February 7, 2016

Two-wheeled Uber

You know Uber, right? Started in San Francisco (where else?), you can now hail Uber drivers in major cities on all continents. They're even in China, even though Didi Kuaidi is giving it a run for its money, offering buses and chauffeur service along with ridesharing. Its Didi Hitch service is expected to pick up quite a few riders over the Chinese New Year holiday.

Uber also operates in Jakarta, but is plagued by the same issue afflicting every car driver: the legendary traffic jams. It is not unusual for riders to request a stop and treat their drivers to a meal so both can resume the trip without the growling stomach.

Enter Gojek.

Gojek is like Uber, but the driver pulls up in front of your door on a motorcycle. Motorcycles are nimble and can slip around the cars. The driver gives you the trademark green helmet to wear, which makes you not only their paying customer but also their involuntary mobile billboard, and you climb on the back.

Like Uber, it's a door-to-door service, you reserve and pay online, and you can leave ratings on the drivers. Recently they have introduced the woman-friendly option of asking for a female driver, which is important in this Muslim country. And for foodies (or the plain lazy), you can order a Gojek ride for your lunch or dinner: the driver picks up your order at the restaurant, pays for it, and you pay for both the food and its ride. They also have more conventional courier service.

You do get to do what motorcycle riders in large congested cities do: breathe in a toxic cocktail. You know all the noise around the Volkswagen diesel scandal, over its cars spewing out way more smog-forming emissions than they should? Well, in places like Jakarta they'd laugh at the whole affair: their diesel contains so much sulphur (1250ppm, compared to 15ppm in the United States) that the NOx is merely an afterthought.

And of course, you don't know who else has been sweating into that green helmet with the clever logo (Gojek is a wordplay on 'ojek', which is the local slang for motorcycle.) To assuage the squeamish, they offer you a shower cap to protect your hair from the brain bucket. Go figure.

On the other hand, you do get to weave around all those cars as they are stuck in traffic. Unless, that is, traffic is so overwhelming that even motorcycles are stuck too.

There was a crackdown in December 2015 on Gojek and its rival Grabbike. But it provoked such a firestorm on social media that Indonesia's president has rebuffed his transport minister's move, arguing that for too many people this is the only way to get around.



You may also like:
1. The travel bureaus that put Jack Kerouac on the road
2. Stop the Smog: use cleaner coal and diesel.
3. Why VW diesel fix comes later to American drivers



  1. In Jakarta, Gojek, Uber etc, is needed, because we need faster and to avoid traffic jam

  2. wow! every day I ride uber or gojek, it saves time.


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