Wed, 03 Dec 2003

Busway lane divider baffles and annoys motorists

Leony Aurora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Mulyono was driving his cab at a steady 60 kilometers per hour near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta. The traffic was light that morning as many people had gone to their hometowns for Idul Fitri.

He stayed on the right side of the road, wanting to go straight at the crossing ahead. Suddenly he saw a 20 centimeter- wide and 20 cm-high cement brick divider on the street and instinctively swung the wheel to the left, worrying that if he did not, he would have to turn around.

Luckily there was no car coming from behind. Otherwise, a serious accident would have been unavoidable.

"I once saw a sedan get caught on a busway divider at around 8 p.m.," said Rastia, another taxi driver. There used to be no signs to warn drivers of its existence, he said. "But eventually they (the government) put up signs."

Mulyono is not the only motorists to have bumped into the busway lane dividers. The victims said the road partition is difficult to differentiate from the road itself, while the signs were unclear.

When The Jakarta Post observed the busway project on Tuesday, several workers were painting the divider yellow on Jl. Sudirman near the Welcome Statue. "We just started painting today," said a supervisor there.

In a bid to make the partition stand out, the paint used is iridescent yellow, said Pristono, head of the traffic technical division at the Jakarta Transportation Agency.

He admitted that there were several minor accidents. However, it was the fault of motorists as the agency had put up signs, plastic barriers and orange-white safety cones to warn them since the beginning of the project, he said.

"Even when there was no separator, people sometimes hit the fence of Jl. Sudirman," he said.

So far, of the whole route, only small segments have already been partitioned, including the strips near the Welcome Statue, near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle and on Jl. Hayam Wuruk.

Two lines marking the asphalt that needs to be cut for the separator were seen along Jl. Thamrin. "The separator along the busway route will be laid by the end of December," Pristono said.

The busway is the Jakarta administration's project aimed at solving the city's chronic traffic problems. It is planned to follow a 12.9-km route from Blok M in South Jakarta to Kota in West Jakarta, passing some of the city's busiest streets like Jl. Sudirman, Jl. Thamrin, Jl. Gajah Mada and Jl. Hayam Wuruk.

The implementation of the Rp 117 billion (US$13.76 million) plan has been delayed several times. January 2004 is its latest completion date.

The road partition is needed to keep motorists from using the bus lane, which takes up approximately one third of the fast lanes on Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin.

Some drivers agree that the partition is necessary. They said that road users could not be expected just to abide by the regulation.

Mulyono, however, has a different view. "Why can't they just use traffic wardens to guard the lane like the ones who watch over the bus lane in Gajah Mada?" he wondered. "That way the street won't be even more narrowed by the road separator."