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(11/25/2009) On a recent drive from Denpasar to Ubud, a group of large motor cycles appeared in the rearview mirror of an unsuspecting motorist, the bike's appearance heralded by the unmistakable deep-throated roar produced by high bore engines. Onboard the bikes were overweight men, trying in vain to arrest the inevitable march of time through middle age, who sounded sirens, commanded traffic on both side so the road to pull over to ease their passages and, in one instance, even landed a large boot into the side panel of a car that failed to immediately give way.
Such abhorrent lack of road etiquette is repeated in various locations across the island every day - suggest why these oversized bikes and the men who drive them have beend less-than-affectionately dubbed as "road hoggs."
The Big Bike Fraternity
Such bad behavior is among the factors increasing pressure on Bali's police to bring big bikes and their owners into line.
In a recent investigative story published by NusaBali, it was revealed how many of the older largest motorbikes traveling Bali roads are unregistered vehicles operating illegally under the "protection" of motor cycle clubs amd sympathetic members of the police. An anonymous source close to Bali's bike scene told the paper: "Usually these motor clubs establish close relationships with ranking police officers and operate under the guise of community service. Just check, see how many of these clubs have police affiliations."
Past efforts to clean-up the large number of smuggled motorbikes through an amnesty program have failed. The program which would allow unregistered bikes to be registered, also required that customs duties equal to 100% of the bike's purchase price be paid. This discouraged most from trying to get their paperwork in place. The illegal bike owners chose instead the less expensive route of arranging an illegal license plate through their respective big bike club.
The anonymous source said big bike drivers have little to fear as police seldom inspect the paperwork of such vehicles in routine road side paperwork checks. The same source said the illegal use of unregistered big bikes on Bali roads would only stop when bike clubs refused bikes without complete paperwork from being listed on their membership rosters.
Police Reluctant to Take Action
Surprisingly, Bambang Sugeng of the Bali traffic police freely admitted that unregistered motor bikes formed into clubs escorted in convoys by the police are virtually guaranteed to be safe from any law enforcement measures.
In a separate front-page article from the daily DenPost, Officer Bambang Sugeng’s public statements on big bike operations in Bali has been met with disbelief.
The paper openly questioned the legal thinking behind Bali’s top traffic cop’s statement that, under certain circumstance, unlicensed and unregistered motorcycles could join a convoy organized for social purposes and escorted by the police.
Asking the question: if the police fail to enforce the law, who will? DenPost dished ridicule and sarcasm on Officer Sugeng who, they pointed out, was coincidentally also a big bike owner. Reminding that the law stipulates that all motor vehicle drivers in Indonesia must present on demand a driver’s license and vehicle registration, they labeled as “foolish” (konyol) Sugeng’s assertion that circumstance exists in which unregistered big bike owners could be tolerated.
Following the traffic officer’s statement to its “illogical” conclusion, DenPost suggested that all the large number of unregistered small street motorbikes now operating in Bali need to do is to join an organization in order to avoid paying road taxes and registration fees.
Enjoying the wild ride provided by this argument, DenPost then went on to describe a situation in which large groups of bebek motorbikes could request police escorts in return for making the occasional donation to a local orphanage.
To underline their point, the paper interviewed a group of young men sitting near a local monument in downtown Denpasar. A member of that group, Wawan Dita, reacted positively to the police statement that under certain circumstances big bikes should be allowed to operate illegally, saying: “Rather than paying taxes to the registration bureau, it would be better if we donated this money to an orphanage or some other social agency. At least we’d know where’s the money is going. In return (the police) can let us drive our bikes on the roads without registration certificates.”