JAKARTA: Grab Indonesia has suspended its electric scooter rental service in most parts of Jakarta this week, amid uncertainty over whether the devices will be allowed on bicycle lanes.
According to Grab’s website, the service is still available but only at the outskirts of the capital city. Venues that are still operating include BSD City, Lippo Karawaci, Bintaro, University of Indonesia and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
Last week, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan signed a gubernatorial decree on bicycle lanes which came into force on Monday (Nov 25).
The decree stated that bicycle lanes can only be used by bicycles, electric bicycles, unicycles and self-balancing hoverboards.
While the decree also listed scooters as being permitted in bicycle lanes, it is unclear whether the regulation refers to kick scooters or electric scooters.
Electric scooters have been a hit with Jakarta residents since Grab introduced the GrabWheels rental service in May.
But the government soon noticed that e-scooter users were riding recklessly and damaged public facilities.
Earlier this month, the city government had indicated that e-scooters will be banned from public roads and sidewalks, after a fatal accident involving two teenagers. It was reported then that they would only be allowed on bicycle lanes.
Jakarta Transportation Agency chief, Mr Syafrin Liputo told CNA on Wednesday: "For the time being, we are still studying how to best categorise electric scooters. For some people, electric scooters for rent are no more than a recreational facility.”
“But there are privately owned electric scooters which are used as means of transportation. This is why in the beginning, we had planned on allowing privately owned electric scooters to operate on bike lanes.”
Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus added: "Our officers on the ground will have trouble determining whether a particular e-scooter is privately owned or being rented. So we decided to simply ban all of them and stop them from venturing out of recreational areas.”
The spokesman said no e-scooter riders have been ticketed as of Wednesday morning.
GRAB REMOVES E-SCOOTERS FROM CITY CENTRE
Grab is seeking permission from the authorities for e-scooters to use bicycle lanes in future.
In the meantime, it is not taking any chances given the lack of clarity regarding the regulations. By Monday, it pulled its 1,000 e-scooters from Jakarta and dismantled 300 GrabWheels stations across the city, while focussing its operations in the suburbs.
“Grab Indonesia always follows applicable regulations and will adjust GrabWheels operations in line with the recommendations made by the government,” a spokesperson for Grab told CNA on Tuesday.
The Grab spokesperson said that the company supports efforts by the Jakarta Transportation Agency and the Police Traffic Corps to prioritise security.
“Grab will also impose fines of up to 300,000 rupiah (US$21.27) in the GrabWheels operating area if it finds users who do not comply with security rules.”
The Grab spokesperson said it is working with Jakarta’s Transportation Agency to “improve the quality of bicycle lanes in Jakarta” in the hopes that the government would permanently allow e-scooters to operate on Jakarta’s bike lanes.
The company also promised to better educate users on safe riding behaviour.
Mr Liputo of the transportation agency said that the government is still studying Grab’s proposal to allow e-scooters to operate on bicycle lanes.
Social media users said that e-scooter riders should not be punished for the behaviour of a few bad apples.
“Not sure who to blame, I was using it for getting to office faster and cheaper, always follow the rules, wear helmet. Yes, the government is a bit clueless in regulating, but seen lots of users not abiding with simple common sense,” Twitter user @Bl0bby commented.
Meanwhile, there are those who said the ban contradicts Jakarta’s own efforts to combat pollution and traffic congestion.
“Cars are the ones responsible for traffic but (motorists) complain about the presence of bike lanes. Meanwhile scooters using the bike lanes get ticketed,” Adriansyah Yasin wrote on Twitter.
Transportation analyst and chairman of the Indonesian Pedestrian Coalition, Mr Alfred Sitorus said the government must quickly resolve the ambiguity within the new regulation.
“The government appears to be confused on how to categorise e-scooters. If the government argues that e-scooters are motorised transport then why does it allow electric bicycles to use the bike lanes?” Mr Sitorus told CNA.
The analyst said if the ambiguity persists, the new regulation is vulnerable to legal challenges.
“The best solution is to allow e-scooters to operate on bicycle lanes but impose stricter safety requirements on their users,” he said.
CARS, MOTORCYCLES FINED FOR USING BICYCLE LANES
Separately, around 100 officers from the transportation agency and the traffic police were deployed on Monday to guard bicycle lanes against motorised vehicles.
On Monday alone, 125 motorcycles and four cars were ticketed. Those found flouting the regulations face a maximum fine of 500,000 rupiah or a maximum prison sentence of two months.
The Jakarta government has established more than 63km of bicycle lanes across the city as it tries to change its image of being unfriendly towards pedestrians and cyclists.
Although the bicycle lanes were established some time back, Monday was the first time motorists were actually fined for encroaching upon them.
“I hope this enforcement will encourage motorists to respect cyclists,” Mr Liputo said.
Transportation analyst Mr Sitorus, who cycles to work, applauded Jakarta’s efforts to add more bicycle lanes and stop them from being encroached.
“Motorists always argue ‘that there are not many cyclists around so why build a dedicated lane for them?’ It is a chicken or egg question. If you ensure cyclists can ride safely, there will be more cyclists around,” he told CNA.
CONSISTENT ENFORCEMENT NECESSARY: ANALYST
Mr Sitorus highlighted that there have been numerous failed attempts to regulate how bicycles lanes are being used in Jakarta.
“The attempts always failed because no one consistently enforced the rules and made sure bike lanes are free from motorists. I hope this time the government is consistent about enforcing the rules. Because if you don’t, it won’t be long until the motorists are back to their old ways and encroach upon the bike lanes,” he argued.
Although the 100 officers deployed were seen monitoring the bicycle lanes during Monday's morning rush hour, they were nowhere in sight by noon.
As a result, bicycle lanes were clogged with parked cars and passing motorcyclists.
Mr Lupito promised that his office will monitor the bike lanes more closely and routinely.
“Our officers will continue to monitor the bike lanes. We will station our officers at strategic locations as well as have several officers who patrol the bike lanes in search for violators,” he said.