TWO WHEELS vs TWO FEET: The Struggle for Walkable Spaces in Indonesian Campuses

Research & Ideas
January 31 , 2024

Walkability is an indication of how friendly an area is for pedestrians. Factors influencing walkability include the presence of quality footpaths, sidewalks, or pedestrian rights-of-way, traffic conditions, and the overall safety of the pedestrian area, including land use patterns, building accessibility, and security.

Now, what about pedestrian mobility in Indonesia?

At Gadjah Mada University, 59% of students ride motorcycles to campus. Similarly, at the University of Brawijaya in Malang, motorcycle usage dominates at 53.1%.

Looking at data from several campuses in Indonesia, more than half of the students choose to use motorized vehicles as their mode of transportation. But what are the reasons?

1. Time and Fatigue
   It saves time and prevents tiredness.

2. Poor Pedestrian Facilities
   Walkable facilities for pedestrians are often not good enough.

3. Climate Considerations
   Indonesia has two seasons, dry and rainy. The hot and sunny dry season can be tiring, while the rainy season can be dangerous and inconvenient.

4. Technology-Driven Habits
   People are used to the convenience of technology, considering walking for relatively long distances as unusual.

Without people realizing it, the widespread use of motorized vehicles on campuses can create various negative impacts. In short, the increase in motorcycle traffic can result in:

  • Increased danger, especially for pedestrians.
  • Reduced physical activity due to less walking space.
  • Decreased public space for social interaction and collaboration.

For example, at the Faculty of Engineering UGM, the One Earth basketball field was transformed into a parking area, and the badminton field in the Department of Architecture and Planning was used as a motorcycle parking area during working hours. Such changes replace recreational and social spaces for students with inactive spaces filled only with motorized vehicles.

Furthermore, there are safety risks for students associated with this phenomenon. Studies have shown that the highest traffic accident rates in Yogyakarta occur among young people, particularly high school students and university students.

However, universities with pedestrian-friendly facilities can have various positive effects on their surroundings.

Research from Stanford reveals a positive correlation between walking and creative thinking. Their study shows that walking significantly enhances divergent thinking, crucial for generating new ideas.

Not only that, a study in PubMed indicates that campuses that are pedestrian-friendly improve mental health and life satisfaction. Another study found that a walkable environment contributes to better physical health and fosters higher social connections and social capital in communities that prioritize walking.

This shows that campuses designed with pedestrian facilities in mind can foster stronger bonds and a more connected social environment, making the campus space more vibrant. These findings emphasize the importance of a pedestrian-friendly environment in creating a good ecosystem for the academic community within.

So, are there efforts to prioritize walking mobility?

The WHO has recommended emphasizing the importance of infrastructure design in protecting vulnerable road users by providing sidewalks, bike lanes, and safe crosswalks. Moreover, connectivity, accessibility, safety, and pedestrian comfort are essential considerations in designing a walkable campus.

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