Indonesia Expat

Car-Free Sunday: To Be or Not to Be

Every Sunday morning, I go to Car-Free Sunday on Sudirman for my weekly distance run. It is the only time in the week where I can leave the treadmill behind and run outside in a pedestrian-friendly environment. I have enjoyed seeing the city from this point of view, however at the end of Ramadhan, Car-Free Sunday was not car-free and I was run over by a motorbike.

For those of you who stayed around this summer and ran, walked, biked or hung out with the kids on Sudirman during Car-Free Sunday, you know how blissful it was. There was barely anybody there, no parade, no loud music, nobody crossing without looking, just a few of us and the street. On Sunday August 16th, I parked near Grand Lucky as I usually do and geared up for a 22km run. To my surprise, Car-Free Sunday was not car-free that day. I stood up there for a few minutes watching the scene; there was no sign anywhere saying Car-Free Sunday was cancelled and there were hundreds of people walking, running and biking with a few cars in between.

Despite the fact that thousands of people had taken over the street, cars and motorbikes were passing by full speed on the already hazardous Jl. Sudirman. Policemen were driving by on motorbikes trying to show people out and make way for cars. I hesitated for a moment, but then decided that there were so many people on the street, they would have no choice but to close the street off. Oh, how wrong was I?

I ran all the way down to the infamous Pizza-man and then up to the H.I. roundabout. The sun was starting to come out, it was getting hot very fast, making it difficult to put one foot in front of the other. Then, it happened. One second I was up and running, the next something was dragging me down on the tarmac and rolled over my leg. I had no idea what had just happened to me. I looked behind and didn’t see anything, then tried to stand up and get out of the street. People were yelling while others stared.

Finally, a group of runners came to my aid. Everything was a bit blurry but I noticed the motorbike driver had been stopped by some people and everybody was screaming. I pictured them saying: “A bule down! A bule down!” A guy was trying to give me a massage on what I thought was a broken leg. I remember looking at my Garmin watch to make sure it was intact. I calmly paused it, probably thinking I would finish my race after the commotion, then I politely but firmly told the massage man not to touch my leg and told the motorbike driver who hadn’t stopped yelling since he had hit me, and who was probably blind not to see me with my outrageously flashy pink top and my orange and yellow shoes, to stop being hysterical and start by apologizing, which he did.

I didn’t have my phone with me, so I couldn’t contact my husband who was waiting for me at FX Mall with my daughter. I had run about nine of the 22 km I had planned to run, and thought for a second about finishing it. I stood up and contemplated the idea for a while when someone passed by yelling. “Hey! You are bleeding!” I looked down and I was indeed bleeding everywhere and was looking miserable. I decided to go back.

I started to walk. I walked for about 500m and figured it would take me more than one hour to get back at this pace, so I started to jog slowly and ended up increasing the pace. I guess you could say I decided to keep running after being hit by a motorbike. It reminded me of the story of a guy who was hit by lightning, kept running and won a marathon or something like that.

I tell the story in a funny way, now that I have been told by specialists that my leg is going to be fine, but for a few weeks after that encounter, I was convinced I would never run again. OK, I was being a bit dramatic, but hey!

I contacted the Car-Free Day organization to understand a bit more about who is behind this organization and why sometimes the street is closed and sometimes not, and mainly where to get the information from before heading there. They have been very candid: resources are limited for this event, although the security of thousands of people is on the line. Here is what they had to say.

Car-free day questions and answers with Muhamad Irawan, Head of Public Relation, Info Car-Free Day.

What is Car-Free Sunday and when did it start?

Car-Free Day in Jakarta takes place every Sunday morning, between 6am and 11am. During that time, motorized vehicles (apart from buses) are barred from entering the capital’s busiest street, Jalan Sudirman, from Monas to Senayan. It is the only moment where the citizens of Jakarta can get some sort of fresh air and practice sports or just be outside. It attracts about 10,000 people every week. Car-Free Day started in 2007 where it took place three times a year. Then in 2008, it took place once a month. Between 2009 and 2011 it became three times a month. It has been every Sunday since 2012, well, almost.

What organization is behind Car-Free Day?

Jakarta Transportation Agency (DKI Jakarta).

What are the biggest challenges of holding a car-free day in Jakarta? 

Stopping incoming traffic, managing street vendors, managing lanes of bikers, runners and walkers.

Who determines if Car-Free Sunday is on or not and where can we get the information?

Jakarta Transportation Agency holds a meeting every Tuesday and invents different participants’ organizations. This is where it is decided if there will be a car-free day or not. Because we are lacking in resources, the only way to know is to consult our website or Twitter account a few days before.

Anything else we should know about Car-Free Day?

Aside from the main event, there are also car-free days in different areas of the city. These events are not well advertised and sometimes punctual, but as an example, Jl. Cipete Raya is closed to cars on most Sunday mornings.


Twitter: @CFDinfo

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