operators are not as traditional as the bicycles themselves -- most of them are former ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers that were unable to make ends meet.
"In the past, many people used our service. But slowly it has declined (in popularity). The business has become even worse since the busway service started," says Sunaryo, who moved to Old Town, West Jakarta, in the 1980s.
He says that when he was an ojek driver, he used to pick up office workers going for lunch and office boys running errands.
He also used to transport people to and from the fish markets in the northern part of Old Town.
A ride on his bicycle to the nearby bus station costs around Rp 4,000 (33 US cents), while a trip to the nearby Sunda Kelapa seaport, fish market or Maritime Museum costs more. Prices are negotiable.
"But it doesn't mean that I can't go far. I took a passenger to Slipi once, you know," says the man who hails from Tumenggung village in Central Java.
The road from Old Town to Slipi, in West Jakarta, has many ups and downs, just as his income does.
"Rationally, I shouldn't have been able to afford bringing up my four children, but somehow I did. They are good kids and my wife never complains about my wavering income. We take out loans when my earnings are low on some days and pay it back when I get more on other days. So I just leave everything to fate," he says lightly.
Another antique bicycle taxi driver, Siib Riyadi, takes a more somber view of things. He says his income has dropped to around Rp 20,000 per day from Rp 50,000 a day since the busway was launched.
"Some days I get nothing. There is nothing I can do about it. If you are not strong enough, you will get really stressed out," he says with a hint of distress in his voice.
He claims to have worked as a two-wheel taxi driver since 1995, and was introduced to the profession by a friend.
"I did other jobs but they were no good. Then a friend of mine asked if I would do this and I have been in the business ever since," he says.
"I want to get away from the small room near the fish market I rent with my wife but it is so hard to save," he adds.
However, not all is bad news. The development of Old Town has brought its own blessing on him and his peers, as they now rent out bicycles to visitors.
Occasionally, they are hired to transport groups of tourists around the area.
"It is good when that happens. The organizer pays us and sometimes the tourists will take pity on us and give us tips," he says, adding that he does not know enough about the area to be able to impart the history of the area on tourists.
Daryono, the local manager of the bicycle taxis, says the riders can brush up on the history of the area by going to museums and talking with historians.
"The passengers are happier if we can explain. Hopefully we can pick up more tips that way to top up the decreasing number of passengers," he says.
-- JP/Mariani Dewi