Saturday, May 19, 2007

Police insist on compulsory left lane for motorcyclists

Monday, January 29, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Transportation Ministry has raised objections to a Jakarta Police-imposed policy which forces motorcyclists to use left lanes along designated city roads.

The ministry has demanded city police provide clear and legitimate legal grounds for the newly introduced road rule.

Despite the objection, city police have continued to enforce the left-lane policy.

"We will continue to enforce the policy, though we realize there are other (legal grounds) we must set into place," Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Adang Firman told reporters Friday.

The left-lane policy took effect Jan. 7. There are at least seven roads, mostly main thoroughfares, on which left-lane use for motorcyclists is mandatory.

The new policy has brought criticism from the Transportation Ministry's director general of land transportation safety, Suripno, who said there was no legal basis for city police to implement the changes.

In a Dec. 28 letter to city police, Suripno said Indonesia's adherence to a left lane traffic system was based on Government Regulation No. 43/1993.

He said the central government's permission and the introduction of new regulations were required before the policy could be legally enforceable.

Suripno said civilian violations of the left-lane rule were not punishable until a bylaw accompanying the policy was produced.

"If we want to improve traffic safety we need long-term traffic management and engineering strategies, and this will require a legal basis," he said.

Adang said, however, the left-lane policy was not a legislative issue and only concerned traffic management.

"I think if people see the regulation's positive impact, they will accept it. We have introduced the policy for the people, not for ourselves," Adang said.

Meanwhile, city police traffic director Sr. Comr. Djoko Susilo said the policy aimed to reduce traffic accidents, which, according to police data, primarily involve motorcycles.

"We want to save people's lives, not focus on sectoral interests," said Jakarta Police Traffic Directorate's head of law enforcement, Sr. Adj. Comr. Tomex Korniawan, on Friday.

He said the number of traffic accidents involving motorcyclists had reduced by 58 percent within a week of introducing the policy.

In 2006 there were 4,475 traffic accidents in Jakarta, with 1,128 fatalities, Tomex said. As many as 857 deaths were motorcycle-related.

"That means about 30 people died every day in motorcycle accidents. Why would anyone oppose the left-lane policy if they cared about human life?" he asked.

Suripno said, however, that he did not intend to complicate the matter by tendering his objection to the policy.

"We are not in a position to reject anything from city police, everything is in the hands of the local authorities. We have only offered advice on traffic management," he said.

Meanwhile, Heru Sutomo, from the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI), said city police had prematurely imposed the policy and that it was too early to tell if it was effective.

"There must be a clear framework and purpose because this involves many people and many interests," he said.

If police wished to alter Jakarta's road rules, they should take the matter to the Transportation Ministry to regulate such changes, he said.

"People don't care where the idea comes from. As long as it is good, they will accept it," Heru said.

He said many people disobeyed the left-lane rule because it was not introduced through the proper law-making processes and not subject to a proper public awareness campaign.

Heru said that although the policy had already been implemented, it required an independent evaluation.

"If it is clear that the policy has more advantages than disadvantages for people, why should we not continue to use it?" he asked. (02)

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