Jakarta bans e-scooters from sidewalks, footbridges, roads following fatal accident

Workers load all the GrabWheels electronic scooters in the Senayan area of Jakarta onto a truck on Nov. 14. The Jakarta administration plans to impose restrictions on the operation of the scooters following an accident that killed two users.(JP/Dhoni Setiawan). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

JAKARTA, Nov 15, 2019, The Jakarta Post. The popular GrabWheels electric scooters rented out by ride-hailing company Grab Indonesia are no longer to be allowed to freely roam the streets of Jakarta as the city administration is set to restrict the two-wheelers following the deaths of two users in a traffic accident earlier this week, The Jakarta Post reported.

The Jakarta Transportation Agency is currently drafting a regulation to ensure the safety of the users, agency head Syafrin Liputo said. The service came under fire after two users were hit by a car and died outside of the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) sports complex in Central Jakarta early Monday morning.

The accident prompted the agency to meet with representatives of Grab Indonesia to discuss e-scooter operations.

“We have talked with the operator of the e-scooters and we agreed in order to guarantee the safety and comfort of pedestrians, we will allow more room for them by prohibiting e-scooters from running on sidewalks and pedestrian bridges,” he told reporters on Thursday.

The service, promoted as a green and modern mobility alternative, is only allowed to operate in specific areas, such as GBK. The restrictions apply not only to GrabWheels but also to privately owned e-scooters.

When they go outside the compound, users must use bike lanes instead of sidewalks and must not mix on the streets with other vehicles for the sake of everyone’s safety. People would be discouraged from using e-scooters during Car Free Day events, Syafrin said, adding that his agency would restrict the rental hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The city administration plans to fine users if they violate the 2009 Traffic Law, one article of which upholds the rights of pedestrians. The same law also prohibits motorcyclists from driving on sidewalks.

If found guilty, violators could be sentenced to two months in jail and a Rp 500,000 (US$35.46) fine.

Syafrin said if users want to cross footbridges, they must first turn off their e-scooters and carry them while walking.

The Jakarta Bina Marga Road Agency posted photos on its Instagram account, @binamargadki, on Tuesday showing people using electric scooters on pedestrian bridges in the Sudirman area of Central Jakarta. The photos showed what the agency alleged was damage to the wooden boards of the bridges caused by the e-scooters.

Agency head Hari Nugroho said the wood panels were designed to accommodate pedestrians and not wheeled scooters. He said the agency had identified at least three footbridges — near GBK, the Jakarta Police headquarters and the Senayan traffic circle — that suffered damaged panels from people using e-scooters to cross them.

GrabWheels chief executive officer TJ Tham said Grab was willing to cooperate with authorities to ensure its products, including GrabWheels, were safe.

“Nowadays, if we look at footbridges, there will be warnings not to ride the electric scooters on the bridges, but users can carry them instead,” Tham told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said the company urged for the scooters to only be used on designated lanes: bike lanes and areas near GrabWheels parking spots.

Before unlocking a GrabWheels scooter for use, the smartphone app shows safety instructions that users must read.

Tham said the service is for short-distance transportation and only allows one user per scooter with a maximum weight of 100 kilograms.

Despite the requirements, many users still operate the electronic ride in unruly ways. Many have said that sometimes one e-scooter was used by two people.

The two victims, 18-year-old Wisnu and Ammar were using one scooter when a car hit them from behind as they were traveling with their friends. The six people rented three scooters from a station at the FX Sudirman mall at 1 a.m. on Monday.

Their friends Fajar Wicaksono, Bagus, Wulan and Wanda were injured in the accident.

Fajar told kompas.com that a Toyota Camry sped from behind and hit the six friends when they were riding on the side of the street in the direction of FX Sudirman.

Tham said Grab regretted the incident and the company offered its condolences to the friends and families of the victims. He added that Grab had reached out to the victims’ families and offered the full support that the customers and their families needed after the incident.

Since the launch in May, GrabWheels had gained popularity among young residents in Greater Jakarta. Touted as a green and modern transportation alternative, many use it as a fun way to move from one place to another.

While in Jakarta security concerns had only recently been raised, they had long been discussed concerning the operation of electric scooters in other cities abroad.

Singapore has banned electric scooters from operating on the city-state’s footpaths. Offenders will be fined S$2,000 ($1,467) starting in 2020.

In Paris, France, electric scooters are banned from sidewalks and offenders can face a fine of 135 euro ($148). Spain’s Madrid also bans electric scooters in pedestrian areas and from roads have speed limits in excess of 50 kilometers per hour.

In the United Kingdom, electric scooters are illegal on public roads, bike lanes and sidewalks, with violators facing a fine of 300 pounds ($385).

Some cities in the United States have also imposed restrictions on electric scooters.

Related to the accident in Jakarta, police had named the Camry driver as a suspect. The police, however, did not detain the driver, whom they identify only as DH, arguing that they believed he would not run away or try to destroy evidence.

Jakarta Traffic Police subdivision head Comr. Fahri Siregar told tempo.co on Tuesday that DH was named a suspect for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.

If convicted on a drunk-driving charge DH could spend six years in prison. However, Fahri claimed that DH stopped his vehicle to try help the victim, so he would not be charged with leaving the scene of an accident, even though one of the injured e-scooter users, Wulan, said she was the victim of a hit-and-run.

“He [DH] did not get out. He only hit the brakes to get Bagus [one of the victims] off [his car’s windshield] and then ran away,” Wulan said as reported by Antara news agency.

Not all pedestrians, such as 24-year-old Bensfica Fedelia Audrey, a freelancer living in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta, want to share their walking space with GrabWheels users.

She said she is annoyed by e-scooter users who take space up on the sidewalks. She also pointed out that she often saw children riding them without adult supervision.

Meanwhile, regular GrabWheels user Ryo, 30, who uses the scooters to roam around the Sudirman area at night, said that users like himself often ride on the sidewalks.

“I know that we should give way to pedestrian first, but there bells on the scooter to alert others,” Ryo said, adding that he would welcome any lanes and specific areas to be designated for their operation.

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