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“To move this stubborn, unmotivated government, we need to show them our numbers,” Marco said.

Desember 12, 2011

Walk the Streets of Jakarta With Jalan Kaki
Lisa Siregar | December 01, 2011

In a dense city where traffic jams are a part of everyday life, residents must be smart in considering their commuting and transportation options. Unlike metropolises in more developed countries, Jakarta’s street grid lacks organization and isn’t well integrated with its limited public transportation.

Traffic jams, stop-and-go commutes with more “stop” than “go” and air pollution greet those traveling through the city.

The administration’s ideas for improvement haven’t produced results, with failed attempts at a monorail and now a proposed elevated bus system that would cost seven times more than the monorail but only has funding for a fraction of the $500 million price tag.

Just last week, a 55-year-old pedestrian died after falling into an open drain as she walked through the city. Even so, the city administration defended the uncovered drains in the wake of the incident.

It’s tough to walk in this city. Recognizing that Jakarta has failed to improve conditions for pedestrians and getting tired of complaining about the situation, some people have launched an initiative to bring attention to those who choose to walk and offer them rewards for doing so.

Urban planner Marco Kusumawijaya had an idea to encourage people to start walking. He and some friends are currently setting up a new Web site,, to offer rewards for those who use their feet and post pictures of their adventures.

“We plan to work with vendors so people can earn financial benefits by making the most of any walking distance in Jakarta,” he said.

The ultimate goal is to hold themed picture contests once they negotiate deals with various vendors.

Rewards will come in the form of freebies or discounts, but the good deed behind the initiative is to get more people out of cars. According to Marco, the number of people who take public transportation has declined 20 percent during the past eight years and the number of motorbike users has risen 40 percent in the same period.

“This means fewer and fewer people are willing to walk in the city because walking is an integral part of taking public transportation,” he said.

Marco, who has worked in urban planning for more than two decades and is the author of “Jakarta: Metropolis Tunggang-langgang” (“Jakarta: A Helter Skelter Metropolis”), said the rise in vehicle usage was making air pollution worse.

“Only people who walk will help reduce the air pollution,” he said.

Jakartans’ unwillingness to walk is understandable, given how downright hostile the city can be to pedestrians. Malls and hotels, for example, clearly favor those who arrive in vehicles by allotting space for guest drop-off and valet services and providing parking lots, while those on foot can struggle to find a clear path to the door.

What’s more, vendors block sidewalks. To ward off the vendors, many residents and business owners place obstacles, such as large plants, on the sidewalks in front of their establishments. While these sometimes succeed in keeping the illegal vendors away, they also displace those for whom the sidewalks were ostensibly created.

On the streets, car and motorcycle drivers are often hardly bothered to stop for pedestrians, even if the pedestrian is in a clearly marked crosswalk.

“I myself don’t bother to look right and left when I go through a zebra cross,” Marco said.

Marco said his new Web site was about broaching the topic of walking with the public and demonstrating that pedestrians exist and should be respected. It’s the same thing the Bike to Work community has been doing by pushing the government to create bike lanes.

Rangga Panji, Reza Prabowo and Daniel Giovanni are three health-conscious friends who support Marco’s idea.

“I usually take my bike to go around, but sometimes I like to walk,” Rangga said.

For Rangga, the downside of walking in the city is that it takes so much effort. The sidewalk is narrow and uneven.

“Once, I walked from Gatot Subroto to Mampang and somewhere in the middle, the sidewalk was gone,” he said.

Daniel added that this was why people chose the instant solution, such as calling for an ojek (motorbike taxi), a cab or, if they can afford it, a private vehicle. Daniel owns a motorbike, but he often uses the bus to go around the city. He laments the fact that the only good areas for walking are the main roads of Central Jakarta, such as Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin.

“At Fatmawati [in South Jakarta], the sidewalks are not connected, so people can’t walk,” he said.

There is a vicious cycle, Daniel said, of people not walking because there are no proper sidewalks, and the government not working on those sidewalks because they think people don’t like to walk.

“Even between buildings in Senayan [in Central Jakarta], such as near the malls and the sports stadium, the sidewalk is not integrated,” he said.

Reza said that his driver’s license expired five years ago and he does not intend to renew it. He prefers to ride his bike, walk or take public transportation.

“I see that we don’t need driver’s licenses to drive here anyway,” he said. “The whole system, such as law enforcement and easy leasing credit for motorbikes, has created chaos for pedestrians. I don’t want to be a part of it.”

Marco said the situation was a result of a lack of leadership because there were already a laws to protect pedestrians. He notes that if someone runs over a pedestrian in a crosswalk, they can be charged with criminal negligence and homicide. But since the administration doesn’t promote the laws, drivers don’t acknowledge them and show little concern for the rights or safety of pedestrians.

With the Jalan Kaki initiative, Marco hopes to call attention to the numbers of the city’s walkers through photographs they’ve taken during their excursions.

Walkers take pictures of their journeys to a store or event, documenting the trek through pictures of street signs or landmarks along the way.

“To move this stubborn, unmotivated government, we need to show them our numbers,” Marco said.


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