A friend of mine has just rung me having spent a week in Singapore in what he described as a 3-star hotel. In fact it was a hospital where they inserted struts, rivets, cantilevers and assorted Meccano to repair his broken shoulder. And how come this was necessary? Obvious really. He fell off his motorbike in Blok M. Although it was night, he was alone; it was the rutting in the road that did for him.
He should have known better, but in case you dear reader don't, memorise the following. I'll be posting an interactive test once I can work out how to.
Indonesia's Highway Code
Newcomers to Jakarta are generally bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the seeming chaos on the roads. However, understanding that all drivers throughout Indonesia follow the same rules to varying degrees should make driving easier.
Here are a few simple guidelines to follow:
Four-wheeled vehicles usually have steering wheels on the right. This means that they generally drive on the left side of the road unless there is a white line painted on the road surface.
This functions like a monorail; keep your tires equidistant each side of it.
If you are a motorcyclist, then try to drive along it.
That bus stopped in the outer lane of a toll road (jalan tol
) isn't parked and nor has it broken down. It is letting off passengers.
If a vehicle hits yours, then remember that the other driver is at fault.
Unless his vehicle is bigger.
You've heard that street crime is rampant, so do not stop for any pedestrians, especially those trying to use a pedestrian crossing.
If you do run over a pedestrian, then drive on. There are lots more where that one came from.
If you do decide to stop, don't. You could get lynched by the deceased pedestrian's friends, relatives and anybody else within the vicinity, i.e. a range of a kilometer or two.
There are frequent power cuts in Indonesia, so save electricity by not using your indicators.
However, if you are affluent, then Christmas is everyday so feel free to illuminate your car like a Christmas tree, especially in daylight hours. Also, use your emergency lights, the left and right indicators, to show you intend to drive straight ahead.
When approaching a road junction flash your headlights and drive straight on. That way, you'll reach the traffic jam (macet total
) much quicker.
Do not stop at intersections. See 3 above.
Parking is easy.
If you can find a space on a sidewalk unoccupied by street stalls (warungs
), trees, telephone or electricity poles, advertising boards, and without holes, use it. Oh, and drop us a line about its location.
Leaving that space and joining the traffic is easy. There is always someone with a whistle and the familiar street mating call of kiri
(straight). You can safely ignore these cries; most drivers do, but be generous with those Rp.1,000 notes. You will be helping to keep hoodlums off the streets. Or, in this case, on them.
A special rule operates for special functions such as weddings and the annual celebration at the H.Q. of the traffic police. You can use three of the four lanes for parking. No permit or notification is required, and local people can be hired to redirect you through the back streets and alleys (gangs
Slightly different rules apply to motorcyclists.
This means of transport is convenient for the whole family. Your 3-year old can sit on your lap and your wife can ride side-saddle behind you whilst breastfeeding your newborn.
Any motorcycle, especially a cheap Chinese 90cc one, is versatile enough for commercial use. You, or your pillion passenger, can comfortably carry 50 live chickens and/or 3 televisions and/or plate glass for your shop window and/or 100kg of used plastic bottles. If you don't have a pillion passenger, place the load on the back seat, drape it over the rear wheel and tie it securely to the exhaust pipe with that colorful plastic twine.
Do not wear a crash helmet; otherwise you cannot smoke a clove cigarette (kretek
) or use your handphone.
If you see someone leaving a bus or car stopped by the curb, do try to squeeze through the gap. It will save you a lot of time. In fact, any gap in the traffic is yours for the taking.
When available, use the sidewalks. (See Parking 1 above)
Carry an umbrella in case it rains.
Special rules apply during the rainy season.
. Use your umbrella to keep your kretek
and/or handphone dry.
Drive as usual along the white lines with no lights on.
Park anywhere on the road under a footbridge.
If you cause a traffic jam, do not worry. At least those car drivers who cannot squeeze through the one remaining lane are dry.
There are no parking rules for motorcycles.
Rules for pedestrians.
Use your handphone so you do not have to give way to other pedestrians.
Never walk alone. It is best to walk three abreast, slowly. That way it is not you who has to step into the path of motorcyclists. (See Motorcyclists 4 above)
When waiting for a bus or taxi, form a crowd. There is safety in numbers.
Always cross the road near a pedestrian crossing or footbridge. Flapping your hand by your side is sufficient to warn on-coming cars and buses about your intention to walk in front them. They usually stop, although motorcycles don't. (See Motorcyclists 4 above)
Do not think of using the sidewalks. (See Parking 1 above.)
Have a safe journey.