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Learning from motorcycling in South East Asia

February 2012
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The scenes are very similar to what you would see along roads in many parts of the Philippines. Motorcycles and scooters zipping here and there, often with more than one rider. If one were not aware of the fact that the motorcycles and other vehicles were along the left side of the road. Motorcycles are very popular in most of Southeast Asia and is in fact the dominant mode in cities in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It is also very popular in Indonesia and is rapidly on the rise in the Philippines. Despite the mayhem associated with motorcycles based on the various stories or anecdotes that eventually came with photo evidence, motorcycles are here to stay and there is a lot to learn from the experiences in our South East Asian neighbors for us to improve safety concerning motorcycles.

Riders along a street in Bali – the scene is so familiar as if we were just traveling along a Philippine street

Motorcycles traveling along the left-most lane (the equivalent of our right-most or curbside lane) – that lane is also assigned to public transport. Along this road, the public transport happens to be a BRT variant.

The difference in motorcycling between Bali and Manila (or any Philippine city for that matter) seems to be that drivers of other motor vehicles in Bali are more respectful of the rights of motorcycle riders to road space. While lane splitting is also a common occurrence as well as riding along other motorcycles in the same lanes, the impression is that in the Philippines, riders have higher risks considering the likelihood that they will be sideswiped by other vehicles particularly public transport (buses, jeepneys and AUVs) and trucks. Philippine drivers have a tendency to assert their positions along the road often tailgating or shifting lanes (cutting) at the last moment, and often with the smallest of gaps available for such maneuvers. Such behaviors often have them in conflict with motorcycle riders who are brushed off as minor elements in traffic.

From a driver’s perspective, motorcycle riders in Bali seem to be more disciplined when in flowing traffic, seldom weaving when not required to do so, even while traveling at 2 or 3 motorcycle beside each other along a lane. This is not the case in the Philippines where riders tend to speed even when unnecessary and employ risky maneuvers while doing so. Such behavior increases the likelihood of crashes involving motorcycles, as there are increased interactions among vehicles.

With or without motorcycle lanes, riders (and their passengers) should be safer if other motorists would just respect their rights to the road. This works the other way around where motorcycle riders should, on their part practice lane discipline and refrain from unnecessary maneuvers like lane splitting and weaving in flowing traffic. Mutual respect and discipline, while perhaps difficult to achieve in the immediate term are something that should be encouraged with firm and fair enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. Otherwise, mayhem in our roads will continue and will exact more lives and limbs from motorists and pedestrians alike.


1 Comment

  1. becareful out there, no matter where you are we riders must beat mayhem every day b/c Cycle vs Cage is never going to end well for us…

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