How to Fix Bali’s Parking ChaosJune 16, 2010
So there I am, trapped for more than ten long minutes in a huge gridlock in Eat Street, with traffic banked up to Ku De Ta in one direction and Jalan Drupadi in the other. Everyone’s patience is wearing thin, and a cacophony of shrill beeps breaks out every sixty seconds before fading away in helpless despair. When I finally arrive at the source of the blockage, I see an over-sized people-mover parked by the side of the road, directly opposite a construction truck full of gravel on the other side. The remaining traffic lane has been reduced to slightly more than the width of a Suzuki Terimun. Nothing can get through without enormous difficulty.
There is ample room for the van to have been parked ten metres further along, where in fact it could have pulled over closer to the kerb. But no, it has not only has been left in the only spot guaranteed to cause maximum disruption, it has been moronically positioned about half a metre away from the kerb. And not only have its side mirrors been left extended, the steering wheel has been left on full right lock, so that the protruding front wheel now blocks any chance for motorcyclists to squeeze through.
As I finally reach this this incredible example of thoughtless parking, the driver emerges from the Circle K across the road, bearing one small plastic bag containing her ‘shopping’. She imperiously holds up her hand, stopping a car whose driver has waited interminably for the chance to slip past the blockade. No way now. As soon as he stops, a swarm of motorbikes seize the opportunity to get through the gap. She walks into the stream of moving bikes, causing them to brake suddenly, and pushes past me, rudely knocking my mirror askew. She tries to open her door, which is difficult with the crush of vehicles trying to get past. I’ve stayed relatively patient up to now, but I have reached my limit.
“Excuse me”, I say. She glares at me, her short blonde hair bristling. “Why didn’t you park over there, where you wouldn’t hold up traffic?” Her face screws up in annoyance. “Because I was doing my shopping here, IF you don’t mind”, she says petulantly, as if to a backward child. I do mind, actually. She goes on: “What, you expect me to walk in this heat?” Mmm. Ten metres is tough alright. I open my mouth to continue my carefully reasoned argument, but she snarls an anatomically impossible suggestion at me, gets in the car and drives off, nearly sideswiping a passing car. I suspect that she’s not all that creative, because she spits exactly the same obscenity at the other driver too. Nice lady.
Of course, she is not the only one in Bali who is utterly incapable of seeing the consequences of her parking choices. Locals and expats alike park cars and motorbikes here without any regard for anyone else. I have seen cars parked on blind corners, left at strange angles in parallel parking spots and abandoned parked and locked for hours across lane entrances and driveways. Then there is that nasty little T-junction in Jl. Double Six, where West-bound cars turning left into Jl. Werkudara must swing wide to the right before making the tight left turn. Naturally, every idiot in Bali feels compelled to park in precisely the spot that turning cars need to negotiate the turn. Result? Cars back and fill to make the turn, causing delays and chewing up the cobbled road surface. Chaos. And this parking madness is everywhere you look in Bali.
So what’s the solution? A zoned parking strategy might theoretically work, but not in Bali. Everyone would just ignore it. Parking inspectors? Yeah, right. No, the solution is to make it so embarrassing and inconvenient to park badly that very few would willingly do it. The technique was used on me once and I have never forgotten it.
A long time ago, when I was a callow student at an Australian university, street parking was expensive, limited to one hour, and for a young man in a hurry, simply inconvenient. Within the grounds of the institution was a car park reserved for professors, which I noticed was rarely full. I thought that the “No Parking for Students” sign surely couldn’t mean me, so I parked my little car there and left it for the day. I mean, what harm could it possibly do?
After lectures, I returned to find a very large notice stuck to my windscreen. It first informed me that I was an idiot, then politely rambled on about the inadvisability of ignoring my civic responsibilities. It was exactly in my line of vision when behind the wheel, making it impossible to drive. And when I say, stuck, I mean stuck. Here’s a tip: don’t mess with chemistry professors. The glue was some concoction which had set harder than expoxy resin and could probably have been used to glue planets together. It took a full three hours of scraping and cleaning before I could see enough to drive. I never parked there again.
I propose something similar for Bali. A large sticker saying “THIS CAR APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN PARKED BY A THOUGHTLESS MORON” could be slapped on offending vehicles when they have been stupidly left in a position which causes distress to other road users. Before long, this Adlerian solution would improve traffic flow immensely, without recourse to regulations that would be ignored anyway.
But who would be responsible for sticking these notices on offenders’ cars? Well, maybe we all should. The Bali Times could provide an insert of ten stickers per issue, which would fix the distribution problem. Just be careful how you park your own car while you’re stickering those of others. Someone may be watching.