Clean Air Initiative: GlobalClean Air Initiative: AsiaIniciativa del Aire Limpio: América LatinaClean Air Initiative: Sub-Saharan Africa
Advanced Search
Dialogue room
Mailing List


Three-wheeled vehicles on their last wheel
Tertiani ZB, Jakarta Post (3 Aug 2004)

JAKARTA, INDONESIA: After serving Jakartans for almost 30 years, bajaj (three-wheeled motorized vehicles) will soon begin disappearing from the capital's streets. The city administration will phase out the Indian-made bajaj in favor of locally made kancil (four-wheeled motorized vehicles). The Jakarta Post's Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak has taken a look at what will become of Jakarta's other three-wheeled vehicles. This is the last of six articles.

It is a normal day for Risnan, 72. He takes the train early in the morning from his home in Ciledug, Tangerang, eventually arriving at Jl. Pekalongan in Menteng, Central Jakarta, where he picks up his waiting three-wheeled helicak (auto pedicab).

At 7 a.m., he starts the engine of the Lambretta scooter, with its spacious cabin resembling that of a helicopter attached to the front -- hence it named, a mix of "helicopter" and "becak" -- to pick up the six students he drives to school most mornings.

He will return at noon to take the children home and then prepare to go home himself at 2:30 p.m., in time to catch the 3 p.m. train at the Tanah Abang railway station.

In between, he will probably be busy with the mechanics and the media people who want to know more about the only active helicak left in the capital. Or maybe an entertainer or a celebrity will hire him for the day. One TV presenter hired the helicak as a wedding car and had it painted green -- the color it still retains -- to match the wedding theme.

"There were many of us in the 1970s, but they disappeared one by one ... the competition is tough," Risnan, who has been a helicak driver for over three decades, said in a thick Betawi (native Jakartan) accent.

"Don't ask me how much I can make in a day. It is all a blessing from God. Let me put it this way, I sent my four children to school, now they are all married and have jobs. I also have two houses. The other one is in Bogor," he said.

He also has an "exclusive permit" to operate his helicak, though he has to remain within a two-kilometer area in the Menteng residential area. "The last time I arranged the license was five years ago. They said I don't have to do it anymore."

Things are different for Cipto Udiono, 45, and the other drivers of three-wheeled bemo in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta.

Even before the 2003 bylaw on transportation that banned three-wheeled vehicles from operating in the city, the stiff competition with public minivans over the last five years had reduced the drivers' daily earnings.

"There are three drivers for one bemo. We collectively have to pay the daily rental fee of Rp 40,000 (some US$4.50). I can only take home about Rp 30,000 each day," Cipto said.

Gasoline-fueled and noisy, the bemo carry six to eight passengers around a limited area in the capital, including Karet, Petamburan, Pasar Baru and near the Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital in Central Jakarta, and Jelambar, Grogol and Kota in West Jakarta.

According to the Jakarta Statistics Agency, there were 1,096 bemo in 1992 in the capital. In one decade, that number had fallen to 967.

The bemo's younger brother the bajaj will be the first three-wheeled vehicles to be taken completely off the streets, as they are no longer considered roadworthy.

"If we are next in line, I demand the administration help us find new jobs. Please be kind and consider that the residents also need us," a bemo driver, Kodirin, said.

Nia, a vendor in Tanah Abang market, said she preferred taking a bemo rather than a taxi because it could carry large loads down narrow alleys.

"The city administration should give bemo drivers incentives to repair their vehicles rather than simply doing away with them," she said.


Go to the BAQ 2004 website
Go to
CAI News
In-use vehicles > Mandatory scrappage
Jakarta Post

Secretariat: The World Bank & Asian Development Bank