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Jakarta Post

New Jakarta sidewalks friendly for high heels, not wheelchairs

  • Fachrul Sidiq

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, November 26, 2018   /   09:46 am
New Jakarta sidewalks friendly for high heels, not wheelchairs Safe walk: Pedestrians safely navigate the zebra crossing on Jl. MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta last Monday. (The Jakarta Post/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Stiletto-wearing women rejoice! Female employees, especially those working on the capital’s main thoroughfares, can now proudly strut in their heels on the newly revamped sidewalks.

The Jakarta administration has nearly completed a project to revitalize 6.9 kilometers of sidewalks from Jl. Sudirman in South Jakarta to Jl. MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta. The project commenced this year as part of the city’s facelift to welcome the 2018 Asian Games and Asian Para Games.

The sidewalks are now more spacious, solid and flat. A group of 40 women, along with related officials, were invited for an experiment organized by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) Indonesia on Friday evening to test the new walkways.

The refurbished sidewalks were proven to be comfortable for the women wearing high heels who came with wheeled-suitcases for the test. 

However, those who used wheelchairs begged to differ. They conveyed their objections, saying that the new design did not really accommodate their situation.

“The surfaces to the bus stops are too high. I can’t get there and will still need assistance from someone to push my wheelchair. Well maybe I could do it if I was a male athlete,” 64-year-old Hernawati jokingly said after trying to reach a bus stop near the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta.

The trip started in front of FX Sudirman mall on Jl. Sudirman and went all the way to Sarinah shopping center in Central Jakarta. Sometimes, they walked to test the sidewalks, at other times they used the Transjakarta bus service to see whether they could enjoy the city-run public transportation with ease.

Hernawati added there were still barriers on the sidewalks as well as some uneven surfaces, which posed a challenge for her. 

The walking audit comes against the backdrop of a study commissioned by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), which reveals that women in Jakarta are at high risk of street and sexual violence.

Friendly sidewalks are difficult to find in vehicle-dominated Jakarta. Pedestrians often have to compete with motorcyclists or street vendors on already poor sidewalks. Pro-pedestrian groups have long demanded that the city administration provide more reliable sidewalks to encourage people to walk more.

While those on the main thoroughfares have had a facelift, others across the city have not yet had the same treatment. Many streets do not have proper sidewalks even where there are bus stops for the city’s Transjakarta service.

ITDP Indonesia country director Yoga Adiwinarto said the administration still had much to do to ensure inclusivity for all residents in the capital. 

“There have been some improvements on Sudirman-Thamrin, but what about in other places? The key word is inclusivity. The pedestrian walkways should be made accessible to everyone,” he said.

Riri Asnita, the planning division head at Jakarta’s Bina Marga road agency, acknowledged that sidewalks in the city were not pedestrian friendly. The city aimed to develop 100 km of sidewalks across the five municipalities, she said, without giving further details.

As for the sidewalks on Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin, Riri said her agency would complete the project next year. The sidewalks will also be equipped with bicycle lanes, digital signage and cultural spots that will be a place to showcase art and musical performances. 

Making the sidewalks friendlier is also part of the administration’s attempt to encourage residents to walk and use public transportation when commuting in the congested capital, particularly with the MRT service due to begin operating next year. 

“We expect that when the MRT begins operating, some parts of the revamp of Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin will already be completed, particularly the sidewalks near the MRT stations,” she added.

The MRT service, spanning from Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, is scheduled to begin commercial operation in March.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Nov. 26, 2018, with the title "New sidewalks friendly for high heels, not wheelchairs".