Walk Tall!

Walking Still a Chore in Jakarta

By: Lenny Tristia Tambun, The Jakarta Post

Photo by: The Jakarta Globe

In Jakarta, walking requires vigilance. Pedestrians must continually sidestep gaping holes, street vendors and parked and passing motorcycles.

The Jakarta Coalition of Pedestrians attempted to quantify the hazards of the activity, with the group’s chairman Ahmad Safrudin saying that only 20 percent of the city’s sidewalks were safe for pedestrians.

“For the remaining 80 percent, if there are no street vendors then there are motorcyclists who encroach on the sidewalk so that the walking space becomes even more restricted,” Ahmad told the Jakarta Globe at the Jakarta Pedestrian Festival, held on northern Jalan Sabang in Central Jakarta.

Motorcycle drivers often park on the sidewalks, leaving almost no space for pedestrians, he said.

The Jakarta Pedestrian Coalition is a direct action group established last July to reclaim sidewalks for people who use them to walk.

Ahmad said most sidewalks in the capital were far from pedestrian-friendly and the few stretches of nice sidewalk were those along Jalan M.H. Thamrin and Jalan Jend. Sudirman.

He called on the Jakarta administration to launch a campaign to bring order to the city’s sidewalks so they could be safe and comfortable for pedestrians.

The city must maintain sidewalks not only in commercial areas but also in residential and industrial parts of the city, he said.

Sidewalks should be at least two meters wide and free of hindrances such as electricity posts, he said. They should also be lined with trees to protect pedestrians from the sun.

“What is important is to make them comfortable for pedestrians,” he said.

Yayat Supriatna, an urban planning expert from Trisakti University, said pedestrian walkways should be prioritized in areas where they were used the most and in compact, easily walkable neighborhoods.

One problem impairing the city’s sidewalks was a lack of communication between government agencies, Yayat said.

“They lack coordination and often overlap,” he said. “The only way to achieve good conditions for pedestrians is by having clear coordination between these institutions. Underground drains should also be coordinated well.”

Catharina Suryowati, head of the city’s Parks and Cemeteries Agency, said coordination among city offices had improved.

She said that the city would widen the sidewalks along Jalan Sabang, Jalan Cikini Raya, Jalan Kebon Sirih-Ridwan Sais and Jalan Gajah Mada-Hayam Wuruk to between three and five meters at a cost of Rp 18.75 billion ($2 million). The “model sidewalk” project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, she said.

She admitted that most sidewalks in Jakarta were far from ideal. Besides usually being less than two meters wide, they also were crowded by street vendors and motorcycle drivers.

“Pedestrian sidewalks should be a space that is specifically for pedestrians where they can be comfortable and safe from vehicles,” Catharina said.

One way to ensure this was to make sidewalks higher than the street level, she said.

The Jakarta City Council passed a spatial plan bylaw last year that addressed the sidewalk concerns, but it has yet to be fully implemented.

Wiryatmoko, the head of Jakarta’s urban planning agency, has said the government must overcome major obstacles such as interdepartmental rivalries and a lack of bureaucratic coordination before any real progress can be made in improving sidewalks and enforcing the rules surrounding their use.

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