Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Car-free day ignored due to lack of publicity

Leo Wahyudi S, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

This year's Jakarta Car-Free Day turned out to be a flop on Sunday as many private cars continued to use the slow lane on Jl. Sudirman, which was designated the city's only car-free road.

Director General of Land Transportation at the ministry of transportation, Iskandar Abubakar, who attended a talk held in conjunction with the car-free day at the Hotel Indonesian traffic circle on Sunday, said that the campaign by environmental activists here had not been successful due to a lack of publicity.

Many private cars continued to travel between the Youth Movement statue in South Jakarta up to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta despite the fact that Jl. Sudirman was supposed to have been car-free from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sunday.

"Should the campaign have been publicized in advance, I am sure it would have been successful," Iskandar said.

He also said that many members of the public lacked awareness of the need for cleaner air in a polluted city like Jakarta.

But at least it was a good start at raising public awareness of the environment, he added.

Kuki Soejachmoen, from the Pelangi foundation, one of the organizers of car-free day, also admitted that the public response to the campaign had been worse than expected.

"The relatively short time for preparation and limited area designated as being car-free has partly contributed to the campaign's failure," Kuki said.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, Swisscontact, the Joint Committee for Leaded Fuel Phase-Out (KPBB), Pelangi, Sustran, Mateks, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), and university-based environmental organizations jointly organized the campaign, which was aimed at helping ensure fresher and cleaner air in Jakarta.

In recognition of car-free day, the activists called on city residents to reduce the use of private cars and employ other transportation means such as public transportation and non- motorized vehicles.

The latest data shows that Jakarta has four million private cars and motorcycles, 5,411 large buses, 4,981 medium-sized buses and 11,848 public minivans, which ply a total length of 6,500 kilometers of road.

Iskandar roughly calculated that the ratio stands at 100 private cars for every 42 people in Jakarta. "The ratio is very high," he said.

However, University of Indonesia lecturer on transportation management Jack Sumabrata added that the problem did not concern the ratio or banning the use of private cars.

Compared to advanced countries, the ratio of residents to private cars in Indonesia was relatively low, he said. "But they're aware about the need to limit the use of private cars."

"People never think of using environmentally friendly transportation such as bicycles as an alternative means of transportation," Jack said.

We should campaign so that public transportation and non- motorized vehicles are made the top priority instead of private cars, he said.

"The city administration should provide more space for environmentally friendly vehicles," he said, citing that three- wheeled pedicabs, bicycles and the provision of safe sidewalks were among the alternatives available for reducing the use of private cars.