August 29, 2009

Survival tip: Know your "mouse streets"!

Jakarta is well-known for its traffic jam. In my opinion, it gets worse every year. So to save time, it is helpful to know Jakarta's back streets, what we call jalan tikus (meaning mouse streets).

Jalan tikus are narrow often winding streets, usually only fit for one car, which go through dense neighbourhoods (usually mid-lower class). Jakarta is full of these small streets, creating a maze that can get you from point A to point B whilst avoiding the traffic jams on the main roads. Because they are actually residential streets, they are usually only packed in the morning & evening, when Jakarta's traffic jams occur. For the rest of the day, the jalan tikus is relatively empty.

So why don't people use it more often?
- First of all, not every one knows a particular jalan tikus. Sometimes the streets are so small and winding, they're not on the map. Or there are lack of street names/ road signs so you can't use a map to navigate through. That is why you usually only know the ones that relate to your everyday life. I know the ones that will get me quicker to my office/ home but I have no idea about the jalan tikus in North Jakarta.

- Second, it is narrow so a bit difficult to maneuver, especially if you have a large car. Some people just don't feel comfortable driving through it.

- Third, you can get stuck. Jalan tikus is usually a two-way street although it can only fit one car. So you must know the "appropriate direction" people are using at that time. For example, in the morning, a jalan tikus will be used to get from point A to point B. But in the evening, the traffic will be from point B to point A.

I once got stuck for half-an-hour before we were moving again. You can't go forward because of the stubborn car that is defying direction and you can't go back because there is already a line of cars behind you. All you can do is wait until someone (usually local teenagers who live there) voluntarily helps direct the traffic. I glared at the driver who caused it once he passed by, and I bet you I wasn't the only one.

The best way to stumble upon a jalan tikus is when you take a taxi. Good taxi drivers know Jakarta's jalan tikus. Another way is just to follow the cars in front of you. If you see a couple of cars turning away from the main road, it may be because they are going to use a jalan tikus. But then again, it may be they are just heading home.

Going through a jalan tikus

Nearing the end of the jalan tikus

2 comments:

Crey said...

iya emang kudu tau jalan tikus di jkt ya pit, dan yg pasti jam2 kosongnya juga, soalnya kalo dah byk yg tau ya macet juga hehehe..

Fitri said...

iya ya crey...sekarang jalan tikus aja juga macet :(

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