In the Brunei Times, 19 August 07, Marwan Azis-Jakarta writes:
JAKARTA is notorious for its air pollution and traffic jam. Taking bicycles to work places, as well as for shopping or visiting friends and relatives has captured the hearts and minds of a number of people in this busy, smoky city.
Started among people who like cycling for sports and recreation, more and more Jakarta inhabitants have moved forward by using their bicycles as their main transportation on their daily routines.
The community of bikers among professionals, who call themselves Komunitas Bike to Work (Bike to Work Community), believe that by cycling to work, they help preserve the environment, keep themselves healthy, save energy as well as reduce pollution, stress on the streets and traffic jams.
The initiative of using this environment-friendly transport started two years ago among mountain bikers, who dreamt of having clean air in Jakarta. They felt that the Jakarta air was worsening, with more and more smoke from motor vehicles flooding the streets.
"It started with the community of mountain bikers, where we usually get together on weekends outside Jakarta," said Toto Sugiharto, chairman of Bike to Work Community Indonesia.
"And we thought, 'why not use these bicycles to go to work, and reduce pollution?' We all agreed on that idea. From then on, we campaigned on using this alternative transport to go to work in super-crowded Jakarta."
The community gains members quite quickly. Only after two years, it now has about 5,000 members, according to its information officer Rivo Pamudji. Some 2,500 of them are active in communicating with one another via the community's mailing list.
"Every day, about 100 new members enlist," said Rivo, when met at the Bicycle for Earth event at Senayan last month. Among professionals who are cycling to offices in Jakarta are Andi Malarangeng, the President's spokesperson, Minister of Environment Rachmat Witoelar and his wife, the environmental public figure Erna Witoelar, and other famous names in business, politics, and other fields of professions.
Bike to Work also has branches in other Indonesian cities like Yogyakarta, Jabodetabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi), Bandung, Mojokerto, Aceh and Balikpapan and are always looking to expand.
"Bike to Work Makassar will be established this month," Rivo added. The rapid development of this community is made possible by the seriousness of the chairman, Toto Sugiharto, in making this programme work. A strong fellowship between bikers also contributes to it members are always helpful to bikers, even though they are not members, when they have problems on the streets.
"Our community is open to everybody. It requires only ownership of a bicycle, regardless the type and class of the bike," said Lutfi, a biker from Bekasi who only recently started cycling to work.
"I enjoyed biking since my childhood. Three years ago, I started cycling again. I started using my bike to go shopping and to office. I kind of enjoy it. With this community, I am more encouraged." He also tries to influence his colleagues at his office to do the same, reminding them about the worsening air quality in Jakarta that may endanger people's health.
Jakarta's traffic snarls are notorious it could take some one two to three hours to get from home to the office.
One biker said he was doing better by bicycle on the 36km home to office trip, compared to using his car.
"The government should realise that there is a crisis of transportation in Jakarta, and there must be a solution to that," Luthfi said.
Some people might raise the possibility of inhaling polluted air while cycling, therefore making the exercise unhealthy. However, there is a study by Rank J, Folke J and Jespersen from University of Roskilde, Department of Environment, Technology and Social Studies, Denmark, that says otherwise.
They sent two teams of bikers and motorists, equipped with air-testing devices, to roam the streets for four hours in two different mornings in Copenhagen. The air sample the teams took were analysed of their benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) content, including dust particles.
The results: The concentration of BTEX in drivers was two to four times the amount recorded for the cyclists.
What has been initiated by the Bike to Work Community is good to emulate, since Jakarta is projected as one zone that may be severely affected by global warming.
Research from the International Institute for Environment and Development Britania in cooperation with City University of New York and Colombia University in 2007 says a tenth of the world's population, or 634 million people, living near the oceans will drown when polar ice melts as a result of global warming.
This research also predicts that Jakarta, some parts of West Java and Banten province are some zones that would drown by the end of this century. The Brunei Times