For months, I’ve been blathering on to anyone with ears about how great the carfree Sunday event is in Jakarta. At first, I got blank stares and gasps of horror, because people realized I not only rode IN the event, I also rode TO the event. Over the nearly four months I’ve been teaching, my students have come to love and trust me, and slowly, slowly they are thinking of dusting off their bicycles. My ex-pat friends are beginning to ask where they might get a bike, just in case the madness overtakes them, too. And those thousands of dedicated cyclists along the route are becoming (if possible) even more friendly as I cycle past.
Today, my blathering finally bore fruit, and in ways that I could never have dreamed. It was awesome.
At 6:30 a.m. my young student friends Nizar and Luthfi arrived at my kost, bikes in the back of their car and grim determination on their faces. They wanted to accompany me, once and for all. Two young women students (Citra and Reshi) had agreed to bus up to the event and meet us on site.
Leading my two friends up Radio Dalam and across to Jalan Sisingamangaraja, I was happy to see their faces relax and their speed increase once we hit Sudirman. It was like a light had gone on for them.
As I sat awaiting Citra and Reshi in front of Plaza Indonesia, an stranger approached, asking me where my bike was. I pointed across the circle to where Luthfi and Nizar were also waiting for the girls. It turns out that this fellow is part of the Dutch Commuter community that I have admired from a distance all these months; he has watched me cycle past his herd of bikes every week, but because I never stopped, he could not engage me in conversation. Here he is with Nizar (who joined us at one point), and one of the spectularly beautiful and historically significant commuter bikes.
Nizar and I headed back to where Luthfi waited. Suddenly out of the crowd, my ex-pat friend Monica appeared. She’d been walking alongside the melee, entranced by it all. Her comment was that I’d talked about it so much, she had to see it for herself. Last week, she’d looked into buying her own bike, but couldn’t find one she wanted.
“Mine will be available in a few weeks,” I suggested, smiling. A combination of excitement and impatience crossed her face.
Ten minutes later, the girls arrived. They had one of the WSI consultants with them, who was also curious about the event. Notice Citra’s outstanding shirt, a play on global warming with ice cream cones.
Because we were all ravenously hungry by this time, we decided to head over to a plaza for breakfast. The boys gallantly offered their bikes to the girls so they could experience the event firsthand. I offered mine to my (now) favourite consultant, but she declined with the excuse that she didn’t know how to ride. Yet.
At the end of the day, I asked everyone if they’d enjoyed the day. We had concensus: we are all coming back next week, and bringing more friends with us.
di Jakarta! I love this town.