Since 2007, Jakarta has been implementing a Car-Free Day every Sunday.
From 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., vehicles are not allowed at the Senayan traffic circle on Jalan Sudirman, South Jakarta, to the Welcome Monument at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Jalan Thamrin, and Central Jakarta. The only vehicles you will see are the buses of the TransJakarta, the city’s bus rapid transit, which have a dedicated lane.
On my last day in Indonesia, I was able to experience Jakarta’s Car-Free Day.
During our last night in Indonesia, we stayed at the Ayana Midplaza Hotel at Sudirman. We were told by our host, Vernon, that we should check out the activities happening along the streets when there are no cars. After a good night’s rest, I woke up at 6 a.m. to see what happens during the car-free day.
As early as 6 a.m., the stretch of Jalan Sudirman was already buzzing with activities. Jakartans of different backgrounds were up early taking a jog or stroll. Some were on their bikes, skateboards, and even scooters.
Along the side of the road were vendors selling a variety of goods — food and non-food. I was most excited about the food that was being sold. It was interesting to try what Jakartans would have for breakfast after a jog or a walk.
One of the fascinating things I encountered during my stroll was this violinist. I was not expecting to see a musician playing at the side of the road. He was putting the smiles on the faces of the people passing by.
I also saw this man taking a stroll with a pet civet. At first, I thought that it was a cat or ferret on his shoulder.
Another thing I observed was many families were having their morning jog or strolls. According to Vernon and our guide Kandi, the car-free day also serves as family time for many families in Jakarta.
I also noticed that the scooter is quite popular among many Indonesians. I saw a couple on one scooter. There were also groups of young people with scooters. Many youngsters have their own too.
Several people were on green scooters. At first, I thought it was a popular brand. Upon closer inspection of the photos, GrabWheels was written on the side of the scooter. It was there that I found out that you can rent scooters in Jakarta. I think this is a fun way to get around the city.
Another interesting observation is mascots that you can find now and then. I was told that in Jakarta, you will not find beggars. Instead, you find people inside mascots who perform if you give them a certain amount of money. Some mascots were alone, others have friends with them who play the music.
During our walk, I also saw a couple of what Vernon dubbed as “mobile Starbucks.” I thought these were actual Starbucks on wheels. These were vendors on bikes selling coffee. Cups and sachets of coffee and tea were placed at the front of the bike while a thermos and other items were placed at the back.
Jakarta’s car-free day was fascinating. I just love how it turns one of the busiest cities in Southeast Asia into a laid back city from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. I liked that it allows micro and small entrepreneurs to market their products. It is also good to note that in a sense, this initiative promotes a healthier lifestyle for those living in this bustling city.
As we enter the mall for some last-minute shopping, a part of me wished that it can also be done here in Davao City. The idea of it being implemented in the city excites me. However, that is only wishful thinking. But who knows? One day we may be jogging or having a stroll at one of the city’s streets and along the sides are homegrown entrepreneurs showcasing a variety of products.
When you are planning a trip to Jakarta, Indonesia is sure to include a Sunday so you can also experience the car-free day. Cebu Pacific flies daily between Manila and Jakarta.