PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION is a never-ending urban problem. One thing, however, has ended, disappeared without a trace: the Jakartan pedicab, which had been wiped out due to some dubious reasons. One thing is clear, though; the pedicabs are a representation of the ineptitude of the government in managing the economy of the country. During the crisis in the 1980s, Governor Tjokropranolo of Jakarta gave more rooms for movements for the pedicabs, and so did Governor Sutiyoso after the monetary crisis in 1998—although the latter immediately rescinded this oral declaration. This is all because the government is unable to give some better job options. Pedicabs might exist, as long as they are not in Jakarta. But the pedicabs are as though as their drivers; after decades of abolition efforts, they still exist, as invincible as Rambo, one of the characters in a 1986 short story by Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Becak Terakhir di Dunia (Atawa Rambo) or The Last Pedicab on Earth (or Rambo).
In terms of their respective tourism policy, Jakarta and Yogyakarta clearly see things differently. To welcome the Visit Indonesia Year 1991, the governor of Jakarta at the time, Wiyogo, had another go at abolishing the pedicab to protect the tourists’ sight. Meanwhile in Yogyakarta, with that very reason plus many interests beyond it, “The pedicabs must be maintained [in Yogyakarta] until our dying days”—as proclaimed by the Mayor of Yogyakarta in 2004, quoted by Yoshi Fajar Kresno Murti in his article in this edition of Karbon journal. The pedicabs have now disappeared from Jakarta but they still exist in Yogyakarta and other Indonesian cities and towns. Yoshi Fajar Kresno Murti enchantingly delineates the journey of the Yogyakartan pedicabs. Ending his essay with a note on the motor pedicabs in Yogyakarta, the writer re-questions his town’s vision for the future in terms of its public transportation.
Returning to the topic about Jakarta—how its grand plan has been created without recognizing the pedicabs—isn’t it better that Jakarta has no pedicabs today? Where would a pedicab driver go today? With or without the pedicabs, the traffic jams of Jakarta will remain and the blueprint for the Jakartan roads are unfriendly not only to the pedicabs but also to all kinds of vehicles and citizens.
The ojek drivers are omnipresent now, and so are the taxis that today exist with varying brands and tariffs—many drivers need money, and many business people need profits. Has the life of the taxi driver changed, however? You can compare today’s condition with the short essay by Seno Gumira Ajidarma republished here. The writer presents there his experiences with, and respect for, taxi drivers. These are also two of the things that Andry Mochamad wants to share to provide some common experience, by producing stickers for passengers to tag good bus drivers in 2001.
We do not cover all means of public transportation, and any new point of view that you might provide is always welcome. In the public transportation system, some things have changed and some things stay the same—just as I describe in my essay about the seating attitude of the passengers on the AC Patas buses, who will not only select where they would sit, but also with whom they want to sit. Such considerations reaffirm how scary the Jakartan roads are for the citizens. This also shows a yet another burden in the effort to improve the quality of the public transportation system: the long time it takes to change the attitude of the people.
Jakarta, 2007. Photo by Ardi Yunanto.