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We spotted a number of motorcycles in Cagayan De Oro with what looked like modified umbrellas to shield the rider and passenger(s) from the elements. I approached one who just unloaded a passenger near one of our field survey stations and saw how a bit complicated the umbrellas were. It turned out that these were customised for motorcycles and were being sold as some stores including some malls in the downtown area. Here is the umbrella as installed on a motorcycle taxi (habal-habal) being shown by the habal-habal rider.
There’s a nice article written by the current City Administrator of Cebu City, Nigel Paul Villarete. Paul has a regular column in a major daily and one that is always a good read. The article is a consolidation of previous articles he has written about the habal-habal or motorcycle taxi.
Villarete, N.P. (2018) “Habal-habal: the Two-Wheeler “Public” Transport in the Philippines,” http://www.streetlife.com, http://streetlife.villarete.com/habal-habal-the-two-wheeler-public-transport-in-the-philippines/?fbclid=IwAR06y9lrH-j6YtXRLf6rDL_JssnewNhR0b49dJ4Muc2PKyCzxeK50X6Ul6Y [Last accessed: 12/21/2018].
The article is relevant and current in its take on the motorcycle taxi and why it is important to consider this mode of transport as a form of public transportation. For one, it obviously gives people another choice for travel that is supposed to be able to cut down travel times compared to when they use conventional public transport or private vehicles. The question and perhaps the challenge to those operating such services is to prove that they are a safe mode of transport. Also, not to forget, is the question of fares and how to set the proper structure in order to protect people against abusive or excessive fares charged by the service providers.
There is news recently that the DOTr is convening a technical working group (TWG) to look into what they perceive as an issue on habal-habal. I wish the TWG well and hope that this will lead to something constructive including regulations that everyone can agree to. That said, I also believe that service providers, especially transport network company (TNC) Angkas, should exert more effort to prove they are a safe mode of transport rather than resorting to what appears to be more a fallacy of appealing to the emotions of people while trying to evade the legal constraints imposed on them. There is definitely a difference in motorcycle taxi operations in rural areas compared to those in the urban setting including the fact that they would have to deal with more vehicular traffic along urban roads. This means more interactions with other vehicles that may lead to an increased likelihood of road crashes involving motorcycle taxis if the latter don’t exercise safe driving practices.
I was writing this article when I read the news about the Supreme Court upholding the LTFRB’s decision against motorcycle taxis, particularly that vs. Angkas. Prior to that, I’ve been spotting more of the “formal” motorcycle taxis around Metro Manila. And more recently, there have been news reports about some of them, particularly Angkas, being involved in road crashes. While I support having motorcycle taxis in part to address transport and traffic issues, I still have reservations concerning the safety of these services. The recent crashes and how they were or are handled will provide us with better insights on what regulations should apply to them. I know people tend to be allergic about ‘regulations’ especially when associated with the LTFRB or DOTr. But we have to understand that regulations are important to ensure safety of users of the service. That is, of course, if we assume the regulations are properly implemented or enforced. This is still a big question mark with a host of other regulations that are already in place and spelled out and yet are not enforced.
Angkas rider along Katipunan Avenue
More recently, I’ve spotted Angkas riders in Antipolo and Cainta along my usual commuting routes. And then I noticed quite a few of them in Cagayan De Oro, which means a more formalised “habal-habal” given the identification of Angkas riders with their helmets and shirts. Other “habal-habal” do not have anything to distinguish them from general motorcycle traffic. Former students with the DPWH who have access to data on road crashes state that there is still an increasing occurrence of motorcycle-related crashes and many involve those with passengers. However, it is unclear whether these are the typical free “riding in tandem” cases, which are likely the most common, or the “for hire” case as with motorcycle taxis like Angkas. I guess the key here is to keep the discussions ongoing and come up with solutions to address issues rather than simply ban the habal-habal.
A friend tagged me in a social media post where he explained his position on the motorcycle as a mode of public transport. He also shared some articles he wrote for his newspaper column. I replied that I also support inclusion of this mode of transport and think that authorities should engage positively and progressively. Again, there are opportunities here to help alleviate transport problems. Government should busy themselves in ensuring safety and security rather than just go for a ban. That’s a lazy approach to this matter.
I’ve seen some articles about app-based motorcycle taxi TNC Angkas establishing what they claim as the first motorcycle ambulance service. To be accurate, they are marketing this as a first responder service rather than an ambulance so there’s something wanting about news articles highlighting the “ambulance” instead of “first responder” angle.
Here’s the post from February 2014 (4 years ago) that I wrote based on a documentary by GMA 7:
“Habal-habal ambulance,” https://d0ctrine.com/2014/02/01/habal-habal-ambulance/ [Last accessed: 12/2/2018]
Motorcycles have been used as ambulances particularly in rural parts of the country for quite sometime now. They are able to access areas that are difficult to access via 4- or even 3-wheeled vehicles. As a first responder type of service for medical purposes though, I have not seen any formal documentation or article about such application – yet. The service though is promising as you can observe emergency service vehicles like ambulances having trouble reaching their destinations due mainly to traffic congestion. First responders on motorcycles can have better chances and at the least perhaps provide the much needed first aid before the ambulances arrive. However, I think the jury is still out there in terms of how this will be a paid service. Do you pay (book?) first before someone comes to your aid or is payment made afterwards. This can be a sensitive issue and one that needs further assessment soon.
