Road safety is an alien concept in Bali and there is so much that needs to be done to get motorcyclists to ride their bikes properly that you’d think that a new law which requires motorcyclists to switch on their lights during the day wouldn’t be at the top of the agenda. But you’d be wrong. Because under the new traffic law, violators will face a fine of Rp100,000 and a 15-day prison sentence!
But if this serves as the benchmark for traffic violations, then what sort of sanctions are they planning for other more serious infringements of the law? 5 years in the slammer for stacking things up on the back of the bike? 10 years in jail for not wearing a helmet? Or how about a life sentence for taking your family with you on an outing?
Having lived in Indonesia for many years (mostly in Jakarta), I reckon I must have ridden close to 100,000 kms in this country. Some people ask me for my advice. My answer is simple: do NOT ride a motorcycle unless you have to!
The roads here are incredibly dangerous! But if you do choose to ride a motorcycle for God’s sake follow these tips:
1) make sure you have a full insurance policy that will cover a flight back to your country in the event you are very seriously injured. Some idiots have come here, hurt themselves badly, and their parents have had to meet the costs of airlifting their loved ones back home because they lacked insurance.
2) Some people say always wear a helmet. This would be good advice EXCEPT virtually everyone who wears a helmet in Indonesia never bothers to fasten the strap. This means the helmet is completely useless as it will simply fly off in a crash. But if you are disciplined enough to fasten the strap, then make sure you choose a properly certified motorcycle helmet that will actually protect you.
3) Stay well over to the left! And do not try to overtake unless you really have no other option.
4) Unless you have a death wish, NEVER ride a motorcycle after drinking alcohol.
5) And NEVER ride a motorcycle in the rain – the risks increase exponentially. Also exercise EXTREME CAUTION after a downpour because the road may be slippery and pot holes may be hidden by puddles.
6) Watch out for vehicles pulling out in front of you from side turnings! This is Indonesia so NEVER assume other road users will drive responsibly.
7) MOST IMPORTANTLY, ride a motorcycle as if it were a BICYCLE. This is what I do. Ride really SLOWLY. Nasty accidents are a function of speed and if you can keep it below 30kms per hour, you are in a much, much safer position. Believe me, this may sound crazy but it is good advice. Even riding at just 30kms per hour you will obviously travel 30kms in one hour. Why ride faster? Don’t worry about the time – because no one else does!