New laws requiring disabled pedestrians to wear traffic signs have met with frustration and derision in Indonesia, where in the eyes of the law cars have taken priority over people.
The laws will do nothing to improve road safety or ease the traffic that is choking the life out of the capital city of some 12 million people, and serve only to highlight official incompetence, analysts said.
Within five years, if nothing changes, experts predict Jakarta will reach total gridlock, with every main road and backstreet clogged with barely moving, pollution-spewing cars.
That’s too late for the long-awaited urban rail link known as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which has only just entered the design stage and won’t be operational until 2016 at the earliest.
‘Just like a big flood, Jakarta could be paralysed. The city’s mobility will die,’ University of Indonesia researcher Nyoman Teguh Prasidha said.
Instead of requiring level footpaths and ramps, lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won’t run them down as they cross the street.
Experts say the new traffic law is sadly typical of a country which for decades has allowed cars and an obsession with car ownership to run rampant over basic imperatives of urban planning.
‘It is strange when handicapped people are asked to carry extra burdens and obligations,’ Institute of Transportation Studies (Instran) chairman Darmaningtyas said.
‘The law is a triumph for the automotive industry. It’s completely useless for alleviating the traffic problem.’ The number of motor vehicles including motorcycles in greater Jakarta has almost tripled in the past eight years to 9.52 million. Meanwhile road space has grown less than one percent annually since 2004, according to the Indonesian Transport Society.
‘Traffic congestion is like cancer,’ Institute for Transportation and Development Policy specialist Harya Setyaka said. ‘This cancer has developed over 30 years as Jakarta begins to develop haphazardly beyond its carrying capacity.’ A 2004 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency found that traffic jams cost Jakarta some 8.3 trillion rupiah (822 million dollars) a year in extra fuel consumption, lost productivity and health impact.
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Indonesia’s Traffic Nightmare