Yesterday, following on from the experiences in the kampongs, we were introduced to quite a different side to Jakarta. A day spent was spent with also another very welcoming family. They were a long time married couple who lived comfortably in retirement. Their adult children had each begun their own lives away from home by now and so during leisure time, the husband enjoys playing badminton with friends or learning the keyboard. The wife heads to the traditional markets and together, they often volunteer their time to religion. It was yet again another stark contrast.
In our interdisciplinary team made up of Tom (Business), Alex (Occupational Health) and myself (Engineering/Architecture), we were treated to such good hospitality in their homes and given a private audience with each of them, Walter and Linda, for a few hours in order to talk to them about Jakarta's traffic problem. Very early upon meeting them that day, it was clear that being elderly citizens in this rapidly growing and transforming city had its challenges. Even though they were socially and economically better off than the families visited in the kampongs, there was still an overarching theme; Jakarta's rapid urbanisation and congested infrastructure is failing to support its people. Transportation is such an inherent part of daily life here, and the perpetual gridlock chocking the road network will cripple any family's daily life regardless of income or social class.
The interviews with Walter and Linda went smoothly despite our initial lack of direction. Drivers' negligence and lack of knowledge of road safety quickly became a prominent topic of discussion with Walter. Having been a driver on Jakarta's system for over 30 years, he was very keen to point out that there was an increase in unlicensed drivers on the road. With this increase, his own perceived level of safety whilst driving decreases, but he travels the nonetheless because the 'motorbike is my legs'.
After that comment, the conversation dived into road and traffic safety. It was revealed that drivers in Jakarta, though officially required to pass a driving skills test (one too difficult for most to pass), had other 'methods' of getting their licenses. So as a result, a large portion of drivers on the streets have very little to no knowledge of local road regulations, compounding onto the congestion issue by making the roads hazardous for other drivers.
I see it as a vicious cycle. Like Walter's dependence on his motorbike for mobility, most people in Jakarta need to use the transport network in their daily lives. But as most lack safe driving skills and knowledge of road regulations, officially obtaining a license is a hard task to achieve. The easiest solutions? Pay someone on forego the paperwork and tests or simply become an unlicensed driver. The sense of lawlessness or lack of law enforcement may have been a factor in kick starting this culture of reckless driving.
Together, these two vastly differently experiences confirmed this; Jakarta is a multifaceted city with a very unique but complex dynamic between its rapid urbanisation and its capacity to provide for all. It is so clear that transportation is a large part of almost ever body's livelihoods, whether families were from the poorest of slums, or just average people. But the built environment is not made for Jakarta's population. So many external factors are stacked up against everyday road users in feeling safe everyday.
Is there something our University can do on a humanitarian or even academic stand point to break this social norm? It obviously affects millions of road users in Jakarta. United Nations forecasted that if no actions were taken to reduce road fatality rates in this coming decade, it would quickly become one of the top five leading causes of death in Indonesia.