A few weeks ago Governor Sutiyoso proposed an idea of banning motorcyclists from Jalan MH Thamrin, Jendral Sudirman and HR Rasuna Said in response to allegedly increasing motorcyclists’ contribution to the traffic problems in the capital. The idea came up after deliberating the uncontrolled increase of motorcycles in Jakarta that may create inconvenience for Jakartans. The city government was trying to prevent the dominance of motorcyclists in the streets. They did not want to see Jakarta as Hanoi in which motorcyclists dominate the streets.
It is clear that the increase of motorcycles burdens the capacity of streets in Jakarta. The growth of street development could not keep up with the growth of motorized vehicle ownership in Jakarta. The growth of street length is only 1-2 percent annually. On the other hand, motorized vehicle ownership grew by around 15 percent per year. The high rate increase of motorized vehicle ownership was primarily caused by the increase of motorcycle ownership.
One way to reduce the burden of street capacity is to convert the use of private transport to public transport. Do we have public transport which is accessible, affordable and highly connectable for working class in metropolitan Jakarta? I doubt it and this is the cause why we have increasing number of motorcycles in Jakarta. Some friends told me that the working class who live in the fringe areas could save as much as 30 percent of their transportation cost when they use motorcycles to work rather than multi-modes public transport.
Let me reveal some positive perspectives of increasing number of motorcycles in Jakarta. The phenomenon of increased number of motorcycles is an evidence of the ability of working class to meet their transportation needs. It is good sign for accelerating economic growth. Automotive is one significant sector of consumption variable in GDP. The consumption variable contributed 64 percent of Indonesia’s GDP in 2005. As we are still recovering from the economic crisis, the working class has been able to meet their transportation needs and contribute to the economic growth.
As the number of motorcycles grows we should anticipate its positive multiplier effects to our economy. I could say here that we will see more motorcycle dealers, finance institutions that provide financing for motorcyclists, motorcycle mechanics and increasing needs of helm, jackets, sunglasses, etc. We should pay attention to anticipate these positive effects for the sake of our economic growth.
The uses of motorcycles in Jakarta also demonstrate the sacrifices of working class to commute in an inconvenient way. Driving a motorcycle needs more energy than riding on public transport. It is even worse when the weather is bad. We should give motorcyclists credit for their sacrifices.
In addition, I acknowledge the negative impacts of increasing motorcycles. The accident exposures on motorcyclist grew by 25 percent per year in the last three years. This figure is much more than that of cars. There were 1,128 fatalities of traffic accidents in Jakarta in 2006 and 857 of those were motorcycle-related. The primary causes of the accidents include bad motorcyclists’ attitude in riding motorcycles, technical problems and poor law enforcement.
I would argue that in next five to ten years we need to accommodate the growth of motorcycles while we are developing public transport system. We need to develop a metropolitan transportation system which designates motorcycles as one main component of transportation modes along with automobiles and public transports. The idea of banning motorcycles from main thoroughfares is not a right solution. It will not reduce the negative impact of increasing motorcycles. Instead, it will relocate the impact. It will cost motorcyclists more expenses to get to work and impair economic growth.
Alternatively, I would argue that the policy of compulsory left lane for motorcyclists along designated city roads in Jakarta is a good solution. It still accommodates motorcyclists while providing safer traffic for all street users.