Jakarta. From the homeless to street vendors trying to eke out a living, Jakarta’s pedestrians have long learned to share their sidewalks, and with the increasing number of vehicles coming into the city, it may take a while before they will finally be able to stroll along the streets unimpeded.
The number of vehicles in Jakarta and its satellite cities continues to grow every year, with the number reaching more than 16 million in 2013, according to data by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). That compares with the previous year’s number of 14.6 million.
The number of vehicles in the city has been predicted to rise by 9.8 percent this year, according to the vehicle registration and identification unit of the Jakarta Police.
The figures are remarkable when compared with the rate at which Jakarta’s road network expands — at just 0.9 percent — leading many to predict complete gridlock in the city as soon as this year.
The increasing number of the vehicles in the city also affects the peace and comfort of pedestrians, who are already burdened by the mushrooming number of street vendors, in addition to improper sidewalk infrastructure.
Ahmad Safrudin, head of the Jakarta Pedestrian Coalition, told Jakarta Globe that compared with the estimated 7,200 kilometers of roads in the capital, there are only 400 kilometers of sidewalks.
Ahmad said the city administration should be gearing up in anticipation of the growing number of vehicles in the city by providing a well-managed and integrated transportation system in the greater Jakarta area (Jabodetabek) to provide optimal services to residents.
“Transportation should also be integrated with the sidewalks. They should be complimentary,” he said. “With the increasing number of vehicles, facilities such as pedestrian bridges, sidewalks, bicycle pathways, and trees should have also been increased. At the moment, the government does not give enough attention to this matter, but now is the time to plan ahead properly. If there are 7,200 kilometers of road, and there should also be 7,200 kilometers of sidewalks."
Slow growth of road construction
Azas Tigor Nainggolan, chairman of the Jakarta Citizens Forum (Fakta) said the increasing number of vehicles in the city has no relation with the slow growth of the road network in the capital.
“The lack of infrastructure cannot be the reason motorists and parking attendants misuse the sidewalks. That is not the reason,” he said.
Azas added that the increasing number of vehicles in Jakarta and its surrounding areas was a direct result of the failure by the provincial government to provide proper transportation services, which are affordable and convenient for residents to utilize.
“The government’s transportation department is simply not good enough,” he said.
Azas said inadequate law enforcement by officials should also be monitored.
“The wild parking attendants is a phenomenon as a result of the inconsistent law enforcement by officials. This causes the pedestrians to lost their walking rights,” he said. “As a result of the government’s poor performance, pedestrians become victims. They have a daily fight for the right to walk along the streets."
Motorists and motorcyclists along Jalan Setiabudi said they fully understand that sidewalks are essentially for pedestrians only. But most of them admitted that they often use the sidewalks if they want to go to a convenience store or to save time, as parking in designated areas would take too much time.
Some even claim it was simply a habit.
All those interviewed told the Globe that they have never been fined for parking on sidewalks.
Danang Parikesit of the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI) said the misuse of the sidewalks in Jakarta is as a result of poor government policies, which still fail to prioritize pedestrians.
“The United Kingdom has a street hierarchy where pedestrians are the main road users. So, when vehicle drivers break that rule, it is considered a serious violation,” he said. “In Indonesia, on the other hand, we see the opposite. The government barely has a program to build housing complexes near office buildings. If people worked near their homes, it would change their transport patterns."
However, Danang said Indonesia is 20 years behind in providing comfortable public transportation and well-managed facilities that are better integrated.
“We don’t have decent transportation systems. How can we expect to improve it by building more roads to support existing roads. If we have a good public transport system, then we can see whether the road capacity is adequate,” he said. “Basically we also need more open green areas in Jakarta. If there are more roads, the quality of life would likely wane."
To him, pedestrians have fallen victim to the lack of proper policies and of poor law-enforcement efforts in the city.
He cited the lack of strict action taken against traffic violators such motorcyclists that make a habit of driving along sidewalks.
