Is this really the End of the Road for Jakarta’s Motorcyclists?
Jakarta has signalled that it will be following Hanoi’s lead, with a phased restriction on where and when the riders of motorbikes can use the roads, in a bid to ease traffic congestion and pollution. Anyone who has travelled around South Asia’s rapidly developing cities has had to battle with the anarchic motorbike masses, who seem to have a complete disregard for traffic rules as they ignore common sense, just in a bid to get to wherever they are going that tiny bit sooner.
Common sight in Jakarta.
I have just returned from a short trip to Yangon, the business capital of Myanmar. As in most rapidly developing cities, the transport infrastructure is lagging behind the population’s desire to move around, and traffic chaos ensues during rush hour. But strangely, the situation was made all that more serene and bearable by the complete lack of motorbikes. The simple lack of the incessant mass of individuals “pushing” their way through the traffic seemed to make the very slow journey all that more bearable.
Hanoi, which some call the motorbike capital of the world, has already approved a plan that will see the phasing out of motorbikes by 2030. Now Jakarta is following suit, and will see a gradual expansion of motorbike-free roads to include some of the major thoroughfares in a bid to encourage commuters onto public transportation.
Meanwhile in Hanoi…
Jakarta currently has about 4.8 million cars registered there, but a whopping 13.6 million motorbikes; the Greater Jakarta Transportation Agency has blamed them for all manner of troubles, from simple congestion to accidents to crime. For sure, if you want to be a getaway driver in Indonesia, you will not be going by car, but that doesn’t mean bikers should be blamed for all crime. Unfortunately, in neighbouring Malaysia, snatch thieves seem to only use motorbikes.
I personally have almost daily white-knuckle moments on my daily commute, as bikers seem to be intent on stuffing themselves under the wheels of my car, but for not one moment would I support a ban on bikes or bikers—can’t we all just live peacefully together? The trouble is, mixing bikes and cars is always a bit dangerous; drivers get distracted and often do not see the biker, oft because the biker is taking an unnecessary risk.
So what is the answer without banning the humble motorcyclist? Perhaps a greater attempt to segregate two and four wheels, more education and greater enforcement of laws, maybe. How about providing a comfortable and affordable and convenient alternative, such as a metro system or better bus option that will encourage ALL commuters to quit personal and opt for public transport alternatives. As we said recently in an article, you don’t have to ban it if you provide an alternative that will make it go extinct.
In the meantime, perhaps the politicians in Jakarta should reflect on the fact that there are some 13 million motorbikers in Jakarta, and they all get to vote in elections…