The Jakarta Post
Not all businesses are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many people who are not feeling the pinch of the crisis either. Such realities are evident on the streets in Jakarta, where executives of all ages pedal their way to workplaces from home on their famous British-made Brompton bikes.
This urban phenomenon is occurring not only in Jakarta, but also in many big cities across the world, increasing the global sales of the London-based company by five times during the pandemic. With no end in sight to the coronavirus disease, the Brompton boom is likely to persist.
Indonesia’s appetite for the luxury folding bikes, which cost Rp 33 million (US$2,300) to Rp 35 million for standard models, has caused surprise on social media. One netizen tweeted that someone from Indonesia offered his Brompton Explore for $4,000 and one of his friends was asked if he could find 15 brand-new Bromptons and ship them to Indonesia.
The Brompton, like other folding bikes, was created to answer urban challenges. Users can carry their bikes onto commuter trains without having to bother other passengers. It is also easy to keep the bike inside an apartment room or in the space below a staircase.
Nothing is peculiar about the Brompton fever, despite the signals that the country is on the brink of recession and millions in the lower-middle class are at risk of falling, if they have not already done so, into poverty as a result of the pandemic-induced crisis. But given the lack of bicycle lanes in most parts of Jakarta and other cities in the country, many would argue that prestige, rather than functionality, is behind the Brompton phenomenon.
As a new symbol of prestige, Brompton has unsurprisingly inspired local makers to produce lookalikes of the British bike, of course at far lower prices. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is one of those who have bought local brands, which many claim can match Brompton.
For better or worse, the bicycle industry has thrived thanks to the pandemic. People have turned to bikes as they fear virus transmission on public transportation, where social distancing is mandatorily in place. They also say they have shifted to cycling for health, which makes sense because the fitter we get the better our immune system becomes at protecting us from SARS-coV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
To facilitate the growing number of cyclists during this pandemic, the government needs to expand the network of bicycle lanes, or if possible, make special lines available on every major road. Jakarta is known for its unfriendliness to bikers, let alone pedestrians. For too long the pecking order has been the rule on Jakarta’s streets, as a result of the steady rise in the number of motorized vehicles.
The government is responsible for ensuring the safety of cyclists, whether they ride Bromptons or cheaper bicycles, simply because of their invaluable contribution to developing a healthy city. After all health is the most precious asset in this time of crisis.