October 31, 2023
JAKARTA – The Jakarta administration is working to replace the bicycle lane dividers in streets across the city with new road markers that it claims will improve the safety and appearance of the specialized lane.
But the move has been met with mixed reactions, with one side claiming the renovations are unjustified given the low number of cyclists in the capital and the other criticizing the replacement for not offering sufficient protection for cyclists.
A video that went viral recently shows Jakarta Transportation Agency officials removing the plastic stick cones used to separate bike lanes from the main road. The video triggered complaints about the rider safety and suspicions that the administration was planning to remove the bicycle lanes altogether.
Jakarta Transportation Agency head Syafrin Liputo claimed last week that the government was simply replacing bike lane dividers that had been damaged by motorists along 13 sections of road across the city. The traffic cones would be replaced by cat’s eyes, reflective safety devices installed on the road’s surface.
The city had chosen the new device for practical and aesthetic reasons, he claimed.
“The cat’s eyes are better in terms of their appearance and the ease of maintenance,” Syafrin said on Thursday, as quoted by Antara.
The agency was seeking to ensure the lanes were in “pristine condition to ensure the safety of the riders”, he added.
For this year, the transportation agency initially allocated around Rp 39 billion (US$2.45 million) to build new bicycle lanes and maintaining existing ones. But it later decreased the budget to Rp 7.5 billion, mostly allocated toward the maintenance, including replacing damaged street cones with cat’s eyes and repainting bike lanes.
In 2020, the city budgeted around Rp 62 billion for the construction of bike lanes across the city.
The Jakarta administration built 313 kilometers of bicycle lanes between 2012 and 2023, according to the transportation agency. The figure has surpassed the 252 km target stipulated in Jakarta’s 2017-2022 mid-term regional development plan (RPJMD).
Urban planning expert Suryono Herlambang of Tarumanegara University welcomed the replacement, noting that few cyclists used the lanes. Using cat’s eyes rather than street cones as dividers would make the lanes more “flexible” and “effective” in terms of lighting during the night, he said.
Yusa Cahya Permana of the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI), on the other hand, argued that the cat’s eyes would expose bicycle lanes to motor vehicles in other lanes, putting the cyclists at greater risk.
Toto Sugito, vice president of the Indonesian Cycling Federation, emphasized the lack of law enforcement surrounding the bicycle lanes, which allowed motorists to enter the lanes and damage the dividers.
“As long as there’s no law enforcement, [changing the cones to cat’s eyes] won’t prevent the motorists from passing through the lane,” said Toto, adding that authorities should start giving tickets to motorists who encroached upon designated bike lanes.
Responding to the agency’s decision not to build more bike lanes, city councilor August Hamonangan of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) said Jakarta had to keep adding more bicycle lanes to fulfill its commitment to building a sustainable city. The lanes could also include a row of trees if necessary, he suggested.
“The policy to remove the bicycle lanes needs to take into account the aspirations of the cycling community and individual cyclists,” the councilor said, as quoted by Antara.
While Jakarta might have built sufficient physical infrastructure for cyclists, said Yusa of MTI, it was important to improve the social relations between road users, as motorists and cyclists were often at odds.
“Authorities need to educate road users about the culture of mutual respect and safety on the road,” Yusa said. (alf)