Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar
One fact of life that a 10-day cycling trip from Jakarta to Bali taught industrial designer Jeffrey Werner is that there is a clear hierarchy of road users in Indonesia.
"Bus drivers are at the top, while cyclists are at the bottom of the chain," the 28-year-old Canadian said.
Two weeks after arriving in Ubud, a hilly tourist spot north of the capital city, Denpasar, the former competitive cyclist noticed the rusty old bikes sitting in his employer's garage and hit on the idea of promoting the bicycle as a "green" mode of transportation in Bali.
His employer was the internationally renowned Bali-based jewelry designer John Hardy, who is also the founder of the Kul-kul campus of the School for Life in Ubud, Bali. The school takes a holistic approach to education.
Werner, who is involved in the ongoing construction of the school, suggested Hardy restore the old bikes and set up a bike trail within the seven-hectare school compound that extended to neighboring villages, which would catapult cyclists to the top of the traffic hierarchy.
Hardy was enthusiastic about the idea. Today, two-thirds of the four-kilometer dirt-and-gravel bike trail within the school compound has been completed, while talks with local community organizations are underway. Two of the old bikes are also now roadworthy.
"Our current goal is for everybody working on the school site to use bicycles, and later for the students to use bikes as well," Werner said.
Hardy said the idea was perfect for the school, which promotes ecological and social sustainability. The school is largely being built from bamboo, which is better for the environment than other timber due to its four-year growth period. Classes are to start in the 2008/2009 academic year, commencing in September.
"If we're driving around the campus in cars, it would set a poor example for the community," Hardy said.
He said hopefully the move would inspire more people in Bali to use bicycles.
Site manager Indra said the reaction from local community organizations had so far been very positive.
The Bali chapter of the Bike to Work cycling organization has 150 members, mostly in Denpasar and Badung regency. Bike to Work has 7,000 members nationwide, 4,000 of which are in Jakarta.
Hardy said bike riding was a growing trend among young people: "Young men and some young women are taking to the streets on funny modified bikes, and this has happened only in the last six months," he said.
"Bali is a good place for people to ride to work. Nothing is very far away and the views are extraordinary," Werner said.
The number of private motor vehicles in Bali has continued to increase, contributing to pollution and traffic jams on the resort island. According to Bali Transportation Agency data, there are 1.4 million vehicles in Bali, including 825,000 motorcycles.
People's increasing purchasing power and the lack of cheap and reliable public transportation are responsible for the growing number of private vehicles on Bali's roads.
However, the current trend of rising oil prices might prompt another fuel price increase.
"With the rising price of premium, people might need to rethink their transportation choices," Hardy said.
In Jakarta, the growing number of hard-core cyclists, bustling through the bus-packed streets of Jakarta, has been noticed by government officials, with Governor Fauzi Bowo promising a special lane for bikers.
"It's not the public's fault they rely on motor vehicles, the fault lies with the design of our traffic system. As a cyclist, I see the streets here are only designed for motor vehicles," Werner said.
"That work lies with the designers," he said.