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Car-Free Day Jakarta

June 17, 2011

Photo courtesy of Rokimas Soeharyo

This past Sunday I meet up with my old college friend from the University of Michigan, Rokimas Soeharyo, to attend Car-Free Day in Jakarta. The event occurs twice a month in which certain roads are closed to motorized traffic, and thousands of people come out to bike, walk, skateboard, and socialize in the streets of the city.

The night before the event I was with a friend of mine as she scrambled to borrow a bike from a friend in order to join her office on their ‘bike to eat’ event, where they biked as a group to a restaurant for breakfast, and then biked from there to another location for lunch.

This is just one of the many ways people have chosen to participate in the event, joining families, friends, and other groups, ranging from serious bike enthusiasts to those that just want to come out and socialize, eat the wide range of street food available, watch magicians perform, or listen to the live reggae band on the stage that has been set up on the street. A local television celebrity challenged a crowd to participate in a game for his show, and a government-run mobile health unit provided people with free health screenings and medication.
(Photo courtesy of Rokimas Soeharyo)

People came from along over Jakarta to participate in the event. The four youth pictured below traveled 1.5 hours on their fixed gear bikes from Bekasi, a town on the eastern border of Jakarta. They have been riding fixed gear bikes for two months because they are trendy and stylish, and make the trip every two weeks to enjoy the energy of being around like-minded people.

Some critics have accused the event of not doing enough, saying that closing a few roads from 6am – 12pm two days a month has little effect on carbon emissions and pollution. However, after being out in the street and feeling the energy of the crowds I can say I am a huge supporter of the event, believing that the impact is not isolated to the two days a month, but carries over into the rest of peoples lives. This event has encouraged countless people to purchase their first bikes and introduced them to the joys of riding. Unfortunately, this is the only opportunity most have to get out and ride their bikes in the heavily congested city.

I think that Car-Free Day is just the start and that Jakarta will see a greater push to create a more equitable city for pedestrians, bike riders, and the environment. The idea has already been picked up other places, with Car-Free Days occurring in Bandung, Semarang, and other Indonesian cities.


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  1. mansi permalink

    what a cool event! if only the streets of delhi could look like this sometime …

  2. Roki permalink

    Thanks for inviting me along! I truly had so much fun that day. We should do this again when you get back to Jkt.

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