Kuta Beach Traffic Problems
Kuta (Bali), Indonesia
Kuta Beach's Poppies Gang I is a constant battle between man and machine that should not have to be faught.
One of the most aggravating aspects of Bali's Kuta district is the allowance of traffic on what should be a pedestrian-only alley. Instead of walking without concern along this 500-meter stretch of street, you've got bicycles, mopeds, scooters, motorbikes, motorcycles, automobiles, and trucks—traveling in both directions—on a path already saturated with tourists on foot.
I look closely at who's actually riding/diving these wheeled annoyances. It would be one thing to see tourists zipping up and down the alley, going to or returning from their hotel, but 95% of the time it's a local behind the wheel.
It completely baffles me as to why locals are using this street. They have absolutely no business zipping down it at ungodly speeds, when it provides little to no time savings. Poppies Gang I is being used as a shortcut, when none is necessary. The flow of traffic doesn't restrict motorbikes (and vehicles in their class) along Jl Pantai Kuta, and the time spent dodging pedestrians and waiting for clogs to clear must only delay the driver further. It's more than common to see an auto squeezing it's way down the narrow street, only to have a small hoard of scooters trailing behind it, crawling along at toddler-speed.
The simple experience of leaving my hotel and walking to the beach consistently turns my mood foul. I'm happy and all smiles on the way out the door, only to be clipped and/or pushed out of the street by mechanized traffic. It's impossible to carry and plastic bag at my side, as it will consistently be struck by a passing motorist. Holding hands with someone while strolling down the way? Forget it.
At some level I can't help but think store owners along the street have collectively paid city officials off to keep traffic on the street. After all, every time an auto crushes its way down the alley, every tourist/pedestrian has to jump into one of the gift shops, pirated music/movie stores, or restaurants.
Tatiana and I are on the same level when it comes to this abhorrent nuisance. It's gotten to a point where we really dread having to leave the hotel and walk down the street. Today I reached my boiling point and rebelled.
Walking back from the beach in the late afternoon, Tatiana and I finally decided to passively protest against the situation—we would not get out of the way. Walking along the side of the street, hand-in-hand, it wasn't long before a car pulled up behind us. He honked, and we kept strolling. He honked more, and neither of us looked back.
"Hey, there's a car behind you," one gift shop employee yelled out.
"I don't care," I replied, curtly.
He looked absolutely baffled, murmuring, "I don't care?" in a confused repetition of my response. He'd clearly never seen such behavior (and for good reason—tourists are suppose to play nice and roll over, right?)
As expected, the situation began to escalate with the taxi. He revved his engine and continued to honk, bringing his bumper within a few centimeters of the back of my legs. "If he hits me, I'm gonna loose it," I said calmly to Tatiana.
An American-accented female voice started up behind us. It was the passenger in the car—"Dude! …Dude!"
Although we paid her no mind, I did feel bad that she was unlucky enough to get wrapped up in our little demonstration, and have to pay out a little more on the meter because of it (assuming the cab was running on one).
Then, as predicted, the cab advanced on us, striking me in the back of one leg. The driver had crossed the line, and I exploded.
I spun on spot, and, looking straight into the driver's face through the windshield, screamed a not-so-nice sentence at the top of my lungs while violently slamming my open palm down into the hood of his car three times. Tatiana said the man looked scared to death. I'd made a very large dent in the hood of the vehicle.
I resumed walking with Tatiana—not a sound from the cab any longer—and a few meters later the street widened just enough for use to comfortably let him, and about twenty motorbikes, pass by.
I hated to loose it in front of Tatiana, but she (like I) thought it was more than justified. Besides, this is coming from a women who I witnessed kick-in the side of a taxi door in Cuzco, Peru, when yelling at the driver of a cab that nearly ran me over. Ah, quite a pair we are.