Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Jakarta Riding

I think I have been riding long enough in Jakarta to say that I am still an amateur and still needs to lessons and more knowledge of the rules and the way the Jakartans ride, drive and generally rush around the gridlocked city.
I think then this will be more of a list of things to watch for as a bike rider.
More importantly as a Western or 'Bule' rider, who rides out often alone through the city in the worst traffic and at the worst times of the day.
The overall message is slow down, ride in a straight line and down zig zag through traffic, dont think you are indestructable and always wear a good helmet.
Groups it is then.

1. Pedestrians
At night becareful when riding through populated areas as children will run around or play sports in front of you
Watch for people trying to cross the road at all times
At night there are little or very inadequate street lighting so be more alert than normal as well its very dark and lights from on coming traffic vary greatly on strength depending on vehicle.

2. Parkirs
Often walk into the road to help cars out of drive ways etc or allow vehicles into drive ways
Recognisable as they are either in blue shirts or they are security men
The guys at busy junctions are directing traffic for cash and are quite useful
At night people wave flashing orange or red night sticks. Useful enough but not the right colour and therefore not visible sometimes until it is too late.

3. Cyclists, Mobile Warungs, Scavengers,
As a rule cyclists cause no trouble and the only issue is when they just turn in front of you, but then everyone does that. People pushing carts want to get by or through and will block the road although through not fault of their own. The same for scavengers.
Watch for the water carts being pushed along as they are incredibly long.

4. Bajais
Orange or blue, no indicators or front lights. The orange ones make far too much noise and belch black cancer forming smoke, learn to hold your breath. The blue ones don't but still do everything else.
They do as a rule give way to motorbikes and most other things but you need to be wary as they turn and stop with no notice.

5. Motorbikes.
Where to start or that finish
Kids on motorbikes are dangerous as they believe they are immortal and go to fast on bikes with too loud mufflers
Kids on motorbikes with other kids even scarier
School kids finishing school and going home are also a menace
Families with 4 or more people on one bike are often cautious, however don't be too alarmed when a whole family go by you at speed with out any helmets and weaving in traffic
People smoking are a menace
People using mobile phones are beyond careless and stupid
Cyclists under bridges in the rain are trying to keep dry but are also blocking traffic.
I think weaving bikers going at speed are the worst though.
or weaving bikers turning left or right from the wrong side of the road with no signal or clue that that is their intention.
Nope, night time bikes with no lights
At night bikes riding at you with no lights
At night bikes riding at you with lights aimed too high
At night bikes with a clear light as the back light and brake so you don't know which way they are going
Now you can start putting some of the above combinations together and well you get the picture.
However most bikers I have met and spoke with ride slow and carefully and are very observant and helpful.

6. Cars (including taxis)
Let them go by if they are in a hurry or go by them if they are not  in a hurry
If they flash their lights at you, you are probably in the way
They are dangerous when they drive at you to cut round queues
They are more often than not wary of motorbikes
Still don't know how or when to indicate though, so that's not helpful
Parkirs help them park so that's good.

7. Mini trucks and trucks
See above

8. Big trucks
Cement mixers, cab and trailers, dump trucks all need either let through or got past safely.
They go fairly slow and don't really get on the small roads
Often have a co driver who makes lots of signals
Big respect to them

9 Minivans (assorted)
No lights
No indicators
Often stop
Go slowly
Wait for passengers in random places
Annoying to be near
However, if you take the same routes often you begin to notice patterns and where they will stop and where they slow down. If you watch you can avoid being stuck behind them when that happens. They normally wait for the people to cross the road as well or are waiting for another fare.

10. Metro Minis and Kopajas
Not my favourite type of transport as they have all the same attributes as point 9 with the additional few, which are;
The produce the same black smoke as bajais but for longer and faster
They go too fast and weave in traffic
They race each other causing jams
They have a tendency to stop
If not on their normal route they go either jet fast or so slow its quicker to walk
They parkup at night in certain places so you need to be aware of people still servicing them etc without any warning

11. Bigger buses
Scary
No manners
Inadequate lights and indicators
Bully other road users to get them moving
Get past them or stay well behind them

12. Long distance buses
They are ok on the toll
In local crowded streets are very long and difficult to get by but overall go slow and take lots more care

13. Police and emergency services
Ambulances will go by quickly but make too much noise
Brown police roll by with all lights on not doing much
Motorbike police on Hondas are local police and so will ignore you
Motorbike police on panelled bikes are traffic cops and wont ignore you
Motorcades should be respected otherwise you can be arrested
Police directing traffic normally ignore motorbikes and let them do what they like but not sure why
Fire trucks scream, let them go by, they have some where important to go and it is amazing to watch them

14. The road
Learn to spot and remember roads, holes, pot holes, missing roads, where puddles form, where roads narrow, bottlenecks, open roads, lumps, bumps, curves etc
Night time in the rain is bad as holes get bigger and full of water
Poor lighting wont help you
Branches in holes is a warning of danger
holes may get filled with ceramics or wood or with too much concrete which means more bumps and lumps
Speed bumps are all shapes, angles and sizes so just go slow

15. Other
Buses, cars etc with tree branches hanging off them have broken down
If stopped by the police, I hope you have a sim and stnk otherwise a bribe or a trip to the police station
In the suburbs more random stops by random policemen
In the city its the same but more professionally down, the menace though is the same
The rules for lights and well maintained vehicles are not followed
Big european cars are great and the drivers are very brave
Puddles form and you need to slow down
If riding in the rain, at 50kph the rain hurts so slow down!
Know your level of riding, be slow and cautious
Try to worry only about what you can in front of you but remember the weaving going too fast riders are never far away
Try not to turn into traffic as its scary
Turning into traffic at night is not easy when facing lots of motorbikes
Ensure the bike is service alot especially brakes
Street kids can spot you at junctions and wont leave you alone
Learn to smile when car loads of people look and stare at the 'bule' on a bike in traffic jams
Consider good insurance
Don't think it wont happen to you, make sure you are sure if enough and concentrating fully so it cant.

For me I find riding through the city enjoyable especially during public holidays as there is less traffic. I enjoy the challenge and chance to see and explore the city, even with everything I have listed. I am sure that there is more but I hope you will have some general idea of what to expect and face.
I have been riding in Jakarta now since March 2008 and have taken time to venture out but now I am more than happy to ride all the way from Tangerang city to Tebet through Dann Magot, slipi and semanngi and from Sunda Kelapa to Kebon Jeruk on a Saturday evening via the Monas.


Happy riding :)
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