A good ride spoiled on Sudirman-Thamrin

Ever since young Unspun has loved cycling. What’s great about being on a bicycle is that sense of freedom, with the wind blowing past you. On one level you could take it easy, paddle along and watch people and buildings go by. On another level you could push yourself, feel the burn in the lungs and muscles that affirms how much alive we all are.

Then there are the joys of off road riding where you challenge yourself and your mind over seemingly difficult terrain and impossible obstacles, with great vistas of paddy fields or scenery in between rough patches.

On Jalan Sudirman - try riding through this crowd

One of the few pleasures of a biker, if you do not feel like driving all the way out of the city to BSD, Cibubur, Sentul or beyond, is Jalan Sudirman-Thamrin on early Sunday mornings. The police close the road to cars then and you can ride your bike, jog, run, rollerblade or stroll all the way from the Pizzaman up to Monas.

Over the past few years it has been fun. You could, if you chose, ride at a good clip to get some exercise and feel the wind rushing against your face or, if you like, ride slowly and see the parade of Jakartans taking advantage of some rare recreation space. There are families, kids trying to ride, enthusiasts wearing period costumes on their onthels, other enthusiasts who have pimped out their bikes and the over-dressed, over equipped amateur out more to impress with their looks and equipment than riding skills.

Which is all fine when there is enough space for everyone.

This morning, Unspun dusted off his beloved  Santa Cruz Superlight and thought he’d go for a light spin up and down Sudirman-Thamrin to start the day off with. A quick and brisk ride, shower and ready to face the ay. What could be better?

So he hit the road at 7am and then reality bit.

Sudirman-Thamrin has become so packed with riders that it takes the fun out of riding. Instead of easy relaxed riding you had to have the attention of a mountain biker negotiating an obstacle course. There were riders of all levels there. Some knew what they were doing and rode predictably. Others were erratic. Then there were the children who did not know better and their parents not knowing better than to teach them some road sense.

Riding up Sudirman was all about dodging these users, not easy because there were so many of them. Then, when you got near the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, total madness prevailed.

@Rahadianagung Tweeted than that place was like a kampung with tents and stalls almost every 10 meters. He was right. Today’s congestion was worse because UOB had a massive event which looked like a run but was actually a lot of employees and whoever they could trawl wearing their T-shirts and walking up and down the street.

Another shot of the crowd

(And here you wonder if the spending by UOB is justified. At the end of the day there will be some photos, perhaps four or five newspaper coverage, some TV coverage if they are really friendly with a TV station or two, and lots of self congratulation within the bank – but what would they have achieved with this expensive event at the end of the day? What would have changed? Would they have set the platform for more customer acquisition? Or would all they have achieved is a one-week feel good exercise with no lasting effect? Oops. sorry. ranting here)

The area was choc-a-bloc with participants, the public, passers-y, and cyclists, some taken in by the diversions, others annoyed because they can hardly go two meters without stopping.

Unspun was so incensed by all this that he turned back just after Bunderan HI and headed home, grumbling all the way because of a good ride spoiled.

In his sour mood he wondered why is it that so very often something good in Indonesia has to degenerate into a kampungan free-for-all characterized by chaos, overcrowding and ambience-destroying activities (always accompanied by loud sound systems).

Sudirman-Thamrin has been a welcome oasis for Jakartans who want a little recreational space on Sundays. It was a heaven for the recreational biker who could get a relaxing good ride. It is now your kampung Sunday market. Why can’t the authorities move all the tents and activities to parks like the one in Monas, Senayan or even Suropati so that there is space for everyone to do their own thing? The minglers can go there to see shows and other stuff, while the cyclists, runners, joggers, walkers and rollerbladers can have a freer run of the stretch of road that is Sudirman-Thamrin?

Unspun noticed that bicycle manufacturers and retailer such as Polycon, United and Rodalink were out in force, pitching their tents near Bundaren HI to hawk their wares and adding to the congestion. Perhaps they might want to consider exerting some corporate social leadership and suggest such an arrangement to the authorities. They would also do well to help educate cyclists, particularly the small children, about good road sense and riding practices. The way the parents are letting their children ride now is an accident waiting to happen.

What do other riders and bike enthusiasts think?