The Jakarta Post
Battling with speeding cars, reckless bus drivers and raging cabbies for space on the streets may not only be experienced by New York City's thrill-seeking, elusive bicycle messenger Wilee, the lead character in David Koepp's Hollywood movie Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
In Indonesia's capital, notorious for its heavily congested traffic, a group of adrenaline junkies may be dealing with similar situations as they ride their bicycles and race against time to pick up and deliver packages for customers.
'I was carrying packaged oatmeal when a Metro-mini bus suddenly hit me near Blok M Plaza in South Jakarta. I was flung off my bike. But after cleaning my elbow and knee wounds, I immediately got back on it. I had to be on time,' Hamzah 'Jeje' Mutaqqien recalled back in 2014.
Jeje, a 24-year-old student at the Indonesian Persada University in Salemba, Central Jakarta, is one of dozens of risk-taking bicycle messengers operating under a community courier service called the Westbike Messenger Service (WMS).
Founded in October 2013 with its riders mostly using super lightweight, fixed-gear bicycles with no brakes, widely known as fixies, the South Jakarta-based intercity courier provides both flash pick-up and delivery of packages.
WMS offers two kinds of services: a VIP service in which packages are delivered on the same day as they are received and a VVIP service in which packages are transported less than two hours after they are picked up. Customers are charged Rp 50,000 (US$3) and Rp 100,000 respectively for the service.
'Customers want their ordered goods to be in their hands just within hours, not days. And sellers don't want to waste too much energy handing over their products to couriers,' WMS co-founder Hendi Rachmat said Thursday at his office in the trendy Pasar Santa, Kebayoran Baru district.
Such services, Hendi said, were possible because his riders were capable of dodging their way through the capital's messy streets.
'Besides speeding through main thoroughfares, our bicycle messengers know many shortcuts. They can make their way from the easternmost to westernmost parts of Jakarta just within less than two hours,' he said.
WMS services cover all the municipalities of the capital, except North Jakarta. 'This community takes its riders' safety into consideration. Northern areas are deemed too risky for us as huge trucks dominate the streets,' Jeje said.
The community courier, which started with only two bicycle messengers in its early years, currently has 15 riders, including two females. Each of them travels roughly 50 kilometers to reach five destinations every day.
Thus, Hendi said, recruited messengers must have good stamina and a penchant for cycling.
'The most important thing is passion. Without it, you'll likely get bored as you have to ride every single day,' said 38-year-old Hendi, who studied political science at the National University in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta.
Such passion can be seen in Jeje, who has worked as a WMS messenger since the service was first established. 'I even decided to temporarily take time out from my studies so that I could focus on cycling and developing this community,' he said.
With its dedicated riders, WMS has gained the trust of its customers, including a number of international communities. 'Some that currently use our services on a regular basis are the embassies of Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland,' Hendi said.
He hoped that WMS would develop further, saying that although bicycle messengers were actually nothing new, it was the capital's rapidly changing environment that gave them an important role. (alm)