Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Joggers protest closure of Thamrin-Sudirman roads

Damar Harsanto and Muninggar Sri Saraswati The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Those who used to jog and exercise along Jakarta's main arteries of Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta are angry about Governor Sutiyoso's decision to close the roads to all Sunday sports activities.

"The argument to close the roads is nonsense. It seems that the administration favor parks more than the people's need for open spaces," Rima, 27, an employee at a private company on Jl. Thamrin, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Rima was referring to the administration's failure to provide open spaces and parks for residents, forcing them onto the streets for exercise.

"It's only once a week for a couple of hours, while the roads are empty so motorists aren't disturbed .... Maybe people damage the median strips (along the roads), but I don't think it's a big deal and can be easily fixed by the parks agency," Rima said.

Anita, 30, a graduate student at a state university, also said the new policy was "ridiculous".

"Jakarta residents are the taxpayers, they pay taxes for the roads too, so they deserve to enjoy them. It's completely unfair because corrupt administrations have never provided proper facilities for the public. Now, tell me, where do they think people will go to exercise?" Anita asked.

Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman, which normally are crowded with joggers and other Sunday morning exercisers, were quiet yesterday.

The administration said it would deploy public order officers to ensure people stayed off the streets, but the Post saw no officers along the streets at about 8 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, city spokesman Muhayat said Jakartans who wanted to exercise should go to the National Monument (Monas) park.

"Instead of the closed arteries, we have provided Monas. So, people have alternatives for exercise," Muhayat said.

The spokesman said the new policy was necessary because joggers were damaging the median strips and wire fences that run along Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman.

However, Muhayat said the policy was subject to evaluation, "as happened when the administration allowed the roads to open for sport activities in the first place".