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Comments on current transport issues – Part 2: On motorcycle taxis

I continue with my comments on current and persistent transport issues. This time, I focus on one of two hot topics – motorcycle taxis or “habal-habal”.

1) On motorcycle taxis:

I am not a member of the Technical Working Group (TWG) that’s supposed to be evaluating the trial operations. I know one or two of the key members of the TWG and am surprised that they have not referred to the academe for studies that may have already been done about this mode of transport. I know there have been studies about it in UP and DLSU. Perhaps there are more from other universities in the country. Motorcycle taxis or “habal-habal”, after all, are practically everywhere and would be hard to ignore. Surely, researchers and particularly students would be at least curious about their operations? Such is the case elsewhere and many studies on motorcycle taxis have been made in the region particularly in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, where these modes also proliferate.

The terms “trial”, “experimental” or “pilot” are actually misleading because motorcycle taxis have been operating across the country for so many years now. They are supposed to be illegal and yet they serve a purpose in the areas where they are popular. What is often referred to as an informal transport mode is ‘formal’ to many people who are not being served by so-called formal modes including the tricycle. Of course, one can argue that these terms (i.e., trial, experimental and pilot) refer to the app that are supposed to enhance the existing habal-habal operations.

I would strongly endorse motorcycle taxis but companies need to be held accountable should there be fatal crashes involving their riders. They are supposed to have trained and accredited them. The companies should also have insurance coverage for riders and passengers. LGUs tolerant of these should be watchful and do their part in enforcing traffic rules and regulations pertaining to motorcycle operations in favor of safe riding. This is to reduce if not minimize the incidence of road crashes involving motorcycle taxis.

I think one of the problems with motorcycle taxis is not really their being a mode of choice but the behavior of their drivers. While companies like Angkas and Joyride conduct training sessions with their riders, many revert to reckless on-road behavior including executing risky maneuvers in order to overtake other vehicles on the road. This is actually a given with many ‘informal’ motorcycle taxis (i.e., those not affiliated with the recognized app companies). But then this is also an enforcement issue because we do have traffic rules and regulations that are poorly enforced by authorities. Thus, there is practically no deterrent to reckless riding except perhaps the prospect of being involved in a crash.

I will refrain to include the politics involved in the issue of motorcycle taxis. I will just write about this in another article.

 

Coming up soon: hot topic #2 – Obstacles to the PNR operations

On road crashes involving trucks

We were almost late for our flight the last Friday of November because of a road crash involving at least one truck at the intersection of Sales Bridge and the SLEX East Service Road.

Here was our first view of the crash site showing one streetlamp post almost hitting the pavement if it weren’t for the wires holding it at its position. Waze wasn’t much help as there was only a simple description of a major crash reported. How serious it was wasn’t stated. 

A tow truck and a forklift were already on site to help remove the truck that hit the post.

Pedestrians continued to cross the intersection with some glancing quickly at the sight of the vehicles involved in the crash and clearance operations. MMDA enforcers were in the area to herd people away from the area.

An enforcer looked like he was taking photos, video or both of the clearing operations.

When we arrived in the area, we only saw this truck that was apparently the one that hit the post. The damage to the truck indicated that it likely slammed into another large vehicle. However, that other vehicle was no longer in the area.

Another look at the truck involved in the crash

The post obviously was in a precarious position and effectively blocked the path of vehicles that were to turn left at the intersection. Many of these vehicles including ours were heading to the airport.

There seems to be a lot of crashes involving trucks lately. I say so based on my personal observations including passing by crash sites where trucks have been the main vehicles involved. It would be good to see the statistics of truck involvement in road crashes including the typical locations (i.e., black spots), frequency and severity of the crashes. This would correlate with the maintenance and how these trucks are being driven. Too often, we read or hear about trucks losing their brakes or drivers losing control. There are clearly maintenance and driver behavior issues here that need to be addressed if we are to improve safety in relation to these large vehicles.

Despite this incident and the resulting traffic jam, the MMDA enforcers didn’t seem to know how to go about managing the flow of traffic in the area and wanted to reroute every vehicle intending to turn left at Sales towards the airport to Pasong Tamo Extension! This resulted to more confusion and many not to take heed of the enforcer waving at us to head for more congestion after what we experienced. Clearly, this was a case where the motorists knew better than to follow errant enforcers. In these times, you wonder if the MMDA’s enforcers were capable of managing traffic after road crash incidents like this.

