21 March 2021

Cycling as First Mile in Jakarta through Secondary & Tertiary Roads

This writing is triggered by an article that was written by a colleague of mine, Daniel Caesar Pratama: Considering Cycling as A Mode of Commuting in Jakarta: A GIS Analysis Exercise.

He used GIS to do spatial analyses to show that when we integrate cycling infrastructure with mass transit system in Jakarta, the coverage area of the mass transit will be increased to 80%. The summary points from his article were:

  • Cycling has a huge potential to be a sustainable, resilient, affordable and robust mode of transportation.
  • Cycling is best positioned as the first-mile last-mile solution rather than as the main transportation system.
  • Cycling as transportation should be done leisurely and comfortable, therefore 4 km (5–15 minutes of cycling) from transit to destination is preferable.
  • By optimizing cycling infrastructures to cater the cycling radius below 4km, cycling should not compete with online taxi bikes nor walking.
  • Integrating cycling with the mass transit such as MRT, KRL, and TransJakarta increases their service area to cover 80% of Jakarta.
  • Cycling infrastructures should be prioritized to be integrated into stations that serve the most populated and are able to reach the most destinations.
  • By utilizing GIS spatial analysis, we can create a powerful tool to have better-informed decisions about the shaping of our city.

Following that article, Daniel, together with Adam Nurilman – his old friend, and Urban+ Institute held a series of workshops to explore the idea, in partnership with XDS Lab and Somia CX. I had the opportunity to join one of the workshop sessions as team member of the first team. In this writing I'll try to elaborate and structure a bit more the idea that I submitted to the workshop.

The Problem

I am not a commuter cyclist, so when the workshop put forth a question of how to make cycling be more possible for first and last mile transportation mode in Jakarta, integrated with transit system (such as BRT, LRT, MRT, and/or Commuter Line), the first thing that I did was to imagine how would it felt like to cycle (especially) the first mile of commuting in Jakarta – from home to the nearest or strategic transit point. Let’s examine the underlying situation.

In general, Jakarta is a very cluster-fragmented city. Though most of the neighborhoods are not exactly clusters by definition, but most of the neighborhoods are arranged like an almost closed circuit with minimal accessibility, with labyrinth-like road network, and some (many) times are located inside or in-between yet another clustered neighborhoods. Though it might not be relevant to this discussion, the reason for that condition might be single use (residential) zoning system that are still being implemented up until today.

The result of that arrangement, coupled with the relatively low number of urban transit points in Jakarta at the moment, is the dependency on main roads to go to other places within the city or in our case to the nearest transit point.

But going to transit points in Jakarta through main roads, though it seems direct with minimum turns, Jakarta kind of main roads are typically consisted of 4 or even 6 lanes, with fenced road median, not shaded nicely, with all the heat, and dust and noise, and they are not meant to be crossed at all. People will end up have to spend some distance to make u-turn (and probably some more other u-turns) to reach the transit point.

Example 1: Connecting to transit point through main road.

At the same time, Jakarta at the moment is a very private-car-oriented city, with inner-city toll roads, with driving attitude that we must admit is not the best if not very bad, with congestion and speeding, car changing lanes, and don’t forget the additional truck and trailers and millions of motorbikes. All of those are – in the mean time – having absolute souvereignty on the roads of Jakarta. And so does the attitude of most of the neighborhoods, planned and designed (if they are planned and designed at all) to be accessed by private motorized vehicles, with very limited interconnectedness to the nearest transit points in their surroundings.

This data might not be very accurate or up to date and might need closer look on each case, but in general can portray the burden of (the people of) Jakarta in regards of mobility. The included transit points are train stations (Commuter, LRT, MRT).

Seoul have around the same population number (9.7 mil) with Jakarta (10.5 mil), and almost the same land area (605.2 sqkm) with Jakarta (661.5 sqkm), but they have much more transit points (728) compared with Jakarta (80).

Kuala Lumpur have slightly fewer transit points (64), but are smaller in terms both land area (243 sqkm) and population (1.8 mil).

Singapore have slightly larger land area (728 sqkm) but have fewer population (5.7 mil) and twice as much transit points (162).

Paris have the highest transit points density with 244 transit points in 105.4 sqkm of lands and 2.2 mil population. This data might need to be checked further, comparing the area and population number of Paris Metropolitan Area.

Tokyo have a bloated 2,194 sqkm land area and 13 mil population, but it also have 11 times transit points (882) compared to Jakarta.

