Jakarta has lately been legendary with its traffic jams, and with its throngs of motorcycles that gather together and move like locusts. With the most recent gasoline price hike, you’d think people would use their own vehicles less and public transport more… but nooo, all they did was keep the car at home and use a motorcycle.Now believe me when I tell you I have nothing against motorcycles and the people who drive motorcycles. Um… well maybe a bit, but more specifically to the motorcyclists who sacrifice everything for speed (disregard for safety comes to mind, of themselves and others). And I also don’t like those noisy, speed-hungry motorcycles which most often do not have headlights or any other light. And… oh well. I hate motorcycles, period.So come rush hour, when 3 years ago you only had to handle the occasional motorcycle overtaking cars recklessly, now you have to deal with the crowd of motorcycles, which at some point take up the whole right lane of a two-lane road (for the uninitiated, Indonesians drive on the left, like the English – they also curse like the English) to the point your car cannot move forward. Well, not only motorcycles, there’s always an overeager angkot, mikrolet or metro mini eating up the lane as well (if not trying to overtake you from the left over what is supposed to be the curb, if only by official status).So which ever side road you’re on, it always seems to be wrong, considering the amount of other vehicles pressuring you to move along.
This picture was taken from my car passing the Benhil area, after Friday prayer. Almost at any medium-to-large sized mosque, there’s always a ‘pasar kaget’ (one-day market, if you will) around the mosque. So this genius decided it would save time if he shopped while still on his motorbike. Oh, don’t mind the traffic jam behind you.
I’m compiling a list of fun facts about helmets in Jakarta, based on first-hand experience, observation and other stuff. Here we go:
- most motorcycle helmets are made of the same plastic that is used to make water buckets. Pretty tough, eh?
- the helmet straps are designed for easy unfastening – especially at high speed
- foam padding is an added option on some helmet designs
- the foam padding used in the helmet is the same foam used in sofas. Bet it absorbs impact very well.
- you don’t really have to wear a helmet, not when there’s no police looking
- helmets always have some sort of sticker design that makes it look fast. Yes, on the helmet. What’s the top speed of a helmet?
- you can buy a helmet at your nearest Carrefour or Giant; but they also sell helmets at the roadside, complete with your choice of stickering
- there’s usually a hook to hang your secondary helmet – either backup helmet or for a potential passenger – on the motorcycle, which is pretty secure. Until the helmet falls off your bike in the middle of the road.
- to avoid that, you can also tie the helmet on the back seat with some rope or webbing. Until the helmet falls off…
- last resort, you can put the helmet in a specially-fitted box, which is usually decorated with your motorcycle gang denomination sticker, and lock the key. Until a Kopaja comes by, crashes into the box and it falls off.
- Helmets are imaginary, a figment of the imagination. You can protect your head with sheer willpower.
- You can add wings to the top of your helmet; it makes your motorcycle go faster. Yeah, it looks cool too.
- The protective properties of a helmet can be replaced by any other sort of head covering.
- Helmets are optional in large groups of motorcycles.