February 21, 2018, 1:21 pm
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Motorcycle lanes alone won’t make riding safer; safe riding attitude will

METRO Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) strict re-implementation of the use of motorcycle lanes along EDSA drew various reactions from motorists. The MMDA said the use of the lane was primarily for traffic decongestion and safety of motorcyclists. 

The idea of a motorcycle lane may put some order in the traffic mess, but it does not necessarily make riding safer. Containing vehicles of the same kind, buses on the yellow bus lane and motorcycles inside the blue “Motorcycle Reclusion Lane” may have its benefits but these benefits can only have impact if there is an understanding on how it should be used coupled with rider discipline that can only come from training, attitude and riding experience.

Safety maybe a side benefit of gathering two wheelers into the lane and motorcycle ride s caught outside the motorcycle lane will be fined P500.

Jake Swann, Rider Coach of the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) in America and a member of the Road Safety Management team of the MMDA said that a motorcycle lane has its good and bad points. He agrees that a “container” for motorcycles is a solution that may increase the road safety for “vulnerable road users” significantly.

Vulnerable road users are pedestrians, pedicabs, tricycles, bicycles and motorcyclists. In the Philippine setting this may include ambulant vendors and pushcarts that cross major roads. 

The World Health Organization said motorcyclists comprise the highest number of victims in a road crash, numbering 56 percent of deaths on the road. Top causes or death are head traumas, ruptured internal organs as a result of the body’s absorption of the crash energy.

One reason for the high rate of fatalities in a road crash is the way motorcyclists filter (or wander) around the road, riding in the blind corners of bigger vehicles. Given the common reasons for road crash-related deaths, riding within the confines of a motorcycle lane seems to be a good idea.

“The point, I think of the MMDA is to get the riders to stop “wandering””on the road and organize them into one lane. There a number of skilled riders on the roads, but there are also those who are unpredictable, too fast and even too slow,” Swann pointed out.

“Giving motorcyclists an exclusive lane would have been more effective if it was really exclusive. Because it would negate filtering which is one of the frequent cause of motorcycle accidents and road rage,” Jowi Faulve, a daily motorcyclist, riding expert from Tanay, Rizal. He transverses EDSA and observed how the motorcycle lane seemed to have put riders in more danger.

“Other multi wheeled vehicles darting in and out of the motorcycle lane post as a hazard to motorcyclists. It may help manage traffic but allowing bigger vehicles to use the lane only adds to filtering and riders have no choice but to still ride on the blind side especially with vehicles that refuse to yield the safer side of the the lane,” Faulve adds.

The cause of this dilemma extends beyond training, but rather into licensing. 

“The current system allows unqualified people to operate motor vehicles—all cars, jeeps, vans, tricycles, trucks, trailer trucks—and not just motorcycles. The ease of acquiring a license, causes the driver to not respect it and not fear it’s loss. Hence they don’t respect it. Anything gained without much effort is trivialized, since it isn’t valued,” Swann observes.

Antony Acosta drives a delivery motorcycle from a popular foodchain. He said that the motorcycle lane freed up traffic a bit but did not take away bad drivers and bad riders. He also said that it would have been a big help to motorcyclists if it was an exclusive lane, instead of being shared because of the tendency of bigger vehicles to disrespect the space allocated for a motorcycle.

“Ang ibang sasakyan pasok, labas sa kalsada at walang respeto sa mga nagmomotor, akala nila kanila ang kalsada, kaya nakakadisgrasya sa iba,” (Other multi wheeled vehicles dart in and out of the motorcycle lane, show no respect for motorcyclists, drive like they own the road posing a hazard to other road users), Acosta says.

Swann says more than the motorcycle lane, knowledge, skill and attitude are prime. These are validated by a good licensing process that includes actual rider evaluation and training (or retraining)—something that may be impossible given current resources. 

Rider knowledge is developed by reading, training and application connected to seat time.

Many motorcyclists come into riding simply because they know how to ride a bike. This graduation from a human propelled vehicle to one powered by an engine requires an attitude change and a development of a mindset that is more conscious to other vehicles and not just keeping balance. 

Enough proper knowledge, awareness of what is wrong and not in riding multiplied by road experience results in skills. Increasing skill levels in a proper safety framework should be a goal of every rider. This skill turns into instinct, which makes for safer riding. Riding skillfully also takes consideration for other road users. This can be further developed after good and bad experiences are gained and become lessons over time. 

Training riders in various road conditions BEFORE they actually ride, can advance this skill levels without going to painful or potentially fatal experiences of crashing. Government must consider making training mandatory.

“Rider training is possible, but there are limited locations for that. If you want to observe how practical motorcycle licensing is done, visit the LTO range in Diliman,” Swann points out. 

Experts however agree that development of a positive riding attitude is the best deterrent to road crashes and possible deaths. This attitude includes a defensive stance while riding. Defensive riding follows the same rules as defensive driving, with an added perspective—vulnerability.

“A true make do solution is people have to realize that the road space is limited, the population is growing, vehicles sales too. We must share whatever roadways we have. How we do this will dictate the quality of time we have to spend on the road,” Swann concludes.

Road safety for motorcycles is thus defined by three simple rules, constantly yield and give way, be visible as other vehicles may not see you and protect yourself by riding alert and courteously. Road safety as a function of government has to do with tougher licensing and proper enforcement.
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