Navigating Free Parking Woes

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They rise at the crack of dawn to get to work in Singapore, and when evening comes, they face another hurdle.

These Malaysian motorcyclists would then have to deal with the delicate task of navigating their machines out of a crammed, makeshift parking lot here.

“I spent about 10 minutes slowly pulling my bike out. Then it’s another struggle to ride it out of the narrow lot lanes,” said Effa Suraya A. Hamid, 42.

She said that it was a challenge not only to wiggle her motorbike out of the tight space, but she also had to make sure that she would not tip it over and cause the other machines to fall like dominoes.

The makeshift lot, near the main entrance of Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (BSI CIQ) along here, was designated by the state government for daily commuters to park their motorcycles for free.

It is just about the size of three badminton courts, but at least 1,000 motorcycles are parked there, just inches apart from one another.

Effa Suraya, who works as a kitchen helper in Singapore, said, “I usually park my motorcycle in front of the BSI CIQ at 4am before hopping on the bus to cross the Causeway. The parking lot is usually not as packed in the early hours of the day,” she said.

However, by evening, her motorcycle is sandwiched among other bikes, she said in an interview. Despite the daily hassle, Effa Suraya, a single mother of nine children, said she is willing to put up with it so that she can earn enough money to feed her big family.

“I started working in Singapore last year because I was simply not earning enough to take care of my kids.

“Five of them are still in school,” she said, adding that her eldest daughter, who is 23, takes care of the children while she is at work.

She said that she was thankful that Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi, who has been vocal about issues concerning the CIQ, allowed motorcyclists to park at the makeshift lot, as it has helped her to save some money each month.

“I previously parked at a paid parking lot nearby, which costs me RM3 per day. In this economy, every ringgit counts, especially when I have so many children depending on me,” said the Larkin resident.

Daily commuter Don Lee, 36, said he once spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out how to free his motorcycle as other motorbikes had parked around him.“I had to move other bikes little by little to get my motorcycle out and then move the other machines back.

“While doing so, my back licence plate hit another bike’s exhaust pipe and snapped in half,” said the factory worker, who usually takes a photo of his parking spot in case he forgets where he parked.

Another factory employee, Mohd Azrol Akmal, 40, said last week that he noticed some scratches on his parked motorcycle upon returning from across the border.

“I believe it was because the vehicles were parked too close to one another, so getting scratches is unavoidable.

“My friend, who also parks in the same lot before taking a bus across the border, returned one day to find one of the signal lights on his motorcycle broken,” he said.

The father of three, however, said that he was grateful for the free parking at a site that was so near the BSI CIQ entrance.

“But there are risks and the price to pay is the damage to our vehicles,” he said.

Mohd Azrol added that he was not worried about motorcycle theft as there were policemen manning the BSI CIQ entrance nearby.

Checks with one of the police officials on duty found that the makeshift parking lot was opened after one of Onn Hafiz’s many visits to the complex in May to address Causeway congestion and parking issues.

When contacted, Johor Baru South OCPD Asst Comm Raub Selamat said there were fewer than five reports of motorcycle theft in the area so far this year.

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