Traffic congestion in Jakarta: a logistical problem or a \’wicked\’ one?

Here is an interesting article published in the Guardian Weekly for bicycle commuters struggling with traffic congestion as I do in Jakarta: Return of the Bicycle Kingdom? How pavement cycling is transforming Taipei. It mentions that  ‘In Taipei authorities have taken the unusual step of legalising cycling on almost 400km of city centre sidewalks …. Taipei is also tripling its network of cycle lanes to cover around 190km over the next three years.’ The result? ‘Six of seven years ago few cyclists were seen in the city, now around 5% pf journey are taken by bike. That’s around the double than London’

The mayor of Taipei says: ‘We want to be a cycle-friendly city, but we are not trying to be Amsterdam of Copenhagen … There are too many scooters and motorbikes at the moment and it is too dangerous to ride on the road with them …. We want people to make cycling part of their lives and be able to combine cycling with the metro and buses for the ‘last mile’ of their journeys. We want to tell car and motorbike users that there is a smarter way to get around’

I live in Jakarta and commute to work by bicycle. Seven km going to the office. Eight km coming back home.  The city administration is trying to solve a traffic congestion problem which sees insurmountable.

A Mass Rapid Transit system is under construction but it is unsure whether it will make a marked difference in the intense flow of motorbikes and cars, particularly at peak hours.

There has been a pilot to temporarily suspended the 3-in-1 rule which required a car to have a minimum of three occupants on main roads at peak hours. According to the Jakarta Post:  \’The planned revocation of Jakarta\’€™s three-in-one traffic policy is expected to worsen congestion in the capital if the Jakarta administration cannot come up with a backup plan.\’

Few weeks ago a new pilot has started allowing cars with odd and even number plates on alternative days along Jl.Sudirman, one of the main arteries of the city (City mulls odd-even license plate policy). Data are being collected as to whether the pilot is helping reduce traffic congestions, but it has been reported that a high number of drivers are simply ignoring the rule.

While I ride my bicycle to work,  I dream of a Jakarta with more cyclists. I dream of bicycle lanes that are protected from the road traffic. I dream of bicycle traffic jams, instead of the motorbikes and cars chocking the streets. I dream of standing at traffic lights side by side with other cyclists waiting for it to turn green. It is just a dream. I rarely see other cyclists and when I do, we ring the bell or give a thumb up as a sign of solidarity.

I also wonder whether traffic congestion in Jakarta is a problem that can be solved by studying solutions adopted elsewhere (e.g. Bogotà) or whether it is an intrinsically \’wicked\’ problem which needs to be solved by understanding the politics around vehicle registration, constructions, etc.

In the meantime very little or nothing is done to help and encourage more people to take their bicycles and commute safely to work while traffic congestion is believed to costs 5bl USD each year to the economy.

What is the way forward?



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