Saturday, September 15, 2007

An unnatural disaster

The seismic upheavals seem to be quieting in Sumatra, so I'm going to step back and write about a different sort of calamity: Jakarta traffic.

A tight squeeze on Jl. Bendungan Hilir

The concept of "lanes" is viewed as more of a suggestion than a rule here, and vehicles just pack in as close to each other as they can. This bajai (small three-wheeled vehicle) was maybe 4 inches from our bemo (slightly larger three-wheeled vehicle). Motorcycles constantly weave in and out, squeezing through any opening wide enough to fit them -- and sometimes openings that turn out not to be wide enough. I often wonder how long the average side-view mirror survives here.

On a two lane street, with one line of cars in each direction, there is a sort of "shadow" lane right down the middle that may be used for passing in either direction. Of course, if vehicles in both lanes are trying to use it at the same time, things can get a bit tense. Drivers here are pretty aware of what's going on around them, though, and they're generally willing to give way to each other. Plus the traffic is so jammed nobody can go very fast.

Some people say Jakarta traffic will reach total gridlock in 2014. Others maintain that this has already happened.

Election rallies messed up the traffic even more ahead of the August gubernatorial vote


elyani said...

You're very right, Trish! After 13 years living in Jakarta, I feel the traffic is getting unbearable to the point you may want to kill someone if it is allowed by law. The angkot in my area very often purposely block off the traffic coming across from his left and right sides, pushes and squeezes forward from every direction ---not to mention their hellish driving attitude as if you are just a piece of rock---so bad until there is a total mess. Believe me, I pray harder when I am inside the "angkot" than when I am inside the church.

michele said...

and I thought Boston driving was rough... ; )

(the Indonesian drivers you describe sound relatively more polite than your average Boston driver, however).

do you know what the licensing procedure is for drivers in jakarta?

kopisusu2 said...

I do think Americans have more of a tendency to dominate each other with their cars, and to view their cars as an extension of their personal space. Making u-turns and so forth is much easier here, because people let each other cut in. It would be nice, though, if Jakartans would obey red lights more. Some view red lights as optional (kind of like lanes).

And no, I don't know anything about licensing procedures -- perhaps somebody who does can fill us in?

elyani said...

Basically there are 5 procedures to obtain the driving license (for the local) :

1. You must pass the medical test, normally vision test only.

2. You have to buy the forms (forms are not free) and fill them in. If you're new applicant the cost is more expensive as you need to buy insurance as well.

3. You have to pass the driving theory exam.

4. You will have the driving test (on the road) witnesses by the Traffic Police Officer (start, stop, park and reverse etc).

5. If you pass the above 4 points, you will get a mugshot photo taken, get your finger print digitally (in some area outside Jakarta, finger prints are still done on paper and ink), and sign the driving license card.