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Hate traffic jams? Avoid Jakarta

Lists of the world’s best (or commonly most ‘liveable’ cities) are often pretty bland, They are places where nothing much goes wrong, where the air is good and the schools can teach and the traffic moves and where, quite frankly, the biggest risk is going to be dying of boredom. After all, why would you live in a city if not for some kind of thrill?

So it is really much more fun to look at the worst cities in the world. Because while we don’t want bland, most of us don’t want hell on earth either.  And when we are feeling frustrated by our own dysfunctional homes, there is a perverse delight in learning that things could be much worse elsewhere.

The latest of these lists appears on the website Thrillist, compiled apparently through discussion with several urban planners. There are cities that appear there unsurprisingly – Dubai, Sao Paolo – and others that are more of a surprise, especially Boston. There are also cities of which many of us may not have heard. But probably the most depressing entry is for Jakarta. 

As the blog says of the Indonesian capital, ‘When your country’s capital is also declared your country’s worst city, you know you’ve got a problem.’ And that problem is most severe in terms of traffic. It is officially the worst in the world, with every citizen spending an average of 400 hours a year stuck in traffic.

There are many areas of city life about which we can be ambivalent. Some love hustle and bustle, others hate it. Some adore bright lights and advertising hoardings, while others loathe them. But nobody – surely? – loves sitting in traffic. Any kind of commuting is bad for us. Studies show that you can relate happiness levels directly and inversely to commuting time. 

Jakarta is trying to solve its traffic problems. But meanwhile, it certainly earns its place on that list. And the good news for us? Whatever their shortcomings, no British cities appear on the list.

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