Saturday, September 25, 2004

Urban cycling in Jakarta

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September 25, 2004
Cyclists, get set, ...oh the tracks are yet to be built!
Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"..I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like."

The last line of Bicycle Race, the hit song of British legendary rock group Queen released in 1978 might echo the desire of Heru, a foreign bank employee on Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta, to ride his bicycle to work along Jakarta's major thoroughfare.

"I hope I can ride my bike to work... or at least use it to travel a short distance around my office building, to go out for lunch for instance," the 35-year-old resident of Bintaro, South Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

His wish, however, is not yet on the agenda of the Jakarta administration. Without a bicycle lane, daring cyclists have to negotiate the congested city streets.

"We have to compete against motorcycles, cars and buses on the streets. The exhaust fumes are unbearable and many drive recklessly," he said. "Even if we share the sidewalks with pedestrians, many of them are damaged or overtaken by motorcycles during traffic jams."

Heru said he could only ride his bicycle on weekends around his house or at the Bung Karno Sports Complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta, or on Jl. Sudirman on Sunday morning, when the street is closed for joggers and cyclists.

"High-rise buildings along Jl. Sudirman are actually nice to look at as we cruise along the street on a bike," he said. "I wish I could enjoy that every day."

Heru welcomes the proposal from the organizers of Bike to Work and Car-Free Day events that the administration builds bicycle lanes.

"It will be more comfortable if the lane has a canopy of trees to protect cyclists from rain and heat," he said.

The city administration will also conduct a feasibility study on the necessity of a bicycle lane.

The Indonesian Bicycle Industry Association (AIPI) chairman Prihadi also suggested that the city create a network of bicycle rental stations in business districts and shopping malls to allow people to rent bicycles to commute short distances.

"Such a policy will also help boost the sales for the local bicycle industry," he said, adding that the country's annual sales for bicycles is around four million.

Vendors at the city's main bicycle market in Pasar Rumput, South Jakarta, said their monthly sales of mountain bikes, which range between Rp 650,000 (US$71.43) and Rp 3 million, were at least 10. But the number can quadruple during the holidays or when there are fun bike events.

Although there is still no exact figure of cyclists in the city, Taufik, one of the Bike to Work event organizers, said he usually met 20 other workers riding their bicycles on his route from Ciledug to Jl. Sudirman.

"The figure is pretty much the same on other routes," he said, adding they were assessing the exact number of people who cycle to work to be submitted to the administration along with their bicycle lane proposal.

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