Jakarta only have 80 transit points for 661.5 sqkm land area (almost 2.75 times that of Kuala Lumpur) and 10.5 mil population (twice as much as Singapore). And in the daytime, Jakarta’s population would be increased to 14.5 mil (slightly more than that of Tokyo). Though it is getting better as MRT and LRT planning and projects are underway, Jakarta at the moment is far from an ideal transit oriented city.

And last, we can reflect to these numbers: In 2019, from January to September there were 7,343 traffic accident with 389 fatality in Jakarta. 5,701 counts of which were motorbike-related. Smaller vehicles are very prone to accident, and when it happens it can be very deadly. Combine that with the danger for a bicycle doing a u-turn on a wide road dominated with motorized vehicle.

When we talk about increasing the number of cyclist in Jakarta, specifically for first mile & last mile commuting, that means we are talking about first-timers’ leap of faith, people who are considering their options, with each of the benefits and the risks, people who have to make decision to buy their first bicycle and to go to the office or school by cycling the next Monday. And it will be from their home, somewhere deep in the dense residential-jungle of Jakarta, not Menteng, not around Sudirman-Thamrin road, on busy workdays.

With all the previous things considered, I personally think it’s not a very tempting picture.

The (Immediate) Remedy

Hypothetically, two most important factors to achieve the objective of making cycling to nearest transit point tempting for the general population, in generally clustered neighborhood of Jakarta, for the first-timers, are safety and comfortability.

While it would be very nice to have specialized bicycle lane on all main roads in Jakarta, to change all the main roads of Jakarta to be safe and comfortable for bicycling is a huge task. It involves big provincial government budget, major planning, relation with infrastructures, as well as continuous maintenance and control.

The immediate remedy that I offered to one of the workshop was the opposite: to utilize secondary, tertiary, and lower class roads of residential neighborhoods for transit points accessibility by cycling (and automatically by walking); to increase the permeability of the clustered neighborhood of Jakarta.

(Half of a) main road in Jakarta.
To the right of the picture there are river, road median, and 4 more lanes.

Secondary road connection. Narrower, slower, safer, and potentially greener.

The underlying logic is simple: secondary, tertiary, and lower class of roads have slower vehicular traffic of smaller size vehicles, they are also located in the inner part of the neighborhoods (in comparison with main roads which are located in the outer part of the neighborhoods), which will naturally give both objective and subjective sense of safety. Narrower road width will also provide shade, as well as lower dust, pollution, and noise than the main roads.

Though it will seem like complicated with a lot of turns at first, connection to transit points by bypassing clustered neighborhoods most of the time will be much more efficient than going there through main roads. Because the cyclist will not need to do u-turns together with much faster motorized vehicular on the wider roads.

Physically, what have to be provided for this plan are very simple and achievable: Bicycle path. In the neighborhoods. To nearest transit points, as direct as possible, as easy as possible. Since we are dealing with smaller and slower vehicles in the internal part of the neighborhoods, it doesn’t have to be a specialized lane like in main roads. Just thin orange line painted along the designated path would be sufficient, even just several signages to show where to turn to which transit point can be enough.

More small facilities can be added on the transit points or near the neighborhood gateways. Other than the basic necessities for the scenario like bicycle parking/rack, other facilities will almost certainly pop up in correlation with the volume of the newly generated cyclist/pedestrian accessing the transit point – either provided by the transit point, by the neighborhood, by individual third party, or by corporate third party. Safety measures might have to be taken care of, as there might be extra openings to the neighborhoods to accommodate more permeability. For example, shift of open-close time can be applied, with additional security system.

In the examples below, we will mainly only use train stations (Commuter Line and MRT) as the transit point destination. In the further study or practice, more variations of transit points can be added, especially when the residents of the neighborhood decide that they are also important or if there is no other option (Transjakarta or bus stop).

Example 2: Jelambar
This is the alternate scenario for the Example 1, where instead of making two u-turns (or make an illegal dangerous turn), there’s safer route through internal side of Jelambar district. A district’s connectivity plan to transit point can also allow connection from adjacent districts (in this example from the north and west part of the district).

Example 3: Cipete Selatan
Cipete Selatan district is located adjacent to 2 MRT stations (Haji Nawi & Cipete Raya). In this example, we are trying to reach those two stations from the internal part of the district without the need to hit the RS Fatmawati main road.

Example 4: Palmerah
This example shows why bottom-up planning is very important, because the kind of challenges that each district is facing will be different thus requires different strategy to be planned and implemented. Palmerah district is segregated heavily and consisted of clustered rowhouses neighborhood, organic neighborhoods, slums, and also river.

