Jakarta. Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said on Monday (15/01) he will allow becak — the capital city's once beloved pedicab that has been officially banned from its streets since 1990 — to roam the city again but only in its busy kampung areas.
Becak was officially banned from Jakarta in April 1990 by the city's then governor Wiyogo Atmodarminto. Some of the pedicabs, however, kept operating in kampungs or residential areas around the capital.
For a brief time after the Asian economic crisis in 1998, the capital's governor, this time former army general Sutiyoso, even officially allowed becak back in the city.
Jakarta's illegal becak drivers admit they always worry of being rounded up by the city's municipal police, Satpol PP.
"I'll be very happy if becak is allowed to operate again officially. We don't have to worry about the Satpol PP anymore," said Suwatno, a 54-year-old becak driver who drives his pedicab around the Rawa Badak market in North Jakarta.
"I can get Rp 20,000 ($1.5) to Rp 40,000 every day from driving my becak. I can probably earn more if becak is made legal," he said.
The three-wheeled pedicab with seating at the front is popular with housewives who do their daily shopping at traditional markets since it can fit more shopping bags than ojek, or motorcycle taxi.
"Housewives love becak since they can carry more groceries. That's why there's still plenty of us at traditional markets in North Jakarta like Lontar and Uler markets," said another becak driver, 36-year-old Aris.
Speaking at City Hall, Governor Anies said he has been made aware that becak still operates in some parts of Jakarta, especially in the kampungs.
"That's the reality. People in our kampungs still use becak, that's why we want to regulate them, to make sure they stay in the kampung," Anies said.
"We don't want becak on the main roads, that will only make traffic worse," he said.
Anies said all Jakartans have equal rights when it comes to accessing public transportation, including those who still want to use becak for shorter trips.
Transportation analyst Azas Nainggolan said the idea to allow becak on Jakarta's streets again is a good one but the new regulation should provide clear limits where the pedicab can be used.
"Becak as a vehicle still has that human touch, and it's environmentally friendly," he said, pointing out that according to his research the pedicab is especially useful — and popular — for shorter trips in residential areas.
He also recommended becak as an attraction at the city's tourist spots. "Several years ago we did have becak in Ancol, and it was a hit with visitors," Azas said. Ancol is a popular beach in North Jakarta.
"The city council will have to make sure reintroducing becak to the city will help people, not make life more difficult," he said.