Driving into the capital city of Indonesia, I got my first taste of the true Jakarta experience: an unbelievable amount of traffic. Jakarta has very limited public transportation, resulting in roads that are busy at all times of the day. Many commute into the city by train, then take a bus to the various areas of this massive city. The majority, however, drive cars, motorcycles, or take one of the many takis roaming the streets.
For the brave, there are bajaj, a polluting 3 wheeled-devils-on-wheel vehicle. I have yet to attempt one these cart-like vehicles due to the rattling and shaking over the rough Jakarta roads.There is also angkot, a local bus of sorts.
These vehicles are small and known for being jammed full of passengers. Other drivers hate them because of their tendency to stop suddenly to drop off passengers, or squeeze into impossibly tight places between cars. You haven’t really walked around Jakarta until you’ve nearly been run over by one of these.
If you need to get somewhere quick, it is best to take an ojek. An ojeks is a motorcycle taksi that can easily weave around the traffic. You better have your helmet though and have a limb or two to spare!
There are no rules on the road, and only a few places have posted speed limits. Speeding, however, is not an issue, because there are simply too many vehicles on the road to allow speeding. Here the motorcyclist is the king of the road. The small bike allows him to weave around cars and buses and to speed through yellow lights. On rainy days especially, when everyone escapes the monsoon by taking a taksi, a drive that should only take thirty minutes can turn into an hour and a half long trip. A motorcyclist can shorten the trip by queezing inbetween cars, or veering into the right lane to go around the traffic.
Walking is an option for nearby locations, but is otherwise too risky. There is no such thing as yielding to pedestrians, so crossing the street requires some gusto. The sidewalks are crumbly and have a tendency to disappear for stretches at a time. You better bring some good walking shoes, or shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit grimy. Once you’ve walked around Jakarta a bit, you start to have a real appreciation for the custom of taking your shoes off at the door of homes and even some offices.
Compounding the traffic problem even further is the prolonged construction of a subway system. The project has been in the works for years with the completion deadline continually pushed further into the future. To facilitate the construction, the middle of the major roads are blocked off, requiring cars and motorcycles to go around on either side. Hopefully once the project is complete, there will be less traffic on the road. For now though, Jakarta and its' surrounding neighborhoods suffer from the world’s worst traffic and horrific pollution.