Riding a bicycle may not be the most popular activity in Jakarta but a community of cyclists hopes to change that—while exploring the city’s hidden charms. Dian Hasan and Gregory Tobing—the duo behind cycling community Other Side Bicycle Experience—have taken sightseeing to another level. On two wheels.
Starting off early in the morning, they lead a group of cyclists down narrow alleyways among the city’s kampungs until midday. For many this is an eye-opening experience of the city’s inhabitants. Unlike other bicycle programmes, like Bike to Work and Bike Sharing, this approach focuses on inclusivity and bringing communities together.
Founded in 2017, Other Side Bicycle Experience’s mission is to use bicycles to build networks and help people engage with culture—and help reduce pollution in the process. Hasan and Tobing started the community in response to general stereotypes about Jakarta’s urban environment.
Hasan organised a discussion and invited members of Coworkinc, a Coworking & Event Space, which he helped found. Later, the community collaborated with FLAT06 hotel to support them.
“People sometimes take their surroundings for granted, places like the urban kampung, perceiving it a slum neighborhood. We want people to get out of their comfort zone. We want to open their eyes, especially young people, and to get them to look at the broader community and the place we live in, understanding the way of life,” Hasan says.
Urban Kampung tours began as a pilot project, #OtherSideofKemang, in March last year and explored kampungs in North and East Kemang, South Jakarta. Since then, the tours have expanded and now include the neighbourhoods of Kuningan, Kota Tua, Kebayoran, Menteng and Senopati.
Now, it has become a popular option among the international community in Jakarta looking to get away from their daily routine. Earlier this year, Other Side Bicycle Experience organised #OtherSideofKotaTua, where they had 25 people form 7 different nationalities. The tours include stops where participants can relax and go to a local cafe to enjoy the city’s culinary scene, as well as visit interesting places. Enjoying Tjamilan and Javara products or stopping at Gordi and Pizza Place are all part of the community’s mission to support local businesses.
By promoting the trips with a hashtag, the group hopes to communicate with a wider audience through storytelling in the hope of inspiring people to explore more. Thanks to the Other Side Bicycle Experience, members have learned more about the communities they’ve explored, including unique waste management practices in a Kemang neighbourhood.
In Warung Buncit, participants discovered a carpenter from Jepara who runs a small business making food carts (gerobak makanan) and renting them to vendors, thereby providing insight into how communities earn their living.
There have been other discoveries such as of an abandoned home from the Dutch colonial period, a hydroponic farm in a secluded part of Menteng and even grunge graffiti on a former musholla.
The community, thus, captures the contrast between the glitzy high society life and densely populated local neighbourhoods. This, in many ways, paints the vast gap in modern society.
Sensing the Power of Two-Wheels
Hasan and Tobing didn’t want the community to be regarded as a group of moneyed individuals cycling around to witness poverty. Tobing, a self-described ‘bike junkie” in his native France, notes that the bicycle can be seen as a symbol of openness which lets one to get closer to one’s surroundings— both nature and the people.
“Our goal is to build and develop the relationship with the people and probably find a solution as the money goes back to the community,” Tobing explains.
According to him, riding a bicycle enables one to move slower and make one pay closer attention to one’s surroundings. This humble, two-wheeled vehicle is an equaliser; there are no class divisions.
“It will be a different experience if we were to visit the neighbourhood with a car for example. As one joins the trip, we want to make people to be more down to earth, and many of them break their stereotypes, they begin to feel safe around people in this particular neighborhood,” he adds.
In the future, Other Side Bicycle Experience hopes to expand the cycling culture to other cities such as Bogor, Bandung, Batam and Temanggung. The community will continue to promote sustainable movements in collaboration with Bamboo Bike and Pasar Papringan in Temanggung, Central Java.
Join the monthly trips series by Other Side Bicycle Experience on Eventbrite.com. Whatsapp Dian at 0811 773 893, or Agnes at 0817 773 513; or email: [email protected] Follow them on instagram @flat06trips; @otherside.travelexperience. (Fees are charged per package and include bicycle rental and meals).