Campaign For a Lane 2018 hit a new milestone on August 12th 2018, marking a decade of the annual event. Featuring an 82km scenic ride around Penang island, CFAL is quite possibly one of the most well known cycling events in Malaysia. Every year, slots to participate are always sold out, and those who register but cannot make it will surely be able to sell their slots to someone even a few days before the event itself.
This year was no exception, with a total of 2,800 registered for the ride. However, ghost riders - cyclists who have not registered but want to ride the route anyway - ensured the crowd was significantly larger than planned. It’s hard to gauge the real number of participants obviously, since there is no way to get a proper headcount of these ghost riders. “Non registered we had maybe around 1,000 or more. We will try to stick to the 3,500 limit,” says Kenny Theng, CFAL Organising Chairman.
It’s a pretty impressive response, not surprising since the event has been running strong for ten years. For the 2018 edition, they obviously had to do something special to mark the occasion. “This year we have the golden theme, our jersey is also gold in colour,” explains Kenny. “We also threw in a finisher T this time.” As far as commemorative jerseys go, it’s particularly striking and you could say it goes well with everything the event stands for.
So how effective has the event been to push for cycling lanes in the state? With the Penang Island City Council and the mayor herself Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif working hand-in-hand with the organisers of CFAL, they have a unified goal. Today, the island has nearly completed its 2010 master plan for 180km of bike lanes, meant to be built in stages by 2020. This includes the unique spiral bridge in Bayan Lepas, which recently opened for cyclists and pedestrians.
But prior to CFAL 2018, we had heard that the event could be the last to be held, due to a lack of funding from the Penang state government. This was of course before the 14th Malaysian General Elections saw a resounding win for the Pakatan Harapan side. However, since the rumour came from Penangites who worked fairly closely with the state administration, we couldn’t brush it off easily. Now that the dust has settled with GE14, and with the new government obviously featuring new faces who are more pro-cycling, what is the future of CFAL?
According to Kenny, the gossip is far from the truth. CFAL is widely expected to be on the country’s calendar of cycling events in the long run. “We hope it will continue to be an annual event as everyone is expecting it to be, including the state government. I believe that as long as there are sponsors we will continue to hold the event,” he continues. “It is also good for Penang as 70% of the riders are from outstation.” It is so iconic, that it has become an annual pilgrimage of sorts for local cyclists.
This is most definitely true, since the 82km journey allows cyclists to enjoy a scenic view of the island, which is already one of the most popular in the country with tourists both local and foreign. Most Malaysians who sign up make it a full weekend trip, judging by the Penang-centric posts that flooded our social media feeds over that same weekend. And why wouldn’t you? Starting from Esplanade, the ride is a mostly coastal clockwise route that goes through Georgetown, Bayan Lepas, and Batu Ferringhi before finishing back at the starting point.
It’s a tried and tested event with a recipe for success; great sightseeing, decent mileage, juicy challenging bits and good food along the way. But after ten years of success, are there any plans to shake things up? It would be tricky, since Penang is an island after all, giving limited options. We pose the question to Kenny, and he couldn’t rule it out. “We can consider that,” muses Kenny mysteriously, without giving us any hints as to what next year will bring. Regardless, the good news is the overall conclusion that CFAL is definitely here to stay.