Motorcycle taxis run by women catching on in Indonesia

A female motorcycle taxi rider with her passenger in Jakarta. A flurry of new motorcycle taxi options in the metropolis have given Indonesia's growing middle class greater choice of transport. The new services are a challenge to traditional motorcycl
A female motorcycle taxi rider with her passenger in Jakarta. A flurry of new motorcycle taxi options in the metropolis have given Indonesia's growing middle class greater choice of transport. The new services are a challenge to traditional motorcycle taxis or "ojeks" with their dangerous male riders.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • Female motorcycle taxi riders in headscarves zig-zag through heavy traffic in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the latest two-wheeled transport service for women making a dent in the male-dominated world of ride-hailing apps in the Muslim nation.

A flurry of new motorcycle taxi options have in the past year appeared in the metropolis of 10 million, led by popular service Go-Jek, giving Indonesia's growing middle class a greater choice of transport to get through some of the world's worst traffic jams.

The services - many inspired by ride-sharing app Uber and accessible on smartphones - are a challenge to traditional motorcycle taxis in Indonesia, known as "ojeks", which are ubiquitous but have drawn criticism with their dishevelled, dangerous male riders and unpredictable pricing.

Several services with women riders entered the market this year after years of growing piety in Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, and amid heightened safety concerns following reports of attacks on women by male motorcycle taxi riders.

They are in part designed with religious sensitivities in mind, as an increasing number of Muslim women wear headscarves and follow strict interpretations of Islam that forbid close contact with the opposite sex, except between married couples.

"The need for transportation for women is huge, especially in big cities where rates of crime and sexual harassment are very high," said Ms Evilita Adriani, co-founder of motorcycle taxi company Ojek Syari, better known by its nickname Ojesy.

"I feel more comfortable sharing a ride with a fellow Muslim woman," said Ms Nurlaila, a Surabaya housewife who goes by one name. She uses the service to take her children to school. "Thank God for Ojesy."

The company says business is booming - after starting in March with Ms Evilita as its only rider, it now has 350 riders.

Other motorcycle taxi companies vying for a stake in the female market include app-based service LadyJek, whose riders dress in pink jackets and helmets, and Sister-Ojek, a start-up that began operations earlier this year with capital of just US$100 (S$140).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Motorcycle taxis run by women catching on in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe