Riding the Pandemic - The cyclist of Jakarta / Indonesia
The Corona pandemic has affected many industrial fields in almost the entire world, including Indonesia, hampering many community activities. Unexpectedly, the Covid-19 outbreak gave rise to a cycling trend in this society. Especially in big cities in Indonesia, iroads can be seen nowadays not only filled with motorized vehicles, but also with cyclists. Bike shops were also hit positively, as they were overrun by people who didn't want to miss this trend.
During the pandemic, bicycle sales increased by 1000%. Bicycles from 150 euros to 20,000 euros are in demand in the market, and there are even long waiting lists at imported bicycle distributors for bikes ranging in price from 2,000 to 10,000 euros. Likewise, bicycle equipment such as jersey, clip-on shoes, helmets and cycling goggles, from imported ones ranging from 100-500 euros, as well as local 30-50 euros, are out on the market.
This cycling trend is a complete lifestyle game changer. People, who before the pandemic rarely exercised, are now starting to take the streets with their bicycles. They show off their cycling activity in their social media accounts. This phenomenon has created a financial opportunity for others. On the sides of big roads, photographers line up to take pictures of the cyclists passing by. They sell their snaps to the cyclists offering them for their social media posts. Some streets became cyclists' red carpets.
Cycling clubs mushroomed during the pandemic, varied in it’s exclusivity. Some focused on their member cycling performance, when cycling together have and average speed of 40-45 kilometre per hour at least, or aim long distance ride of 100-150 km. You are not a cyclist that needs to be taken into account until you do your gran fondo. Some clubs flaunt their attire and last but not least there are also clubs specifically for Indonesian celebrities because it turns out that this phenomenon has skyrocketed to the point of catching the attention of Indonesia’s bold and beautiful.
People's interest in cycling is also reflected in their participation in sporting events. Even though there is no in-person race, sport event organizers have replaced it with a virtual race/event. An audax event, where cyclists are required to cycle 200 km in 13.5 hours, self-support during the event, and are required to pay 30 euros, has the slot run out in a matter of minutes. Even the registration website crashed because so many people wanted to register and agitatedly staring at their computer screen or mobile phone counting down to the start of registration.
This has not always been well received in the eyes of the general public. Indonesia itself is not a cycling-friendly country, the city infrastructure is not equipped with proper cycling facilities. Thus, cyclists are often, particularly when riding in a peloton, obstructing other road users and do not always obey traffic signs. Traffic accidents also occur more and more frequently these days between cyclists and motorized vehicle users. Some incidents result in minor injuries while some are fatal. There have also been reports of incidents where the cyclists, forcing themselves to accelerate when following a peloton, have had their heart fatally stop.
Nevertheless, the cycling trend is a healthy trend that boosts one’s mental and physical health, an effective solution to avoid covid prone public transport and in reducing pollution that needs to be encouraged. However, there needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that cycling is truly beneficial to improve public health and safety. Maintaining health protocols remains pivotal during cycling as well as compliance with existing traffic regulations including the use of existing bicycle lanes even though they are at its bare minimum at the moment. The homework for the government is to allocate a specific venue for cyclists who want to train seriously to improve their performance, speed and/or endurance. Because, we are (almost always) only one bike ride away from a good mood after all. #wymtm
Fahra Amiroeddin is an Indonesian NGOs worker with more than 10 years of experience managing development projects all over Indonesia, mostly in remote areas, in the field of education, child protection, refugee protection and forest fire prevention. Graduated from Atmajaya University in Psychology major and spent a year in Belgium doing a master degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at KU Leuven, Fahra is currently living in Jakarta and is a cycling enthusiasts