Jakarta infrastructure proves need for speed, Motorbikes take biggest hit

A high-profile fatality involving a Ducati motorbike yesterday reminds us that Jakarta is hard hit by infrastructure problems and motorcyclists are taking the brunt of it. Jakarta authorities have been known to address jaws-of-hell traffic dangers after they kill someone. But how often do they try to determine whether the gaping hole is part of a larger accident pattern or infrastructure lacunae, or provide fair warning of known dangers to other bikers?  Instant expat

Maybe there’s a (flawed) assumption that bikers are young males who can’t afford a car. So they’re not going to complain, vote, sue or even spend money. (Maybe this also explains why otherwise well-appointed shopping malls provide motorbike parking only as an afterthought , i.e., very inconvenient to park  a bike at some malls.)

The fact is, if you drive a car then you don’t really know about potholes like bikers do. However, the police ride bikes and even race them. So maybe they could help flag the known killer road traps for the benefit of other bikers.

Because more and more bikers in Indonesia don’t fit the die-hard biker stereotype – like Windi, a young woman who was attending college when she was hit by a bus and died riding a Honda Vario on the Sudirman-Senayan section of the CBD last year.  And Adaro coal exec Andre Mamuaya, who died riding his Ducati moge, or motor gede (“big bike”), on the same stretch yesterday.

Over the recent holiday, Kompas reports 574 traffic causalities nationwide, seventy percent involving motorcycles.  In theory, many of the accidents involved exhaustion. But bikers know there’s a fine line between a tired biker and a big hole in the middle of the road.  And most of the time, the relentless traffic to the rear will force you to cross that line. If you wipe out, the police are simply going to call the ambulance, tell the reporters on hand that your biking skills and state of mind didn’t meet the demanding road conditions, and walk away. They aren’t likely to try to figure out what actually triggered, contributed to and exacerbated the accident.

Andre, corporate affairs director for PT Andaro Indonesia,  was at the rear of a pack other big-bike (motor gede or moge) bikers on a red and white Ducati Sport 1000 S when he tangled with an Innova van about to turn into Plaza Central and collided with a tree on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, his bike slammed into a metal “anti-motorbike post” post in center of the sidewalk.

Certainly the victim owned a ridiculously fast, expensive bike. But what else did he do wrong? This is pure speculation, but didn’t the city recently punch dozens of deep drainage holes into this very section of Jl. Jend. Sudirman?  When was the last time the victim had a chance to go biking and did he know about the “repair” work? Were there any warnings visible to him? What is the speed limit on Sudirman under similar traffic conditions, with almost no cars on the road?

Heart of Jakarta

A bike wreck in college taught me that people don’t feel as sorry for you when you wipe out having fun. That time, it was New Year’s eve and the roman candles my buddy was holding were actually lit. But police quickly concluded that fun wasn’t one of the factors causing the accident. All of those were under the control of the negligent 16-year old attempting to pull his massive pickup truck into a narrow driveway. And, once we got a attorney (on an hourly basis ;  )  his insurance soaked up the costs for the six or seven operations we needed.

In the accident involving the college student in front of Sumittmas building just 12 months ago,  various factors were also involved. Caught between the gaping steel jaws of a mid-street drain and a bus, Windi found herself with less room to maneuver  than expected – or lost control. Bloggers and bikers were unanimous in their assessment that it could have happened to anyone.

Ironically, that particular drain hole was fixed just as dozens or hundreds more were created (as part of an unrelated massive water infrastructure project that saw Sudirman ripped up from end-to-end for months).  The “repair” work was still very much unfinished  (just ask anyone who  rides ) as of last week.  Withered palm leaves protruded from  a hole in the road resembling a cave or mine entrance near where the accident happened.

I transit the CBD most work days and the cops usually encourage me to drive my little Honda Scoopy as fast as I can. (That’s an entry-level motorbike which I believe is supposed to appeal especially to women, BTW, and lots of bikers out there are of course women). Daily flooding caused by faulty auto-sprinklers on the adjacent “green” belt and thick clouds of exhaust enveloping dilapidated buses are two more reasons to make your scooter scoot. In other words, since going slow is probably not an option, what about making the road safe for going normal speed?

Tart of Jakarta

We’d be in bad shape without bikers. The traffic congestion and gasoline subsidies overruns would be much worse. And many fewer people would be able to get to work.  Biking is also fun. What better way to celebrate Independence Day and a car-free Jakarta?


4 responses »

  1. According to the Jakarta Post it wasn’t the state of the roads which killed Andre, but his own recklessness. He hit the bumper of a Kijang Innova which was turning left into Plaza Sentral, was thrown from his bike and his head hit the pavement.

    Wheher that means the kerb of the sidewalk, which is the American version of pavement, or pavement as in road surface isn’t clear.

    It also doesn’t state whether he was wearing a crash helmet, but there is an indication that he was speeding: “Andre was not the only one who loved to race in the empty streets of Jakarta during the holiday, despite the risks.”

    That said, there is no excuse for the state of the roads and the lack of warning signs and barriers connected with road works.

    Finally, ALL motorists, and especially motorcyclists, who overtake on the inside should have their licences endorsed and suspended for persistent traffic law infringements.

    That there seem to be no traffic laws is neither here nor there. Sheer commonsense and road awareness would prevent most accidents – especially on empty-ish roads!

  2. Very thoughtful article about road safety, something that may not be high priority issue to be taken into account by jakarta government.

    Thanks to our fellow blogger-bikers who eventually care enough and willing to speak up their mind and put it on social media, i hope such action will push the government to change their mindset from vehicle mobility to people mobility

  3. thanks Benny! It’s worse in Malaysia where you’re not human until you climb into a (tiny car : ) . . . . but yea, Jakarta’s not very biker friendly. that’s why I think it’s good for more “bos” types to ride bikes = )

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