We need to work on road safety for children

Working on a project on road safety for children, I have had an increasing appreciation for the need to improve the plight of our children who are among the most vulnerable of road users. I have shared or posted many images showing examples of children being exposed to risk. These include children crossing streets without assistance and those riding on motorcycles with minimal protective gear (not that such gear can really save them from serious injury or worse should they be involved in a motorcycle crash).

I took this photo as we waited for the signal to allow us to cross a very busy intersection in Zamboanga City. The entire family seems to be coming from dinner or the grocery where they picked up their popsicles. I hope the father is focused on balance and safe riding with his family considering the potential for tragedy here.

Some people may say that such scenes show the norm. But we must realise that treating these as normal means we accept that our children (and all other people) will be hurt one way or another. Is this really what we like or accept to be the situation? Perhaps not. And so the challenge is to find ways to make the journeys of children safer and one aspect we can focus on is the journey between home and school. This is perhaps the most common trip by children is between the home and school (to and from), which covers a significant share of the total trips made everyday.

In order to do this, we need to know, assess and understand the manner of their commutes and the facilities they use. We should collaborate with people who guide them including their parents/guardians and teachers. And we should engage those who are in the position to implement solutions such as government agencies or local governments in effecting interventions.

Dangerous situations for school children

We are currently implementing a project to improve the safety of journeys of children between their homes and schools. Ocular surveys of 25 schools in Zamboanga City revealed a lot of issues pertaining to their commutes. Critical locations include the main access roads (e.g., across school gates) and intersections. All schools have reported incidence of road crashes involving their students and mentioned that in many cases, drivers or riders do not slow down upon approaching the critical locations. These cases of speeding are despite the many countermeasures (including informal and creative ones) that schools and Barangay authorities have implemented to improve safety.

Here are some photos we took at Sinunuc Elementary School along the national highway in Zamboanga City:

Children waiting to cross the highway and on-board motorcycles with their parents/guardians who fetched them from school

Large vehicles including trucks and buses traverse the highway and the signs offer little in terms of refuge or protection against these for students and other people crossing the highway.

Child crossing with a parent/guardian

Children crossing the highway – photo also shows a pedestrian crossing sign at the road side along the direction towards the city centre.

Children crossing with their parents/guardians as a jeepney is stopped right before the pedestrian crossing.

Though it may not be so obvious for some observers or viewers of the photos, these situations present high risks for students and others using the roads. And we hope our assessments in cooperation with the schools, agencies and city officials will be fruitful in improving road safety especially for the children.

Slippery when wet

On rainy days like this, motorists need to heed advice to be more careful in driving or riding. Pavement surfaces are slippery and conditions may lead to drivers or riders losing control when they speed or execute risky manoeuvres.

It is not uncommon for road crashes to occur during rainy days. However, most if not all are preventable if people would just exercise extra caution. Slowing down, for one, is among the most effective ways to avoid situations that lead to crashes. You tend to lose control of your vehicle with excessive speeds and so slowing down makes sense.

Spacing also helps; especially between you and the the vehicle in front of you. Braking distances are longer along wet roads so make sure to maintain the proper distance between vehicles. A good rule of thumb is at least 1 car length per 10kph you are traveling. That’s at least 3 car lengths between your vehicle and the one in front, for example, when you’re traveling at 30 kph.

Safety guides for pedestrians and cyclists

Here are a couple of references/resources for pedestrian and cycling safety. These are guidelines and countermeasure selection systems that were developed under the Federal Highway Administration of the US Department of Transportation:

These guides are designed to be practical and should be helpful to practitioners/professionals, policymakers as well as researchers. These would be people looking for references to use in designing or revising (correcting?) existing conditions or situations in order to enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists who are among the most vulnerable of road users.

Road safety week and some helpful articles

This week is the UN Global Road Safety Week. And so, I will be sharing some articles and references related to road safety including the following pertaining to crashes involving bicycles and motor vehicles:

Bicycle Accident Prevention: Avoiding the 12 most common types of bicycle/vehicle accidents

Link is here: https://www.bicycleaccidentprevention.com/?fbclid=IwAR2JnbQQR9rwg_Vz6rOLZtQ0sxnlyn3zPojBgg_-XoUKED69p0EFFtPdlRY

The only comment I have about the above reference is that it still uses the term “accident” instead of “crash”. The latter is the more appropriate term now being used by professional, advocates and policymakers who are focused on safety; keeping in mind the motto that “road safety is no accident”.