Saturday, April 24, 2021

Kuala Lumpur: Cycling The River of Life - Brickfields Loop

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Kuala Lumpur: Cycling The River of Life - Brickfields Loop
Dataran Merdeka to Chow Kit & Dataran Merdeka to Brickfields Cycling Lanes 2021
Cycling in Kuala Lumpur is getting more exciting with the authorities making more earnest efforts in providing cycling lanes that are interesting and safe to ride along. Sure, some of these lanes are shared lanes, but one can't really complain and these shared sections go through some of the most beautiful parts of the city - one that runs along some of the city's major rivers and is aptly called Kuala Lumpur River of Life Cycling Paths.
The River of Life (RoL). initiated in 2012, is a seven-year project to transform the Klang River (and it's feeder rivers) into a vibrant and live-able waterfront with high economic value. Covering eight (8) rivers with total length of 110km, this project is divided into three (3) major components i.e. River Cleaning (led by Department of Irrigation & Drainage (DID) Malaysia), River Beautification (led Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL)) and Commercialisation and Tourism (led Ministry of Federal Territory (KWP)). The project seems to have faltered, but of late (these past two years), it's revitalized and kicked started again with newly built stretches at Chow Kit & Brickfields. Let's hope that, the construction & development will continue on and hit the targeted 110 km.! Nevertheless, even at this completion stage it has been listed as one of the Top 10 Best Waterfront by UK's the Independent.

At the cycling lanes facing Dataran Merdeka.
The local cycling scene started getting better when in 2015 the local authority, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, started looking into the implementation of cycling lanes to encourage cycling with the implementation of Phase 1 of the Kuala Lumpur Cycling Lanes, leading from Dataran Merdeka and going along the Klang River up till Mid-Valley City via what is now known as the South-West Dedicated Cycling Highway, partly through the Brickfields locality. Unfortunately, after a couple of years portions of the lanes fell into disrepair (but all is good again with the latest effort of the RoL).
Then in 2018, in conjunction with the 9th World Urban Forum (WUF9), the Phase 2 of the Kuala Lumpur Cycling Lanes were launched. This is a 6.80 kilometer loop that starts from Medan Pasar and leads to the Petronas Twin Towers via Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan P. Ramlee, with a return leg via Jalan AmpangJalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Laut.
The latest upgrade are an extension of these lanes via the RoL project, has seen much improvement with better construction and routing, do note that at certain stretches these lanes are shared lanes with pedestrians.

Presently, the RoL cycling trails consists of two loops; both of which conveniently start at Dataran Merdeka. The southern trail heads towards Brickfields and the northern trail heads towards Chow Kit (or more accurately its Tiong Nam locality); other than these two, there are further extensions which many do not know of - we will come to that later on.
A good place to meet up is a the KM 0 milestone marker at one corner of Dataran Merdeka.

For ease of presentation, we will treat this two loops separately (with route maps), with both starting from Dataran Merdeka (of course, one can start anywhere along the loops to one's convenience). But just before riding off, do stop at a few spots for some memorable kick-off photos such as the "I LOVE KL Monument", seen above.

There are several fountains here one is the Queen Victoria Fountain erected in 1904 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. And slightly further away, is the Count Down Clock (CDC) cascading fountain (seen above), this is best seen at night when the inner walls of this fountain/monument presents a colourful slide show depicting the milestone events of the history of Malaysia.
Okay, enough of playing tourist, lets get down to cycling. This one to the Brickfields Loop!

This is a easy flat route that goes mostly along cycling pedestrian paths running along the Klang River. Starting from Dataran Merdeka, it goes along shared lanes to the Pasar Seni before cutting onto cycling lanes leading to Brickfields and ahead to the South-West Dedicated Cycling Highway before looping back across the Robson Bridge onto lanes running beside the Federal Highway Riverside. After which it goes down into the Park Harmoni pedestrian roundabout (below Jalan Kinabalu) to lead to the Taman Budaya and then back to Dataran Merdeka.
Cycling Distance: 12.13 km.     Level: Easy

Instead of straight off to head for Brickfields, take a short tour of the surrounding locality, there are several interesting places to see, so take your time.
Start off from  Kilometre Zero milestone and head to the pedestrian crossing that takes us to a brick-paved side lane on the left of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (as seen in the Google Street View above). This lane is the entry point to the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad Gardens; where can be seen a Moroccan Reflecting Pool beautifully reflecting the Sultan Ahmad Samad Building Clock Tower, which some dubbed the Big Ben of Kuala Lumpur.