“Jokowi rules that those who jaywalk will be fined Rp 500,000 [$40]. But why isn’t this regulation applied to the motorists who misuse the sidewalks?” he asked, referring the Jakarta governor by his popular nickname. “We should not forget that pedestrians are also road users. I strongly support the enforcement of their right to use sidewalks unimpeded."
An on-duty police official in Tanah Abang, who refused to be identified, told the Globe that the police prioritize their efforts to keep the traffic flowing.
“Who says that we have never fined motorcyclists that drive along sidewalks? If there is a violator in front us, we will immediately act against them,” the police officer said. “However, with the current state of the traffic situation in the capital, the number of personnel is limited and they cannot provide a 24-hour stand-by officer at every street corner."
The officer said he has participated in many public-order activities, but such programs proved ineffective, because after traffic offenders are fined or even jailed for up to 10 days, many would return to their old habits.
“What we really need is the society’s awareness to create better public order. Society and officials should cooperate to achieve that goal. Honestly, we cannot work alone to ensure all of this,” he said.
Sidewalks as business areas
Yayat Supriatna, an urban planning expert from Trisakti University, said the massive number of vehicles that use Jakarta’s roads every day play a significant role in making sidewalks in the capital dysfunctional.
“The road capacity in Jakarta is not sufficient to accommodate the high number of vehicles that spill into the street every day, while the number of vehicles are also continuously increasing,” he said. “In addition, the footpaths in Jakarta are deserted due to the lack of decent public transportation. Seeing that chance, motorists tend to use the sidewalks because ‘nobody’s using it.’ ”
He agreed that the police’s inconsistent enforcement of the law played a major role in motivating motorists to encroach on sidewalks.
Aside from the number of vehicles, he said illegal parking areas also reduced walking spaces.
“Surprisingly, the divers are generally fine with paying these thugs while in fact we are not supposed to pay because it is basically illegal,” he said.
But Abdillah and Marno in Tanah Abang Blok E area said both of them have been working as parking attendants for three years now.
“Each of us makes between Rp 100,000 and Rp 150,000 per day. The income has to be shared with the building owner. We call them “Kantor” [office],” Marno said.
Abdillah added that they are not illegal since they are working inside the area of the shopping building.
“We are officially working here. We have permission from the building management,” he said.
Marno added that it was parking attendants working outside of their area that are illegal, often catering to motorcycles parking on the sidewalks.
Yayat says the only way to prevent parking on sidewalks is by controlling the motorists and acting against illegal parking.
On Tuesday 30 officers of the East Jakarta traffic authorities conducted a raid to clamp down on an illegal parking lot in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, by deflating the tires of 15 motorcycles parked on the sidewalks.
Budi Subiantoro, head of East Jakarta’s Monitoring and Controlling Department, said the raid was aimed at ensuring the free flow of traffic around Jalan Jatinegara and its surrounding areas.
But Yayat said the act of deflating tires was not the desired solution to discipline those parking illegally.
“The action is not and could not really be effective,” Yayat criticized. “It is more important to create awareness among drivers of the importance of sidewalks so that they are informed about pedestrians’ rights,” he said.
Yayat continued by saying that it seems difficult to enforce the law.
The officials, he said, are not firm enough in pursuing and prosecuting those that commit traffic and parking violations. As a result, pedestrians become victims.
“Why it is so hard to fight for pedestrian rights? Why are they not protected? It might be because pedestrians do not pay vehicle tax, but vehicles owners do,” he said.
Commenting on the slow growth of the road network, Yayat said the duty of the government was now mixed with business interests.
“There are national, provincial, and regional roads, but it seems the government would prefer to build toll roads so it can partner with the private sector,” he said. “In my opinion, despite the income from roads and road users, we have to pay more attention to pedestrian rights. We have to realize and maintain those rights. They deserve sidewalks to use in comfort, and safety."