How Much Would It Cost to Cover Jakarta In Sidewalks You Could Actually Walk On?

Turns out it's not really all that much.

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04 August 2017, 12:00pm

Foto oleh Enny Nuraheni/Reuters

The sidewalks of Jakarta will be clear of kaki lima, motorbikes, and parked cars this month... that is they will be if you can find the sidewalks in the first place.

The Jakarta Police are in the middle of "Orderly Sidewalk Month," a citywide crackdown on illegal parking. So far, the police have issued tickets and towed more than 100 vehicles for parking on the sidewalk. They let the air out of the tires of another 140 cars and motorbikes, earning the applause of the capital's incoming administration for a job well done.

"Two days ago I was almost hit by a motorbike on the sidewalk while running," incoming deputy governor Sandiaga Uno told local media. "I agree that those who occupy sidewalks should be cracked down on and given a deterrent."

But this recent sidewalk parking crackdown isn't going to make Jakarta a more walkable city. The real issue here isn't motorists parking or driving on the sidewalk. It's sidewalks not existing in the first place.

Only 20 percent of the city's roads have something you could call a "footpath," according to the Jakarta Pedestrian Coalition. That's not sidewalks, it's just anything running alongside a road with enough space to walk separate from traffic. So that semi-open gutter covered by cement panels? That patch of dirt between the street and the open gutter? That wide sidewalk in SCBD? All of those count.

The coalition based its 20 percent estimate on the city having as much as 7,000 kilometers of streets, roads, alleys, and boulevards. They found 1,400 kilometers of foot paths citywide, and of those only 280 kilometers were "walkable," at the time of the survey. The rest were taken over by parked cars, motorbikes, food stalls, and small unlicensed structures.

"If anyone were to make a survey of cities with the worst sidewalks, Jakarta would definitely be in it," Ahmad Syarifudin, a coalition member, told local media at the time.

Someone did do a survey. The Asian Development Bank funded a study that ranked Asian cities on their walkability. Jakarta came in dead last. It's no wonder why a different study discovered that the average Indonesian walks less than anyone else in the world. Where the hell are we supposed to walk?

We've covered the city's traffic, air quality, and lack of sidewalks before, writing about how difficult it is to walk here, even when you want to, how flashy, even loved, initiatives like Car Free Day are little more than bandaids, and what it would really take to fix our traffic jams. It's impossible not to think about the toll the traffic and poor infrastructure take when you're living in this city. But what would it take to fix it?

The city's road agency said that the real issue here is funding. The agency was budgeted Rp 412 billion ($30.9 million USD) in 2017, a figure that officials said was well under what they would need to ensure that the city had 2,600 kilometers of sidewalks—enough to run alongside all major roads.

Every meter of new sidewalk costs the city between Rp 1.5 million ($112 USD) to Rp 5 million ($375 USD) to build, according to the agency. With more than 1,000 kilometers of sidewalk left to build, and an untold amount of damaged or unusable sidewalks left to repair, it's easy to see how fast these costs can add up.

The rough, totally unofficial estimate here, is that it would cost a minimum of Rp 1.8 trillion ($135 million USD) to build 1,200 kilometers of new sidewalks. That's a lot more than the road agency's current operating budget, but it's still less than 1.5 percent of what the city spends in a given year.

The city continues to fund sidewalk repairs and new construction, but the amount spent on new sidewalks is only a small fraction of the road agency's total budget.

For many, Jakarta just seems so expensive to fix that they would rather move to a new city, built with better infrastructure, out in the suburbs. Hell, even the capital itself is thinking about a move. The rest of us? I guess we'll just hold out for that MRT to finally open.

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