When I first moved to Kemang, I looked at the traffic, shook my head, and decided that I there was no way I was ever going to motorbike around Jakarta. While a few of my friends in Karawaci purchased motorbikes, the traffic there is almost incomparable to the shuffle-and-stop of Jakarta macet, or even to the infamous traffic jams of Kemang. There were a few expats with motorbikes at my school, but I viewed them as brave, street-savvy individuals whose multiple years in the country gave them some sort of super human insight into the traffic patterns of our chaotic city. No, I decided, motorbiking in Jakarta was not for me.
However, by the end of my second year, I wished that someone would have encouraged me to take the plunge and get a motorbike earlier. The traffic, after all, is much worse when experienced in a taxi, and it is freeing to be able to zip to the bank or down a favourite coffee shop without having to arrive covered in sweat from the walk.
If you need a push before you plunge into the Jakarta jam, here are three great reasons to hop on a bike in your first few months!
Reason #1: Convenience
One of the major adjustments of Jakarta living is that, when compared to life in the states or in other western countries, many things are inconvenient. Want to get a particular spice? You may have to search for it at three different grocery stores. Need a particular item for your home? It may be “habis” with no hope of a restock.
Owning a motorbike minimizes this inconvenience, because you have the power to go from place to place in search of your desired item without a taxi in stop-and-go traffic. You don’t have to wait in the taxi queue, flag down a taxi on the street, or sweat during your walk through the humidity. Instead you can simply hop on your motorbike!
Reason #2: Speed
Traffic in JakCity is nothing to scoff at. With the most stops per minute of any city in the world, Jakarta’s reputation is fully deserved. If you are planning on navigating the streets via taxi, you may find that a 5K trip results in an hour spent riding in a Blue Bird. Motorbikes, however, allow you to weave around stopped vehicles, slip in between carts, and arrive at your destination in half the time. Parking your motorbike will also take a lot less time then parking a car, since often motorbike parking is in the front of shops instead of in parking garages or on the street.
I live in Kemang, and most of my friends walk local Kemang shops, so this also cuts a 20 minute walk down to a 7 minute ride, and involves a lot less sweating.
Reason #3: Independence
The feeling of being trapped can easily creep up when you are in a new place and trying to learn a new language. However, having a motorbike offers a sense of independence that I never found with my own two feet. Want to go out for dinner, but it will be dark by the time you are finished? Since you have a motorbike, you don’t have to worry about walking through the streets by yourself, in the dark, or grabbing a taxi on the side of the road. Your friends all live in a different part of the city? No worries, you can hop on your bike and be there in ten.
*A version of this post was originally written for my school’s New Teacher Orientation blog, which is designed to introduce new expats to the advice and experiences of current expat teachers.