Wed, 02 Aug 2000

Residents applaud court's verdict on 'becak'

JAKARTA (JP): Housewives, motorists and taxi drivers hailed on Tuesday the Central Jakarta District Court's ruling allowing becak (three-wheeled pedicabs) to operate in the capital.

Their support came with reservations, however. They said they were strongly against pedicabs being allowed to operate on main thoroughfares, citing traffic congestion and disturbances to other road users as reasons.

Residents in Kebon Kacang and Bendungan Hilir subdistricts, Central Jakarta, and Jelambar subdistrict, West Jakarta, agreed on Tuesday that pedicabs were still a vital mode of transportation.

"I need becak to take me home after my daily shop here," housewife Sumartin, 35, said at Bendungan Hilir market.

"Becak are more convenient than ojek (motorcycle taxi) because becak can carry more than one person and large bags of groceries," she said.

"Furthermore, becak drivers are very helpful. They will help me load and unload groceries, such as heavy gas canisters, if needed," she explained.

Two women living in housing complex in Jelambar were of the same opinion.

Pedicabs, they said, were very useful for people living in residential complexes even though there are scores of motorcycle taxis.

"It's just more comfortable (to take a becak)," one of the women, Tati, said.

The Central Jakarta District Court ruled in favor of pedicab drivers on Monday, declaring the Jakarta governor's ban on their operation, which was based on the city Bylaw No. 11/1988, unlawful.

The court ruled that pedicab drivers were allowed to operate in and around residential complexes, marketplaces and other selected areas in the capital.

Ibrahim, an executive working at an office in the central business district on Jl. Sudirman, said he liked to use a pedicab to go to his nearby house for lunch.

"It's more comfortable and quieter to take a becak. I can sit down and read my newspaper. It's relaxing," Ibrahim said.

Notary Stella Rumngangun, who drives from her house in Duren Sawit in East Jakarta to her office on Jl. Dewi Sartika, also in East Jakarta, said the presence of pedicabs on the streets of the capital did not worry her.

"As long as they don't operate on the city's thoroughfares it's okay. But if they do, they will surely cause traffic jams because there are already too many buses in the city," Stella said.

She added that pedicabs were essential for people living in housing complexes like her.

"Ojek are available, but you can't expect old fat ladies to take them," Stella said.

Kosti Jaya taxi driver Ma'fud supported the court ruling but, like others, insisted that pedicabs should not be allowed on the city's main roads.

"I remember years ago when becak drivers were operating on the main streets. They used to cause congestion," Ma'fud said.

"But I support the becak drivers. What would they do if they were not allowed to work?" he added.

Blue Bird taxi driver, Aom Ahmad, joined the chorus.

"Becak should be allowed but not outside of residential complexes," Aom said.

"In Bandengan area (North Jakarta), there many becak on the main roads, which is very disturbing because they always jam the streets," Aom added.

Separately, Governor Sutiyoso reiterated on Tuesday that he would continue to round up pedicabs despite the court's ruling.

"As long as City Bylaw No. 11/1988 on Public Order is still in effect, I will continue to hunt pedicabs. Besides, the verdict is not yet final. We have already appealed to the Jakarta High Court," he said.

"All the factions in the City Council are demanding that I settle this problem once and for all," he added.

Separately interviewed, Deputy Governor for Administration Affairs Abdul Kahfi said it would not be easy to amend the bylaw.

"The bylaw is still in effect until it's amended and the city administration will just follow the bylaw," he said on Tuesday.

"Amending the bylaw requires the involvement of the City Council, which is unlikely to amend it easily," he added.

Wardah Hafidz, the coordinator of the Urban Poor Consortium, an NGO which supports the pedicab drivers, said on Monday that there were 54 main places in the city where pedicab drivers wait for passengers and another 460 less popular spots. There are about 7,000 becak drivers in the city, she added. (jaw/nvn)