on my motorbike, heading home from running a few errands when it hit me: many people would think that what I am doing is insane.

But to me it’s such old hat that I could weave through traffic with my eyes closed – almost.

Friday late afternoon the traffic on Burma Road leading west of Georgetown becomes a bear. It’s backed up, bumper to bumper for a good long while.

But no matter. That’s why I bought a little Honda 100cc. It was meant for weaving through traffic. So that’s what I do.

I cautiously scoot by many cars, making sure my mirror doesn’t hit their mirrors. Then when I upon two cars which are too closely together, I’ll zip in front of one car and head to the next ‘lane’ – a ‘lane’ being the small swath of pavement between two actual lanes of cars.

Sometimes I have to scoot over a couple lanes and ride along the edge of the road, but I have intent and I know what I want. I want to make it to the front of the line of cars so that I am sitting at the red light waiting for it to turn green.


Because once it turns green, all the motorbikes tear off in their glory and have a stretch of open road in front of the cars until we catch up to the backup of cars at the next intersection. At that point I start the weaving in and out again.

Riding motorbikes in Malaysia cut down time in traffic by a significant margin and there is little that can’t be done. I don’t go through red lights. Many Malaysians do. I have, at times, used the sidewalk to get around a swath of cars until I make it to the front of the line. My wife didn’t like that when I told her I used the sidewalk. It’s not like any pedestrians ever use them!

So yes, it is kind of crazy when you think about it. Once false move and I could be up against a car. But its the only way to travel around here.

And besides, motorbike traffic in Malaysia is super-duper easy compared to Vietnam.