One of the most infuriating noises in our street is the bajaj
(pron.ba-jai). Manufactured in India
, these three-wheeler people conveyors have been on Jakarta's streets for nigh on 30 years.
They are cramped, smelly and noisy, yet, apart from motorcycle taxis (ojeks
), are the only means of 'public' transport in the back streets of the city.
For a number of years the city government has tried to phase them out
, lately with a four-wheeled vehicle called the kancil
. I think I've spotted just three since their introduction over a year ago.Is taking a ride in a kancil more comfortable than a bajaj, one may ask.
Two popular jokes on bajaj need to be remembered: The brakes of a bajaj are on the driver's shoulder, meaning you have to tap him there to make him stop, and only God and the driver know when it will turn. Neither of these jokes will apply to the kancil.
A kancil passenger can comfortably sit in the front seat and buckle up for safety. The safety belts can help a passenger to cope with the bumpy ride, although it is less bumpy than a bajaj.
The back seat of the kancil can accommodate up to three medium-sized passengers, although it is not recommended for safety reasons. It is also equipped with a mini fan for the passengers' comfort.
Despite such conveniences in comparison to the bajaj, the kancil cannot match the agility of its Indian cousin.
Those good folk at Indonesia Anonymus
have taken an enlightened look at the welfare of bajaj
drivers and reached an alarming conclusion.To make a long story short, we finally got our 5 volunteers ...... and our kind doctor examined them one by one. Sure enough, 4 out of 5 have a certain degree of hearing problem.
The one person who was fine happened to be the last one. His name is Hasan. The reason why his hearing is fine was because he only started driving bajaj 3 months ago. The other four have driven more than 2 years. One person has been driving for 6 years.
Knowing the result of the previous four, we felt obligated to tell Hasan about the risk involved in his profession. My dear Hasan, you are risking your hearing. Do something before it's too late!
You could see the concern in Hasan's eyes, but then he said: "I have a wife and three kids. I have no choice. There's simply no other job out there."
The point to all this must be to find an alternative people carrier suitable for the narrow back streets, capable of carrying 3 or 4 passengers and not injurious to the health of its driver.
Well folks, it exists and, to my knowledge, has done for at least 60 years.
If you have seen the film Calcium Kid
(2003), starring Orlando Bloom
, you will remember that he had a milk delivery round in South London. His vehicle was an electric milk float, this one.
This photo shows an early model, c.1947. It looks like a bajaj
, doesn't it?
A bank of rechargeable batteries are the power source, so we have a vehicle that is quiet, doesn't pump out noxious fumes, is sturdy, quick (capable of c.80 kph
) and comfortable for its drivers.
Could these be one answer to Jakarta's traffic woes? That's a political decision, unfortunately, but if Britain's recently arrived Trade Attaché wants to make his mark, then Jakartass suggests that he does whatever it takes ~ test drive demonstrations, feasibilty studies, brown envelopes, whatever ~ and shows a commitment to the well-being of Jakarta's citizenry.