Pictured above is the becak. It is a cycle rickshaw with passenger seat in front and the main cycle behind it. They were considered an icon of Jakarta before they were banned within the Jakarta city limits in the ‘70s and then 1994, due to their propensity to cause traffic jams. Former President Soeharto (and others) also wanted to eradicate becak from the city streets because they felt the work to be degrading to the drivers. Becak are widely missed by people who live in housing complexes off the main roads and small roads which are not serviced by bus routes – as their sheer numbers in the city prior to the crackdown attests to how widely they were used. It used to be a common site in Jakarta to see becak drivers taking children to school each morning, and women home from the pasar (traditional market).
However, you may still be able to find an occasional becak driver ignoring the ban in certain locations within the city limits. Outside city limits becak are still found at the junctions of main roads and smaller country lanes that don’t have smaller bus routes. Models of becak are different in each city they are found in across Indonesia.
People who take the becak are advised to bargain before riding and prepare small change since most drivers don’t have change for large bills.
This is the fourth in our All About Indonesia series and the second one in the modes of transport series. Man, talk about a series within a series! There will be more tomorrow!