Cyclists risk life and limb to beat Jakarta jams

Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:53am EST
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By Matthew Bigg and Olivia Rondonuwu

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Traffic in Indonesia's capital snarls so badly during rush hour that even motorbikes face gridlock and to get ahead a group of commuters have taken up an extreme sport: cycling to work.

Their logic is simple. It makes more sense to inhale the fumes and risk being flattened by a vehicle than it does to sit in a car or a taxi for hours going nowhere fast.

The professionals who belong to the Bike 2 Work club have another motivation: in a city in which cars, motorbikes, taxis, buses and trains are the main transport options, cycling is a cooler alternative.

That matters in Indonesia, which is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and a nation where steady GDP growth above 6 percent means a rapidly growing middle class with more purchasing power and a greater appetite for offbeat pursuits.

"It's like poison," said computer programmer Aditya Imannudin Suryomurtjito of his passion for buying new bikes and the accessories that go with them. He owns seven already.

For Suryomurtjito, it's not about saving money either: "People are lying if they say that cycling is cheaper. It's far more expensive than riding a motorbike, not to mention that you eat more because you are hungry."

The 27-year-old was riding a red, fold-up model whose tiny wheels made a blur as he sped past frustrated motorists.