Traditional Becaks (pedicab) in Indonesia

There may have been different form of pedicab / cycle-rickshaws in different part of the globe. The Indonesian ‘beach’ is incarnation of the ubiquitous pedicab, or cycle-rickshaw, found everywhere from. But it is Indonesia, and especially Java, that is the true heartland of the pedicab. The becak is as much a motif and symbol of Indonesia as the silhouette of a wayang kulit puppet, or the smell of a clove cigarette.

becak 4

The becak, a three-wheeled pedal-powered bike with a passenger seat, is the descendant of the original hand-pulled rickshaws that originated in Japan in the 19th Century. The design and style varies from city to city, but in Indonesia the passenger sits up front, with an uninterrupted view of the busy streets. Despite the best efforts of municipal government’s becak still provide transport and employment for millions of people across Indonesia.

There are hundreds of thousands of becaks in Indonesia, but this was not always the case, and despite their timeless image, they are actually a relatively recent addition to the urban landscape. Before the Second World War becak were virtually unknown. There had been tricycles used for transporting goods for many years, but it was only in 1936 that the first passenger-carrying becak hit the streets of Jakarta. The Dutch authorities took an immediate dislike to the new invention, worrying about safety and congestion, and setting the tone for government attitude to becaks until now. They might have acted to stamp them out altogether, but History intervened.

becak In Yogyakarta – a becak stronghold – the mudguards of the heavyset becaks there often carry complex and well-executed pictures, while the leaner, longer becaks of Surabaya come in a multitude of patterns. Tassels sometimes adorn pedals and the wooden slats of the designs, hinting at classical Islamic art.

Back in 1930, this transportation was used by the traders from China who brought this transportation from their country to Indonesia as the carriage of their stuff. The name of Becak was originated from Be Chia (Hokkian Dialect, which means “horse carriage”) because back in China, this transportation was drag by horse. Since using horse is not popular in Indonesia that time, so the carriage been drove by the men. In the earlier, people called this transportation as “Roda Tiga” (The Three Wheels). But since 1940, it starting been called Beca (wrote as Betjak, Betja, or Beetja) and used as regular transportation for people.

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Becak is ganing it high popularity in 1960s – 1980s, because it provides door-to-door service that easier passenger to go anywhere they want (especially if they bringing along a lot of their things).  But in the quieter side streets of the nation’s cities, with the rattle of a tin bell and the creak of an ill-oiled chain, the becak is still rolling, making passenger seats often carry bright floral its way slowly into the 21st Century.

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2 thoughts on “Traditional Becaks (pedicab) in Indonesia

  1. Al Grayson

    Becaks (passenger seat in front) and pedicabs (driver in front) have a considerable popularity in college towns and tourist cities in the USA.
    Their greatest opposition has been from taxi companies that try to use government to force out competitors.
    Many pedicab drivers operate on a strict donation basis, which prevents burdensome licensing, expensive commercial insurance and heavy taxation. Many drivers have found that people tip much more generously when the driver does not charge a fare like a taxi.

    1. admintih Post author

      That’s very insightful, thank you for sharing your commentary. Down here, Becaks are fast becoming a rare breed, replacing them with motorized versions trikes Rickshaw. This traditional transportation with human power, with the passenger sits up front, and an uninterrupted view of the busy streets. Still survive despite the development of increasingly sophisticated transportation. But the becak endures away from the multilane highways, rolling through small villages alleyways too cramped for a taxi and beyond the bemo networks. In any case, the becak still fills a gap in the infrastructure of urban Indonesia, and as long as there are narrow side streets and people willing to haggle with a dark-faced, grinning man with iron calf muscles for a sedate, gently rattling ride over potholed tarmac, they will exist 🙂

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