Picture yourself walking from your office or home to the nearest ATM or minimart on Jakarta’s sidewalks; it would not only be an unattractive picture, it’s also a disconcertingly heartbreaking one. As you dodge a motorcycle on your right, you are faced with a smelly pile of garbage or a street vendor’s cart on your left. In some extreme cases, you might even brush up against another motorcycle on your left side. Jakarta’s sidewalks are a nuisance as it is – being so small in relation to the massive amount of activities and people on them – notwithstanding its structural damages that are hazardous to even the most careful of pedestrians. Such a simple task as walking from one place to another shouldn’t bear a tremendous amount of risk and annoyance.
Many don’t realize it anymore, being long-time residents of Jakarta and accustomed to its ways, but the Big Durian’s sidewalks are infrastructures that are no longer used the way it was meant to when the construction of them first started. What used to be a smooth area designed for walking pedestrians has been transformed into an inconvenient and dangerous walkway, featuring unauthorized vehicles, street vendors and an adornment of potholes. Jakartans are slowly but surely becoming accepting of the sorry conditions of these sidewalks. Most of us lack the resources or determination to speak up on the issue. Enter Safe Steps.
Safe Steps is a campaign by a group of people who are just as fed up as some of us are regarding the user-friendliness of sidewalks in Jakarta. They are speaking up about the issue and are demanding a tangible change. Safe Steps is the brainchild of Count Me In, a volunteer initiative run by the Jakarta Globe. Launched just recently, in March 2013, Safe Steps has planned a year-long campaign demanding improvement on Jakarta’s sidewalks and overall pedestrian life. The good people at Safe Steps believe that this is a cause worth fighting for, as it is beneficial to all layers of citizen. “It’s an issue a lot of people complain on but never do anything about,” said Divya Pridhnani from Count Me In. “And one of the most prominent reasons is the lack of mass appeal. As a media company, we feel it is beneficial to start a widespread public outcry with our large resources and reach.” Other initiatives that have paved the way to triumph on this issue, such as Koalisi Pejalan Kaki (The Pedestrian Coalition) who also started the Carfree Day movement in Jakarta, are now joining forces with Safe Steps.
When it comes to good quality and healthy pedestrian life, the rules are quite clear. The city’s regulation on Article 275-1 of the 2009 UU No.22 states that violators of the functionality of pedestrian facilities are subjected to a fine of Rp.250,000. The next clause goes on to discuss a whopping Rp.50million fine should a public property, such as sidewalks, be damaged and unfit for intended use.
The grave conditions of sidewalks are a result of many factors, namely non-regulation vehicles riding on the structure, natural causes such as rain or maintenance issues, etc. Some sidewalks’ accessibility are also disrupted by piles of dirt, usually next to a plunging hole, as part of ongoing roadwork. As a result of these damages, sidewalk-related accidents and deaths are becoming a real problem – give local newspapers a read and see the number of reported incidents. Such a simple and universal structure, when treated poorly and left unrepaired, are grounds for a lawsuit or worse, accidental casualties.
In conquering the issue, Safe Steps has come up with some ideas that are both realistic and impactful, if not necessary. Starting with damage control, renovating and patching up the sidewalks could be just what the doctors ordered. The repair wouldn’t only be reducing the risk of pedestrians falling over potholes or jumping over gaping pits but will also improve quality of life – Jakarta’s citizens would walk more to get places. This is a two-birds-with-one-stone scenario as more people willing to walk leads to less number of vehicles on the streets. If given the option to walk safely and comfortably on our city’s sidewalks, there could be a significant decline in the use of cars, ojeks or taxis; at least for short trips. We could be manufacturing the first stages onto better traffic conditions – and less pollution – by performing a makeover on broken sidewalks. This is an appeal Safe Steps is making to city officials.
A petition has been started by Safe Steps in order to reach out to governor Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and South Jakarta’s mayor regarding the issue. Their request is for the city officials to fix and transform sidewalks on the streets of Kemang for the better. Kemang is a great example of a busy, bustling street that reflects the productivity of Jakarta; smooth new sidewalks will be beneficial for pedestrians in the area. This will be a representation of what could be if the whole city undertakes a massive renovation project for its sidewalks.
Many streets, even major ones in Jakarta simply do not have this problem, as they aren’t even equipped with sidewalks! Perhaps one was never built, or an existing one isn’t visible anymore due to authorized/unauthorized changes (i.e widening of roads, making driveways that eliminate adjacent sidewalks altogether, etc.). Therefore, Safe Steps points out that the construction of new sidewalks is something worth delving into. At the moment, there is a total of 900 kilometres length of sidewalks all over Jakarta. This covers far too little of the 7,200 kilometres length of Jakarta’s streets in total.
To produce an efficient and productive sidewalk, renovation and construction of new structures aren’t the only venture to undertake; cooperation from the people is also a key ingredient. If the fine is to be enforced, many will think twice before using their motorbikes on sidewalks or crowding the structure with vendors’ carts. Sidewalks were and always will be intended for pedestrians.
“The streets of Senayan, around Plaza Senayan and Senayan City malls are fine portrayals of a well-designed street with ample sidewalks. There’s a visible path and people can walk comfortably there,” Divya pointed out.
Safe Steps invites citizens of Jakarta to create enough ‘roar’ by inspiring the initiation of new petitions for other areas. Their petition for sidewalk renovation in the Kemang area is a kickstart movement, but hopes that a snowball effect will be starting. Safe Steps will be holding various events throughout the year, such as a sidewalk fashion show (May 25) during Carfree Day on Thamrin, a live petition signing on the same day, the making of documentaries and videos on the plight of the sidewalks and many more.
Jakarta is a city with huge potential that could become more feasible as walkability increases. Safe Steps implore you to hold a sense of entitlement on the street’s sidewalks; they are ours, and keeping it nice and tidy will only benefit us. Join Safe Steps in voicing their outcry in order to take the necessary steps towards a walkable Jakarta.
To sign the petition, go to: