Biking in the Metropolis

Biking in the Metropolis
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It is heartening to see an increasing number of bike-parking facilities around the metropolis. Bike racks have recently been spotted at the Aksara book store in Kemang. Another lot have popped up at Plaza Indonesia’s southeast gate. Pondok Indah Mall has reportedly joined the trend. The city’s cyclists are keeping track of the phenomenon on the crowd-sourcing Web site And, of course, our diligent Tweeters are on the pulse, with a recent Tweet reporting a new set of racks at Pejatan Village (this “village” is just another mall, right?). Malls, it seems, are always the quickest to respond to all our “needs.” The sudden appearance of these bike racks really is an iconic example of how capitalism via consumptivism, the ideology of compulsive consumption, is always capable of transforming itself to respond to any criticism or demand. This is the opinion of my friend, Suryono Herlambang, a professor at a planning school in West Jakarta who has been studying the city’s malls for the past five years. Among his discoveries, Suryono has found that many of Jakarta’s malls have Floor Area Ratios (FARs) that are higher than those sanctioned in the original plans approved by the city, before these plans are “revised” to suit requests from developers. Bike-parking facilities in Kemang could really reduce car traffic along the main street. Those who live nearby could refrain from using their cars just to shop or go for a meal at the area’s shops or restaurants. Of course, there is also the possibility that some would still say, “I don’t want to bike, because I don’t want to inhale the emissions from all those cars and metrominis!” The malls are providing bike racks because they want to entertain their clients. What about governments? Shouldn’t they “entertain” their tax-payers? Why can’t we have bike racks in all public buildings? Of course, our government should also start seriously planning bike lanes. I emphasize the word “seriously” because I think cycling is a serious solution for our common future in a world of finite resources. Some cities around Indonesia have started hosting en-masse biking events for fun on the weekends. Many people join in because they think it is cool and trendy. Of course, if cycling is only taken up for recreational purposes, it is not going to save the earth. But it could be a good start. Perhaps governments are hesitant to encourage cycling because they think their tax revenue will be reduced if people buy and use less cars. But what about taxing cyclists, like the colonial government did all those years ago? Putting a tax on cycling would mean a new “contract” between citizens and their governments. I wouldn’t mind paying tax on my bike if I knew the revenue would be earmarked for environmentally-friendly projects. Less cars could also mean reduced infrastructure and health care costs. In the meantime, all kinds of new businesses would begin to emerge. For example, Jakarta’s bike shops, which had almost totally disappeared five years ago, are now re-emerging en masse with the cycling trend. It seems that the transition toward sustainability is not about reducing consumption, but about substituting harmful consumption for more positive purchases. by Marco Kusumawijaya Source: The Jakarta Globe

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