The bicycle, which was known as pit onthel during the Indonesian War of Independence in the 1940s, has been a transportation icon in Yogyakarta since the 1970s. Yogyakarta has been nicknamed the city of bicycles. It is also called the city of students.
When the Dutch colonists tried to reoccupy Indonesia in 1949, Yogyakarta became the temporary capital. Thousands of young people across the archipelago gathered in the city, riding bicycles to reach different parts of the city to fight.
The use of bicycles reached new heights especially after the opening of Gadjah Mada University on Dec. 19, 1949, as students from Yogyakarta and out of town used it as their main means of transportation.
Nostalgia was in the air last month when cyclists rode vintage bicycles at an event called Jogja Republic Onthel. About 5,000 onthelis (the local nickname for bicyclists) from across Indonesia joined the festivities, touring Yogyakarta to celebrate the good old days. They were dressed as soldiers, students, Red Cross personnel, police and civil servants. Some came wearing traditional costumes. [yan]