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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.
There is a really nice feature on Sunstar about motorcycle taxis that came out today. This was shared by a good friend on his social media account, which got my attention as we just completed a study on motorcycles last January 2017. Here is the feature:
Part I includes two articles:
Ilano, M.V. (2017) Habal-habal invades cities, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.
Anunciado, D.D. (2017) Deadly motorcycle rides, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.
Here’s a graphic from the second article that says a lot about motorcycle safety in Metro Manila:
I would just like to comment that the graphic shows MMDA-recorded crashes in Metro Manila. There can be a lot of incidents that went unrecorded or unreported with the MMDA. It would be interesting to check with the local government units about their own statistics and compare these with the MMDA’s. Also, “crashes” is the preferred term over “accidents” as road safety practitioners and advocates argue that these are preventable incidents.
Sadly, such statistics can only be shown by cities doing the diligent work of recording such incidents. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has already ceased collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting road crash reports many years ago (which is quite surprising for an agency mandated to plan, design, construct and maintain national roads). There is currently no agency (no, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has not yet taken over the enormous task) that is collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting on road crashes at a nationwide scale and few LGUs do so at their levels.
I will also post about Part II once its out. There is a preview of what articles will be in the next feature and so that is something to look forward to.
Following are more examples of motorcycle taxis from our recent study. The photos were taken at a terminal in a town in Surigao Del Sur. Both habal-habal and Skylab were there waiting for passengers to transport to the barrios.
Habal-habal with makeshift roof
Note that many have roofs and these appear to be especially fabricated for either type of vehicle. In the case of the Skylab, the roof is connected to the extensions on either side of the motorcycle similar to how sidecars of motorized tricycles are fabricated to integrate a roof for the driver. While there are similar set-ups for habal-habal, many are more makeshift where the canvass roof’s columns are made of wood or even bamboo and are tied to the motorcycle.
The initial part of our research on motorcycle taxis has been completed last December 2016. We are currently drafting a paper for submission to an international conference to be held later this year. The paper contains the outcomes of the surveys undertaken in Surigao Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte and Metro Manila. These include a profile of motorcycle taxi drivers and vehicles that gives us a good idea of how much these people earn and the typical range and loads (passengers and goods) they carry.
Following are photos of motorcycle taxis in Agusan. I won’t post too much detail on the net income of drivers/operators but I guess they earn enough (some even more) given the typical cost of living in these areas where they operate. Motorcycle taxi drivers/operators actually are part of the so-called underground economy where, despite the work and income, people don’t pay their taxes like regular employees or professionals at various workplaces.
[All photos courtesy of Mr. Sherman Avendano of the National Center for Transportation Studies]
Typical habal-habal with 3 passengers
“Skylab” with roof – the planks or extensions on either side of the motorcycle are the main features of this motorcycle taxi.
Typical rural roads in areas served by habal-habal are unpaved. These are muddy during the wet season and dusty during the dry season. As such, it can be a rough ride for those using motorcycles and perhaps even rougher by car.
Habal-habal passing by a puddle on the road – the passengers are obviously children likely on their way to school based on their uniforms
More on motorcycle taxis soon!
I posted about our ongoing research on motorcycle taxis. One of our subject areas are Pasig and Taguig in Metro Manila. These would likely represent the urban motorcycle taxi operations that we wanted to document and assess. One terminal I specifically asked our staff to visit as part of the recon/pre-survey activities is located at Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City near where the Pasig River connects with the Laguna de Bay. It is along Circumferential Road 6 and, based on my observation, has transferred locations several times since C-6 was being widened and paved.
This is the terminal at Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City along C-6 and near the Napindan Ferry Terminal.
The current terminal stands along what used to be the older C-6 lane. The newer paved section of the widened C-6 is shown in use. It used to be closer to the bridge that crossed the Pasig River and near the Napindan Ferry Terminal.
The habal-habal riders and operators have an organization and are generally tolerated by the local government. Unlike their provincial “relatives”, they usually only take one passenger seated at the back of the rider. Two passengers are not unusual or irregular especially if one is a child.
I will post about the characteristics of habal-habal operations soon. However, I don’t want to preempt the research we are doing so I would also prefer that we submit our report first and maybe even submit a paper or two for publication before I post them here. Among the things we have obtained so far are video recordings of what its like to ride these motorcycles. We used an action camera mounted on the rider’s helmet for this purpose. Our staff also did a quick interview of the service providers and will be doing a full survey soon to get substantial information for our research.
There is a Filipino word used for falling by yourself for whatever reason or factor – semplang. The term applies for those riding a bicycle or motorcycle where a person has basically no one to blame but himself/herself for falling. Of course, there will be factors like weather and road conditions. Wet, slippery roads can be very treacherous. So are roads with potholes and/or open manholes. In most cases, however, the rider’s skill more than the other so-called factors that could have affected his movement and balance.
I am not certain about the condition of the rider in the photo above. While he looked shaken up (surprised?) by the incident, it did not seem to me as if he was moving abnormally (i.e., intoxicated or disabled). Perhaps its his skill that led to this? Such could not have been the case if he had sufficient training and experience and properly licensed to ride a motorcycle. Sadly, a lot of motorcycle riders are not well trained and gain skills only from experience. Yet, there are many who ride like they are stuntmen, often risking their lives and limbs as they maneuver (weave) through traffic.