Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - By Amina Ghazi

Opin­ion: The Way For­ward for Sus­tain­able Trans­porta­tion in Bali

Bali-based Amina Ghazi shares thoughts on one of the is­land’s sen­si­tive taboos. The fos­sil fuel in­dus­try is tak­ing hold of lo­cal cul­ture and of­fer­ing the par­adise lit­tle in the way of a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

SINCE 2010, the Bali Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion has said that traf­fic con­ges­tion on the is­land must be ad­dressed. Both the gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor have agreed that solutions would be cre­ated through bet­ter plan­ning, reg­u­la­tions and main­te­nance. If that sounds fa­mil­iar it’s be­cause this is the an­swer used all over the world.

Traf­fic con­ges­tion and its in­her­ent pol­lu­tion is a prob­lem in ev­ery coun­try. The USA has good plan­ning, reg­u­la­tions and main­te­nance and has ex­panded the auto-based in­fra­struc­ture as the pop­u­la­tion grows and more cars are on the road. Yet, just go to Google Earth and look at San Diego’s eight- lane free­ways in grid­lock.

The fos­sil-fuel- driven au­to­mo­bile is the great­est weapon of mass de­struc­tion and ram­pant greed in the world. If we do not im­ple­ment rad­i­cal changes in trans­porta­tion, we will all con­tinue liv­ing in the pol­lu­tion and dark­ness of the fu­eldriven industrial age.

The solutions are all here. Cars can run on hy­dro­gen en­ergy. Elec­tric and so­lar cars have been de­vel­oped along with ad­vanced solutions for pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Why are they not con­sid­ered or im­ple­mented?

Why has the term ‘ trans­porta­tion al­ter­na­tives’ be­come rad­i­cal­ized and scoffed at? Why does New York City only al­low one car-free day for Man­hat­tan, a rock is­land seven miles long and two miles wide? The same rea­son we have not been urged to con­sider even sim­ple al­ter­na­tives such as bikes in most de­vel­oped na­tions un­til re­cently.

Trans­porta­tion to­day is a ve­hi­cle of dom­i­nance by the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try. Strange when one con­sid­ers the fact that one of the first cars Henry Ford made was largely from hemp and could run on hemp oil. The first model T cars ran on ethanol. Farm­ers could make ethanol in stills right on their farms us­ing crops they had grown.

We were taught that pro­hi­bi­tion of al­co­hol in the 1930s in Amer­ica was sim­ply about stop­ping the gen­eral pub­lic from con­sum­ing al­co­hol. The law was en­acted at the same time the com­bus­tion en­gine was deemed to be more ef­fec­tive when run on fos­sil fu­els.

Pro­hi­bi­tion ended when there were petrol sta­tions put in place all over the coun­try and all cars ran on gas, and pub­lic trans­porta­tion such as street­cars had been re­moved from most cities. Smart cities re­fused and, like New York, en­joy ex­cel­lent pub­lic trans­porta­tion via trains and sub­ways.

I used to have a vi­sion that emerg­ing na­tions such as In­done­sia would learn from the mis­takes of the West. That they would not de­mand the same routes to de­vel­op­ment caus­ing dev­as­ta­tion to their ecosys­tems. I hoped coun­tries such as In­done­sia would fo­cus on keep­ing in­fra­struc­ture such as the ban­jars here in Bali and leap right into high tech solutions to pre­serve their iden­ti­ties and lead the world into a new way of liv­ing. I’d thought com­mu­nity- driven pro­grammes could im­prove the qual­ity of life by im­ple­ment­ing en­ter­prises of de­vel­op­ment that are sus­tain­able. Many years ago, Bali changed a westerner’s view of life. The sim­ple but sat­is­fy­ing qual­ity of life, the re­spect for all na­ture, the re­al­ity that a good life could be en­joyed with­out chas­ing fi­nan­cial pri­macy. Un­til the late 1980s, there were more trucks for trans­port­ing goods than cars. Bi­cy­cles were pop­u­lar, but most Ba­li­nese walked or took a Bemo.

Now it seems ev­ery Ba­li­nese fam­ily has a car or access to one. It is con­sid­ered a ne­ces­sity, even if one can­not drive. They took eas­ily to the bling of mod­ern con­sumerist so­ci­ety. The petrol- suck­ing au­to­mo­bile is at the cen­tre of west­ern cul­ture and South­east Asians are buy­ing into that ma­te­rial cul­ture at break­neck speed.

Like the con­tin­ued ex­pan­sion of ma­jor ho­tels and re­sorts, many funded by World Bank and multi­bil­lion­dol­lar cor­po­ra­tions, the virtues of a growth econ­omy were ex­tolled and ac­cepted, de­spite pub­lic out­rage.

Tem­ples no longer made up the sky­line. Ba­li­nese never owned their sawahs, passed down through gen­er­a­tions. Non- own­er­ship was prop­a­gated as a com­mu­nist ideal and elim­i­nated. Rice pad­dies, sold or many times bor­rowed against, be­gan dis­ap­pear­ing. Food is now an ex­pen­sive com­mod­ity.

Credit is how to buy things. Ev­ery­one has to work and that means get­ting to work. The nine-to-five ideal is em­braced to a fault so garbage trucks do pick­ups dur­ing the day, usu­ally dur­ing high-traf­fic times. The streets ac­com­mo­date one lane but are used for two lanes – just drive down the white line.