This will lead to the back of the building onto a board walk trail running next to the Masjid Jamek sitting on the confluence of the Klang River and Gombak River.

If your timing is right (usually at mid-morning and dusk), pipes along the river wall will spray aerosol water droplets and the whole area will be shrouded in a mist.
(Warning: do take note of the diagonal joint of the timber boardwalk and the paver bricks seen above. The acute slant joint and the uneven surface have cause many a cyclists to slip and fall).

At night, usually after dusk, this whole area is illuminated in glowing blue light that adds a mysterious aura to the place.

 Take a pause here to admire the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad Gardens and view the reflecting pool leading to the clock tower, as can be seen in the Google Street View seen above.

The River of Life (RoL) aims at rejuvenating life in the rivers, although the river at this section is now much cleaner and almost cleared of debris, it is still muddy despite de-silting by several retention point silt traps up-river. For the meantime, to simulated this life, an artificial "Blue River" filled with Japanese Koi runs for a short stretch along the trail here.

From this trail, take a slight left detour at the top to reach the "
Masjid Jamek Lookout Point" platform. Ahead are two murals, the right one depicts urban life during colonial Malaya; while the left one depicts rural kampung life at the jungle fringes.

From here will be the best view of the Masjid Jamek of Kuala Lumpur, especially at night when the blue lights are out and the misty aura makes this like a scene from the Arabian Nights.
This mosque is where Kuala Lumpur has it's roots and also how it got it's name. Explorers looking for tin would come up river from Port Klang to get to the tin mines further up river; but when they reached this confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers, their boats could not proceed any further as it was to muddy, and they had to continue on foot. Soon a settlement started here and grew to become the present day city which was named after this muddy confluence, i.e. Kuala Lumpur which means "muddy confluence" in Malay.
Click here for a Google Street View Masjid Jamek.

A close up view of the "Colonial Era: wall mural.

And then loop down to the boardwalk on the other side of the river .....

..... for a closer look at the "Jungle" mural and have some fun with the elephants there!

Leaving the viewpoint platform, we exited the dedicated paths and go onto shared lanes along Lebuh Pasar Besar.

Here one can make a quick detour into Medan Pasar to enjoy the Dancing Fountains there.
Although it's called Medan Pasar (Market Square in English), presently there is no market; but back during the founding days THERE WAS a market here, one that was just next to the confluence of the rivers.

Slightly further ahead, the shared cycling lane is discontinuous, and goes onto the roads with several left and right turns, - into along Jalan Hang KasturiLebuh PuduJalan Tun H.S. Lee and finally onto Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lok where it meets and continue as Jalan Tun Sambanthan, just in front of Pasar Seni (KL Central Market). The dedicated lanes will then continue from here.
(This was not the case previously, there was a nice pathway that started just next to the Agrobank-Menara Patriot at Lebuh Pasar Besar, and ran along the upper bank of the Klang River up till just below the General Post Office to cross over Jalan Tun Sambanthan. It had been closed for renovation few years back and has re-opened since. See green line on map & an earlier blog)
But while we are looping and loofing around here, it could be interesting to detour to the nearby Chinatown precinct of Petaling Street where street vendors occupy the whole road. It is seen in the above photo, sans the street during the later hours of the night.

A further detour will take one to Kwai Chai Hong Art Alley (鬼仔巷), a short street that has been mocked up with artwork showcasing Chinatown's past.
Okay, time to stop being tourists and get back to cycling; time to pull ourselves from the old core of the city and continue on the cycling trail.
Passing by Pasar Seni (KL Central Market), just after the Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock/Jalan Hang Kasturi traffic lights, we start onto Jalan Tun Sambanthan. And it is here that we have to be on the look out for the gap that leads back to the dedicated cycling lanes along the Klang River, as seen at the above Google Street View. It's that section on the left of the trees next to the river.

A combo photo showing entry point opposite Pasar Seni, crossing the Klang River and then beside the ramp coming down from the KL General Post Office.

The short stretch in front is one of the nicest, it goes along pebble washed pavement with overhanging willow trees.

Ahead is a signalized crossing over Jalan Sultan Sulaiman; it has traffic light with bicycle icons specially for cyclists. The above Google Street View shows this crossing with the bright blue cycling lanes that leads back down to pathways along the river.

This is a good place to regroup, as there is a wide section before the slope down.

From here it slopes back down to lanes running along the Klang River one one side, and at certain stretches, the KL Monorail tracks on the other side.

