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Zebra cross is occupied by motorcycles (Photo: Radaronline.co.id)

Crossing the Street the Indonesian Way

OurIndonesia – “Waving hands nonchalantly to the road and the crowded traffics.” One could imagine that sentence as regal, a sentence belongs to a charming movie star having his/her time in public while filming his/her upcoming saga.

But nope, you non-Indonesians might be surprised if I tell you that in Indonesia, this sentence belongs to everyone. Rather than using modern technology (zebra cross, crossing bridge, traffic signal) provided by centuries of civilization and the government to cross the streets safely, we Indonesians wave our hands. We wave, everything in the street will stop (hopefully), and we jaywalk-cross the road. As simple as that.

There are times when I think deeply about this. My God, don’t ask me why would I think about the way how people of some countries cross their streets, I have asked myself that, too. But hell, along with other thousands random things, I do think about it. Especially when I walk down the streets in other countries’ big cities, walking for what feels like centuries trying to find the zebra cross, cursing and wishing I were in Indonesia where crossing the streets is at the comfort of your hands.

Unlike Indonesia, there are many countries put serious concern on safety crossing. The United States, for its high road deaths rate, is one of many. National Complete Streets Coalition reported that in the US, every day people are killed while walking to school, to work or to the store. From 2003 to 2012, more than 47,000 people were killed while walking. Other source reported that more than 4500 pedestrians are killed every year on the streets in the US, more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. Who knows that jaywalking could be as dangerous as Al Qaeda?

I was terrified with the number of fatalities and googled the statistic of pedestrian fatalities in Indonesia. In a country where motorcycles are taking the trotoars, there must be serious number of jaywalking fatalities.

And I was terrified once again. Mea culpa, I could not find the statistic even after changing search keyword several times. It is either Indonesia does not have the data, has not put the data on the internet yet (freedom of information, people!), or there is a problem with my googling skill.

Anyway, to fix the problem and to reduce number of pedestrian fatalities, some States in America hold campaigns to decrease road death rate. New York City, under its new-elected Mayor de Blasio, has been aggressively implementing “Vision Zero” initiative, aimed to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero. With Vision Zero initiative, New York’s City Council had passed 11 bills and six resolutions to implement de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan across many city departments.

That iniative was inspired from the country that does everything right: Sweden. Sweden’s roads are now the safest in the world, thanks to its Vision Zero introduced since 1997. Over decades of Vision Zero, roads in Sweden are built with safety prioritised over speed or convenience. Low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bikes and oncoming traffic. Building 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) of “2+1” roads—where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking. The initiative have really bring Sweden closer to hit its “zero” pedestrian fatality target.

Other countries run creative approach to reduce pedestrian fatalities with something such as “dancing traffic signal” where the usually static human figure in the crosswalk signal is dancing maniacally, waving its arms and legs. This methode is to get more people stopped at the red light and make eager pedestrians more patient to get across the street stop, increasing safety all around while having more fun doing so.

There are many other system and technology in the whole world to reduce jaywalk-related fatalities. I can’t believe how much information we could get just from thinking about how people cross their streets.

While waiting for Indonesia to have all those advanced system and technology, next time you are in Indonesia and want to cross the streets, just wave your hand to the traffic. And like Moses in the Red Sea, you will see how the traffic will part, making its way for you to cross. At that moment, take a deep polluted breath, walk like Moses walking the Red Sea, and indulge your prophetic seconds.