Monday, June 29, 2009

Bad News Dept: Law requires disabled people to wear signs (Indonesia)

Jakarta – June 28, 2009, The Straits Times

"Lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won't run them down as they cross the street."

Indonesia's traffic nightmare

Jakarta – June 28, 2009, The Straits Times
NEW laws requiring disabled pedestrians to wear traffic signs have met with frustration and derision in Indonesia, where in the eyes of the law cars have taken priority over people.

The laws will do nothing to improve road safety or ease the traffic that is choking the life out of the capital city of some 12 million people, and serve only to highlight official incompetence, analysts said.

Within five years, if nothing changes, experts predict Jakarta will reach total gridlock, with every main road and backstreet clogged with barely moving, pollution-spewing cars.

That's too late for the long-awaited urban rail link known as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which has only just entered the design stage and won't be operational until 2016 at the earliest.

'Just like a big flood, Jakarta could be paralysed. The city's mobility will die,' University of Indonesia researcher Nyoman Teguh Prasidha said.

Instead of requiring level footpaths and ramps, lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won't run them down as they cross the street.

Experts say the new traffic law is sadly typical of a country which for decades has allowed cars and an obsession with car ownership to run rampant over basic imperatives of urban planning.

'It is strange when handicapped people are asked to carry extra burdens and obligations,' Institute of Transportation Studies (Instran) chairman Darmaningtyas said.

'The law is a triumph for the automotive industry. It's completely useless for alleviating the traffic problem.' The number of motor vehicles including motorcycles in greater Jakarta has almost tripled in the past eight years to 9.52 million. Meanwhile road space has grown less than one percent annually since 2004, according to the Indonesian Transport Society.

'Traffic congestion is like cancer,' Institute for Transportation and Development Policy specialist Harya Setyaka said. 'This cancer has developed over 30 years as Jakarta begins to develop haphazardly beyond its carrying capacity.' A 2004 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency found that traffic jams cost Jakarta some 8.3 trillion rupiah (822 million dollars) a year in extra fuel consumption, lost productivity and health impact. -- AFP

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Thanks to Sudhir Gota of the CAI-Asia Center, Manila, Philippines for this heads-up.

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  1. The idea is similar to the attempts made recently by Polish Ministry of Transportation to create law to demand the cyclists to wear helmets and reflective vests. Luckily, thanks to the actions of cycling activists, the law was skipped. But the description, which instantly comes to mind in both cases -- in Indonesia and in Poland -- is "penalisation of the victim".

    The authorities are unable to tackle the traffic safety problems (from the other hand, they are the car-bonded bunch and hate the idea that someone [or something, as a speed bump] could slow them down), so they blame the victims.

    During some anti-fearmongering, anti-reflective vests campaign there was used even comparision to the German Nazis during World War 2nd, demanding the Jews to wear badges with David's star. To show them that they are on Nazi's mercy. As the disabled people in Jakarta are on the mercy of motorists.
    With all the nasty associations, those come to mind.

  2. John Ernst, Vice Director, SE Asia ITDPMonday, 29 June, 2009

    Toyota has long led the automobile market in Indonesia with the locally manufactured 'Kijang' utility vehicle. Yamaha dominates the more rapidly growing motorcycle market, with Honda catching up from a later (local manufacturing) start. (So, yes, it is not coincidental that most of the plans for Indonesian highway expansion are developed with assistance from JICA.)

    Several Indonesian NGOs lobbied for an improvement in the transportation bill as it was reauthorized this year, and the article posted represents the general disappointment at lack of progress -- and regress concerning requirements for the physically challenged.

    Note that the 'expert' calculation of total gridlock for Jakarta in 5-years is based simply on projecting vehicle registrations against square meters of road space and noting that Jakarta will be able to fill up every square meter of road space by having every car owner come out at once and park on the street. Not exactly an 'expert' analysis, but it was successful in giving the media a handle on the problem.

    The figure was probably initially developed to lobby for more road construction, but has been equally effective at pointing out the hopelessness of trying to build enough roads to keep up with motor vehicle growth.

    What is not noted in the article is that the current, sub-optimally implemented, BRT in Jakarta uses road space about 8 times more efficiently than car traffic (roughly 4000 vs 500 passengers per hour per direction at peak hour). There is potential to double the BRT efficiency fairly easily, meaning adding 1 lane of BRT equates to adding 16 lanes for cars.

    Although Jakarta has over 100km of BRT operating, its poor quality implementation has kept it from catching the imagination of the press. A good lesson for other cities.

    John Ernst, Vice Director, SE Asia ITDP
    ITDP - The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy Promoting environmentally sustainable and equitable transportation worldwide

  3. Sudhir Gota, CAI-Asia Center, Manila, PhilippinesMonday, 29 June, 2009

    Thanks John,

    Definitely bad news from a country which is planning to have EST strategy..

    If this is true than this looks like worst kind of discrimination ....

    Has anybody seen the actual transportation bill to find what is the exact language used? can somebody share this?

    Sudhir Gota, CAI-Asia Center, Manila, Philippines

  4. Alice Maynard, London UKTuesday, 30 June, 2009

    What a amazing idea (in several senses of the word!). Perhaps this would solve the concerns about shared surfaces that disabled people – especially those with less obvious impairments – have: we could take to wearing signs to ensure our own safety...

    Alice Maynard, London UK
    Future Inclusion


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