To Beat Jakarta's Gridlock, Get On Your Electric Bike

Patrick Anderson, with Australian Volunteers International, offers ten steps for the government in Jakarta to take to easy city's traffic congestion, including use of electric motors on bicycles.

Published: 05-Feb-2008

Jakarta has enough roads to transport all its road users at a comfortable 30 to 50 km per hour.

Everyday, more than three million residents reach their destinations without being stuck for hours in traffic jams.

This residents make up more than half of the private vehicle users on Jakarta's roads but take up only one fifth of the road space.

In energy terms their travel is as efficient as using the busway.

Their vehicles take them door-to-door at only one tenth of the cost of a car to purchase, maintain and refuel.

Simple changes could make it easier for them to travel more comfortably, safely and quickly to their destinations and would encourage more people to leave their cars at home.

I am referring, of course, to motor bikes.

Encouraging more bike use is undoubtedly the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to ease traffic congestion and move masses of people around Jakarta.

Here are 10 steps the government could take to promote mass rapid transport based on two-wheeled vehicles.

Dedicated bike lanes. Providing dedicated bike lanes has been shown around the world to be the best way to get people on to bikes and out of cars.

Such bike lanes are usually for bicycles, but in Jakarta they would be for all two-wheeled vehicles.

Bike lanes in Jakarta should be established on roads with two or more lanes of traffic each way. Other vehicles may turn across bike lanes but may not stop on or drive along them.

Bike riders may still use the rest of the road if the bike lane is congested.

The key to making bike lanes work will be improving and creating pedestrian paths next to the bike lanes for those who currently walk and push carts along Jakarta's roads.

Bikes on busways. The busways have increased traffic jams in Jakarta. Even with a bus arriving every five minutes and carrying 100 people, a one kilometer section of busway can only move 1,200 people an hour.

The same lane full of cars, each with two people in them, spaced 20 meters apart and traveling at 20 km an hour can move 2,000 people an hour.

The same lane full of motorbikes can move more than 10,000 people an hour.

The busway lanes should be made accessible to motor bikes, but not to cars.

Bikes could also be allowed to travel on the shoulder lane of toll roads within the city, for a fee of say Rp. 1,000.

Motor bike taxis. The current informal system of ojek or motorbike taxis helps hundreds of thousands of people to get around the city each day.

There is a business opportunity for the creation of motor bike taxi companies or cooperatives that provide a higher quality and longer distance service: ordering by phone; clean, quiet and reliable motor bikes; insurance for passengers and their belongings etc.

Cleaning up air pollution. Air and noise pollution discourages the public from riding motor bikes.

One third of the three million motor bikes in Jakarta use two-stroke engines, as do bajaj, and these vehicles generate more smoke and noise pollution than all the other bikes and cars in Jakarta combined.

The government should phase out registration of two-stroke motors.

In the last five years, Bangkok and New Delhi have phased-out two-stroke motor vehicles -- and today in those cities you can see the same bajaj that pollute Jakarta streets running quietly and cleanly using gas powered four-stroke engines.

Catalytic converters. Jakarta phased out lead in petrol in 2003, so its vehicles can now use catalytic converters, which reduce carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide pollution by more than 90 percent.

Catalytic converters are available for petrol and diesel engines as well as for motorbikes.

The city should only allow the registration of cars, trucks and motor bikes that have installed catalytic converters.

Electric motor bikes. Indonesia already manufactures electric motorbikes. These vehicles are perfect for city conditions, as they are cheap, quiet and clean.

Models I have seen cost around five million rupiahs and can travel 60 kilometers between recharges.

Redirecting Investment Plans. The planned one billion dollar investment in a Mass Rapid Transit subway system - which if built by 2014 will only move 400,000 people a day along a 14 kilometer track - could instead fund the purchase of two million electric motor bikes.

That would be the basis for a real Mass Rapid Transit system.

Government policy and procurement. Jakarta's government needs to develop a policy framework to support greater bike use including the above measures.

Jakarta's officials should become the vanguard of the movement to get people out of cars and onto motor bikes.

The city governments' vehicle fleet should prioritize purchase of electric motor bikes.

Bike Champions: These simple and easy steps need champions; community leaders who are willing to be advocates for a mass and rapid transport system based on motor bikes.

Fauzi Bowo, are you ready to jump on an electric motorbike and drive Jakarta out of gridlock? -- Patrick Anderson.

The author is a volunteer with Australian Volunteers International. He travels Jakarta by ojek, bicycle, taxi, car, train, bus, public van and the busway.

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