In fact, soon we are cycling under those KL Monorail tracks; so don't be surprise to hear the rumble of the train and see it passing by overhead.

Here, there's a pedestrian bridge crossing over the Klang River to the Federal Highway Riverside and also to Kuen Cheng High School. Although with step/stairs and thus not so cycle-friendly, this is a useful bridge to get over to the Federal Highway Riverside paths and also to the Bellamy Urban Orchard Park via a single-flight stairs next to the school entrance (Click here for a Google Street View of stairs leading to the Bellamy Park).

But we won't be going across that bridge, and instead continue onward to the Brickfields locality. Here, there are short stretches of shared lanes that cuts through the inner roads of Brickfields.

While at Brickfields, one can make a detour to have eats at the many eateries here AND also pop over to the colourful back-lane behind the Old Town White Coffee Brickfields Outlet. Don't forget to look up to the sky, for there are the dynamic umbrella sculpture!

Follow the shared lanes to ride on to the MCEF (Malaysian Community & Education Foundation) Building, a distinct wooden building that was once the house of Malaysian tycoon Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan.
Here one has to be careful, the dedicated cycling lane continues through a small opening next to the house; if unfamiliar just follow the blue cycling lanes.

That little opening opens up to very nice and proper cycling lanes that runs on boardwalk next to the  Klang River (yes we are back at the river!). This is the start of the South-West Dedicated Bicycle Highway.

Not to far ahead, a quick stop at the PR1MA Brickfields for some pictures with the Copper Tree. Although this tree sculpture is in a private property, let's hope that in future it will still be open to the public as it is such a unique tree.

The board-walk slowly gave way to large pebble-washed paving, along a nicely shady green-way. Ahead we can see the Robson Road Bridge, one of the oldest arch steel bridge in the city.

Beyond the bridge and continuing straight along the lanes will lead one to Mid-Valley and then to a round-a-bout with one fork leading to the motorcycle lanes that continue onwards to Klang (see KL-Klang blog). The other fork will lead to Old Klang RoadTaman Seputeh (see KL-Seputeh blog).

But for now let's cross that steel arch bridge, and Presto! we are on the cycling lanes running along the Federal Highway on the other bank of the Klang River.

Running on broom-swept concrete pavers and with rain trees overhanging itl. Following the meander of the river, this stretch is a pleasure to ride on. Once more landscaping is done, it will be greener and better!

The concrete pavers soon gave way to boardwalk, do note that to preserve the original trees, some sections of this pathway are narrowed down.

Unfortunately, to avoid the busy ramps at the Jalan Syed Putra-Jalan Damansara intersection; we will have to use the Puay Chai High School pedestrian bridge to cross over back to the Brickfields side and ride along the lanes there to go up to Jalan Sultan Sulaiman. But instead of continuing to where we started at Jalan Tun Sambanthan, we make a right here to get back onto Jalan Sultan Sulaiman and then a left back onto Jalan Syed Putra - here there a pedestrian ramps that will lead down to the lower level of the Park Harmoni roundabout.
Above Google Street view shows where this ramp is located, i.e. slightly in front of the excavator.

At Jalan Syed Putra, we were pleasantly surprised to see signboards advertising the River of Life. Yes this part here on the other bank of the river is also part of the RoL project. Let's hope that this section will be it completed soon, and with a proper connection from Jalan Syed Putra.
Here we are, down the ramp leading into the Park Harmoni, park at the lower level of the  roundabout at the starting end of Jalan Syed Putra. From this lower level other openings will lead out to Jalan Sultan MohamedJalan Tun H.S. Lee and Jalan Kinabalu.

For better visualization of the place, here's a Google Street View of the roundabout looking down into Park Harmoni, with the various entry points leading into it; presently it's fairly clean but rather quiet as not many know about it or uses it. The road running over it is the Jalan Kinabalu Flyover; completed in 1965, it's the first flyover built in the country.

We take the exit that leads out to Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, it comes out near the Taman Budaya (the Old Istana Budaya); to cycle with care here as some sections of the pavement is narrow.
This historical place was the place where a lot of culture shows were presented until the new Istana Budaya (meaning Palace of Culture) was opened in 1999.

With a few turns at Jalan Sultan, Jalan Hang Kasturi, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock and even onto a side lane fronting the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, we were back at Dataran Merdeka!


OR explore the newer Chow Kit West Bank Cycling Trails!

See below, an interesting You Tube video on the Brickfields & Chow Kit River of Life trails by cyclist Heng Choo Chian.

Related/Similar Blogs:


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