The proliferation of motorcycle taxis (habal-habal) in Metro Manila and other cities is an “open secret”. They have become popular in urban areas mainly due to their being able to go through heavy traffic thereby reducing travel times between origins and destinations. While there are generally other modes of transport to choose from, most of these are likely to be bogged down in traffic particularly along most major roads in our cities. Conventional public transportation, after all, are usually confined to their fixed routes and not having the flexibility to take other roads that are perceived to be less congested. Being “out of line” is a violation of their franchise provision spelling out which road they can take. Taxis and TNVS are more flexible but also would eventually have to contend with traffic. Cost is also a consideration for what are actually car traffic. Motorcycle taxis offer faster and cheaper transport despite the safety concerns.
Motorcycle taxis in Cebu City – Angkas is very visible in Metro Cebu
Non-Angkas motorcycle taxis are not so obvious and easily blend in with motorcycles with one (or more) passengers. The Angkas in the photo actually violates its own rules regarding number of passengers with the child also not wearing a helmet.
An Angkas rider checking his smartphone for the next fare.
I’ve written before about the informal and formal terminals for these motorcycle taxis. They are still very much around and perhaps have multiplied since Angkas got the nod from the courts to continue operations despite being prohibited by the DOTr and the LTFRB, which still do not consider motorcycles as a safe form of public transport. Perhaps it is time to reconsider this policy and give people/commuters another option while we play catch-up with mass transportation? Perhaps the right way to go about this is to require motorcycle taxi service providers to have proper attire including easy to see/easy to identify vests and helmets (helmets should be required for both rider and passenger)? Perhaps their record should speak for the motorcycle taxi services, and people should be made aware of the risks and costs involved should they choose to take habal-habal to travel? And perhaps motorcycle taxis can help alleviate transport problems in our cities?
Among the things I wanted to observe in Ho Chi Minh City were their motorcycle taxis. These are a popular mode of transport in Vietnam. They are so popular that ride sharing companies Uber and Grab have the motorcycle taxi as an option in their apps. They even have their own helmets for promotion and easy identification.
Uber moto is among the most popular options for the ride sharing app
Grab is also popular and the photo shows people wearing other helmets that may be about other companies facilitating motorcycle taxis
Uber has a motorcycle taxi option in its app in Vietnam. This is a screenshot I took as I loaded their promo code for our conference (Uber was a major sponsor.).
Grab moto rider browsing for his next passenger
Vietnam has shown that motorcycle taxis can be both popular while being regulated and relative safe (there are tens of thousands of motorcycles moving around their cities including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh). Should the Philippines, particularly Metro Manila, also consider this at least while it is building more mass transit lines? Again, this is not for everyone and perhaps can help alleviate the worsening transport and traffic conditions in the metropolis. Of course, there are the expected implications if motorcycle taxis are legalized including a further surge in motorcycle sales and ownership and, more troubling, the likely increase in the number of crashes involving motorcycles (hopefully not the fatal ones). But then again, the reality is that there are already motorcycle taxis operating around Metro Manila with upstart Angkas operating against the wishes of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). It is more advantageous to recognize these and perhaps allow Grab and Uber to offer them as options. That way, LTFRB can formulate and issue the necessary rules and regulations covering these and be able to monitor as well as make companies providing them answerable to the public for concerns such as safety and fares.
This is a continuation of the yesterday’s post on motorcycle taxis. The feature appearing in Sunstar Philippines also focuses on the case of Cebu City where there is a rising demand for motorcycles and issues on public transport have given rise to a motorcycle taxi use despite their being basically illegal under current laws/guidelines. Habal-habal as these motorized 2-wheeler taxis are known have been in service in many cities and municipalities but are mostly tolerated in rural areas where conventional public transport services are scarce.
Part II of the feature by Sunstar:
There are three articles in Part II:
Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Motorcycles on the rise, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from: http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.
Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Habal-habal drivers form group to ‘professionalize’ services, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.
Ilano, M.V. (2017) Hailing a motorcycle taxi with your smartphone, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.
Part III of the feature by Sunstar:
Ilano, M.V. (2017) Even with BRT, motorbikes still needed in Cebu City, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from www. sunstar.com.ph, April 4.
Ilano, M.V. (2017) Will Cebu City lead the way?, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.
I hope these articles on motorcycles and motorcycle taxis will generate meaningful discussions pertaining to their applications and perhaps their regulation. One issue, of course, that should definitely be on the table is safety. That is non-negotiable and assurances by motorcycle taxi transport providers should not be enough to persuade their becoming formalized as a public transport mode. The basis for mainstreaming these should be evidence-based including assessments based on crash (accident) data. Here is something that can be studied by the various schools around the country especially universities that have the capacities and capabilities to conduct such studies in aid of policy formulation at the national and local levels.