Jakarta’s growing population of bikers during the COVID-19 pandemic is evident. The city transportation agency’s data showed that more than 3,000 cyclists passed Jl. Thamrin in Central Jakarta on weekdays and nearly 23,500 on weekends between June 2020 and January 2021.
But how many of them really commute? Many would agree that they ride bicycles just for exercise and fun, capitalizing on the city’s quieter roads as a result of mobility restrictions that have forced people to work and study from home. Before COVID-19 hit, few would dare to leisurely ride a bike around Jakarta’s congested streets where survival of the fittest is the norm.
Prior to the pandemic, cycling, or even walking, could be dangerous, therefore for many, potential accidents outweighed the health benefits of cycling. There was barely space for bikers, despite the special, green lane the city government allocated for them.
Early this week, the Jakarta administration announced a plan to transform the city into a friendly place for bikers, which is encouraging. For starters, the city has introduced a permanent, 2-meter-wide bicycle lane spanning from the Senayan traffic circle to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle. The 11.2-kilometer lane is separated from the rest of the street using planter boxes.
Head of the city’s transportation agency, Syafrin Liputo, said the special lane cost Rp 30 billion, which is covered by a third party. Pending the completion of the facility approximately at the end of this month, Syafrin said he had set up teams to prepare an app that would provide a safety guideline for bikers.
Under the ambitious Jakarta Bike City project, the city plans to build a permanent bicycle lane across the capital. It will cover 600 km when completed in 2030.
There are many advantages we can reap from the program, which comes as people become more aware globally about healthy lifestyles and the need to curb carbon emissions. In the case of Jakarta, emissions from motorized vehicle combustion contributes significantly to the city’s poor air quality. Jakarta has for years joined the ranks of the most polluted cities. Mobility restrictions to contain COVID-19 have reduced the contamination level but when life returns to normal, the choking pollution may claw its way back too.
To transform Jakarta into a bicycle-friendly city, the Jakarta Bike City program should be integrated with urban transportation development to incentivize the use of public transportation and disincentivize the use of private vehicles. Restrictions on private cars, and if possible motorcycles, such as the odd-even license plate number policy, should be expanded to make way for bikes.
As many would be enthusiastic to commute on bike, the special bike lines should connect train, MRT and later LRT stations. Those modes of public transportation should also allocate space for bicycles, at least folding bikes.
Of course, not all commuters would like to carry their own bikes. To accommodate them, the city can encourage investment in bike rental businesses and build parking facilities for bicycles at various train and MRT stations, where people can take and drop-off rental bikes.
The pro-bicycle policy, however, will not work without clear regulations and their consistent enforcement.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.