Drunken tourists rent bikes they don’t know how to drive. There is no con­scious­ness of ‘right of way’ (pedes­tri­ans first, bi­cy­cles sec­ond, merg­ing into traf­fic, etc.). Peo­ple can drive their gas- guz­zling ve­hi­cles any way they want.

When a young Korean tourist fell off her bike and was run over by a speed­ing dirt bike, the news did not men­tion the driver’s name and said he was not ap­pre­hended be­cause he had no in­surance and no money. Only now are new rules be­ing put in place. These in­clude a Rp.10 mil­lion fine or ten years in prison for bribery. But none of this will change the fact that there are too many cars, es­pe­cially taxis.

Here are some Band-Aid solutions us­ing south Bali as an ex­am­ple. Taxi stands must be set up to stop the shock­ing num­ber of taxis that rou­tinely prowl. Dur­ing peak traf­fic, there are four to six taxis to ev­ery pri­vately driven car, and most are empty. They speed up when they have a cus­tomer then slow to a crawl, an­noy­ing tourists by honk­ing or stop­ping to ha­rass them for a fare. First-time ar­rivals al­ways men­tion how they feel bar­raged by driv­ers bar­ter­ing for pas­sen­gers. Wel­come to Bali. Park­ing lots are es­sen­tial and there are few. Cars double- park, stop­ping traf­fic, and are never tick­eted. There is nowhere to park or even pull over, which doesn’t stop driv­ers from do­ing so and cre­at­ing chaos.

De­liv­ery trucks and garbage pick­ups should fol­low the lead of or­ga­nized towns with proper traf­fic laws (do your de­liv­er­ies at night). Garbage pickup is only al­lowed be­tween the hours of 1 am and 7 am. All over the west­ern world, garbage is picked up in the early hours of the morn­ing. Not ev­ery kind of work is nine-to-five. This is an­other con­ve­nient mis­con­cep­tion of auto de­liv­er­ies. High fines or com­mu­nity ser­vice should be im­posed for break­ing these laws.

Here is a novel idea. Im­pose fines and re­stric­tions for drunk driv­ing and en­force them. The streets are filled with wasted tourists – and a few lo­cals – after dark who drive at top speed, to­tally out of con­trol, then write on so­cial me­dia how Bali is at fault. If stupid ac­tions are il­le­gal in your coun­try, do not come here and act stupid be­cause you think there won’t be con­se­quences.

Bali has been ac­tively seek­ing solutions since

2010, but lit­tle has changed apart from bet­ter road main­te­nance, which has greatly im­proved at the cost of the en­tire sawah sys­tem. There go sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties.

Solutions are be­ing pre­sented in venues such as the 18th In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Traf­fic and Trans­porta­tion Psy­chol­ogy. They pre­sented com­pli­cated stud­ies such as “The Eco­nomic Value of Time Spent in Traf­fic.” These stud­ies many times use ‘en­gi­neer­ing math­e­mat­ics’ to study solutions con­structed by ants adapt­ing to a sim­i­lar traf­fic flow en­vi­ron­ment.

These solutions that are static and ideal do not ac­cord with re­al­is­tic ap­pli­ca­tions. There has been a mul­ti­tude of stud­ies and un­re­al­is­tic an­swers. Re­cently in Bali, they made a large num­ber of streets go one-way, with a com­put­er­ized ex­am­ple of how it would im­prove traf­fic flow. It did not work. It cre­ated chaos.

Bali needs to go high tech and be re­cep­tive to real al­ter­na­tives that will thrive and con­tinue to serve the next gen­er­a­tion. China has an elec­tric bus sys­tem where the bus moves at the top of an arch over ex­ist­ing roads – safe, sim­ple and so­lar en­er­gized. It makes no sound and runs on time.

Imag­ine hav­ing a smooth ride up to Ubud. One may bring a bike to use at one's des­ti­na­tion. Per­haps a bike made of bam­boo, which two peo­ple (ex­pats) are al­ready mak­ing. Soon, they will have an elec­tric bam­boo bike avail­able.

Sadly, how­ever, In­done­sia is fol­low­ing the West and re­ly­ing on whor­ing its re­sources to other coun­tries such as Amer­ica, and now hap­pily tak­ing de­vel­op­ment money from their Saudi vis­i­tors in ex­change for ‘part­ner­ships’ in the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and get­ting the quota for haj travel to Mecca raised to over 200,000 vis­i­tors for this year.

Only the very wealthy can af­ford to do so, but aren’t all good ci­ti­zens happy to keep the top 2 per­cent in the man­ner they are ac­cus­tomed to? That is pos­si­bly why ‘ trans­porta­tion al­ter­na­tive’ is a dis­taste­ful term po­lit­i­cally and in de­vel­oped so­ci­eties. Our world­wide re­liance on fos­sil fu­els is at the core of trans­porta­tion chaos hap­pen­ing glob­ally. We have the solutions, and by not im­ple­ment­ing them, we are doomed.

It is a minute be­fore mid­night, and in places like Amer­ica, oil is val­ued over wa­ter. I hope In­done­sia re­al­izes it can do bet­ter. I hope this emerg­ing na­tion can rec­og­nize the wis­dom of its in­dige­nous cul­tures in hold­ing na­ture sa­cred. Fos­sil fu­els do not sus­tain life. Wa­ter is life – and it can even run your car.

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