Example 5: Duri Kepa, Tanjung Duren Selatan, & Tanjung Duren Utara
Since these districts are packed together with very little exposure to transit points, they can collaborate together to create a continuous connection to train station or BRT station. Even the secondary roads of these districts’ are usually congested by motorized vehicles in busy hours, so we are trying not to use larger roads that cross through the districts and utilize smaller roads instead to connect to transit points.

The next question would be who is going to implement that? In contrary with the dedicated lane on main roads approach, that will most likely be created first along “special” corridors of Jakarta like Sudirman, Thamrin, Blok M, Medan Merdeka, etc, this plan will start from the internal part of the neighborhoods. And for that, actually we already have the (supposed) actors and structural instruments that are (supposedly) ready to take action: Rukun Tetangga, Rukun Warga, Kelurahan.

Rukun Tetangga (RT) is a group of 30-50 families, and Rukun Warga (RW) is consisted of 3-10 RT. They are not part of governmental official administration, but instead more of community service instrument of the neighborhood. While Kelurahan is the lowest official governmental administration structure in Indonesia. It consisted of at least 4,500 population or 900 families, with area at least 3 square kilometer (300 Ha). Jakarta as a whole is consisted of 267 Kelurahan.

In line with the plan that is localized in nature and can be implemented autonomously within each neighborhood, these existing structures can immediately be utilized as the main framework of action. It will be a bottom-up approach with definitive framework instead of top-down approach that sometimes is a bit detached from reality or day to day reality and needs of the people.

The last question is how this immediate remedy can be implemented and how the available instruments can act as the coordinator? There might be options and alternatives, but the simplest framework of action would be as simple as this:
  1. Communicating the idea to the members of the neighborhood, gaining support for the plan, gathering more ideas.
  2. Gathering the consensus; which transit points should the neighborhood connects to, the route, how to signify the route, what should be provided along the route and on the destination.
  3. Budgeting; calculating and allocating the budget, planning source of fund, controlling the expenditure.
  4. Implementation and maintain accountability.
  5. Promote usage and expand.

The Expansion Plan

Going further from the immediate remedy, internal accessibility of neighborhoods to transit points can be elevated to interconnectivity between neighborhoods. That way, the possibility of access from each neighborhood will be expanded not only towards the immediate transit points on its surrounding but also to transit points behind other adjacent neighborhoods.

For that to happen, we will need to put attention to at least two important things. First is when two neighborhoods are separated by a wider road, then we will need a strategy on how the bicycle path will cross wider roads in order to connect one neighborhood to the other. It might put some pressure on the motorized vehicular flow of traffic that currently is dominating the main roads of Jakarta, but then again why not? It might be good to normalize pedestrian and bicycle crossing a wide road on specific designated routes.

Second is when the parcels along the main road are occupied by larger development, and the route from the neighborhood to the closest transit point are blocked by that larger development, we need a strategy on how to allow permeability from the neighborhood crossing the larger development to be able to reach the transit point without the need to go to the main road first. To be noted that due to design and typological constraints, this kind of permeability will be easier to be implemented to superblock compound kind of development than smaller individual blocks – except when those smaller individual parcels are required by the government to create permeability since its planning stage.

Example 6: Tanjung Duren Selatan – Central Park
A blown up image of Example 4, this shows how the connectivity path in a cluster can be connected to a transit point (in this example BRT station) by crossing through a larger development (Central Park).

To be going even further than that, while this immediate remedy is focused on the first mile from home to the transit points, Regy Septian – my other colleague – coined the counterpart idea in the same workshop that I attend, that will be suitable to be implemented on the last mile between transit points to the destinations: to create interconnectivity for bicycle (and pedestrians) through commercial lots. While it is common in quite a number of urban areas abroad, it is indeed challenging and will be very interesting to be elaborated as a case in Jakarta.

The Consideration

This immediate remedy for the first mile connectivity between the neighborhoods to the transit points might be interpreted as giving up to the condition that our main roads are dominated by motorized private vehicles.
I agree that bicycle lane infrastructure on main roads should be prepared (with debatable several methods, typologies, and physical form that this writing is not in capacity to comment), but an option closer to home is a more doable first step for non-cyclist to be a cyclist. Just like Daniel’s objective: to promote bicycle usage on the first mile, integrated with mass transit infrastructures.

This immediate remedy allows immediate action with immediate result, by utilizing available resources & infrastructure.

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