Safety by the numbers
During a trip to India in the mid-1990s for a coverage, a Filipino businessman was astonished by the sight of waves of motorcycles weaving in and out of Indian traffic with all kinds of load.
In New Delhi and other parts of India, it was not unusual to see motorbikes stacked with goods some six feet high. Trade happened on two wheels and space was not an excuse to pack Indian bikes with everything they can carry.
They moved faster on bikes. And some Indian highways were sights to behold, rivaling those bike-filled roads in Taiwan, Vietnam and other Asian cities.
The businessman was impressed with the low cost models of the Bajaj and thought about importing the Indian brand to the Philippines. I don’t think he did, but motorcycles soon flooded the country anyway.
It took years before the Philippines caught up with its Asian neighbors in adopting the motorbike culture, though. And the country did not seem ready for it.
On 22 November, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will mark the first year of the implementation of the motorcycle lanes on EDSA. In case you missed it, it’s between the two blue lines we share with bike riders along that 23.8-km length.
While the motorbike lane was a welcome development and a step in the right direction, it continued to be ignored at times by both car and motorcycle drivers, resulting in road mishaps sometimes.
The Philippines was slow to react to the influx of motorbikes in the country. In two years’ time, the Motorcycle Development Program Participants Association (MDPPA), formed by the giant distributors of the leading motorcycle brands in the country, expects sales to hit two million units. That is more than our roads can take.
Motorbike sales continue with its yearly rise and in 2017, the MDPPA recorded a 16 percent growth that rivaled the total car sales recorded in the same stretch. That is a combined sales of more than 1.3 million units in 2017 alone.
Bike buyers blame Metro Manila traffic as primary reason for their purchase of motorcycles.
Add to that the rising cost of fuel, a still poor public transport system, unavailability of wide parking spaces, but ease of travel remains the foremost reason why bike sales are surging.
EDSA remained the most congested stretch last year. It hosted about half-a-million vehicles daily last year. That was despite the odd-even scheme while the recent ban on single-passenger vehicles does not look it is helping EDSA breath.
The Commonwealth Ave., Katipunan Ave., Roxas Blvd., Quezon Ave. and the Marcos Highway are not far behind in terms of car congestion.
Quezon City roads were also the deadliest to travel last year with 35,494 mishaps, accounting for one-third of the total road crashes in Metro Manila. Of these accidents, 132 were fatal while 4,729 were non-fatal. A total of 30,633 properties were damaged.
Makati came next with 11,425 incidents while Manila was third with 11,315.
These are the biggest cities and they have wider roads with which to “play” for the more adventurous drivers.
But death from motorbike accidents topped the 2017 MMDA data with 247 dead out of 24,058 motorcycle mishaps logged. Injuries in these accidents numbered 12,182.
“Let’s give the drivers respect for keeping their passengers and themselves safer.
The number of accidents involving motorcycles is a far cry from the total of incidents involving cars at 110,653. But 97 died in these crashes with just 7,681 injuries recorded.
Safety advocates use these data to declare motorbikes as more dangerous vehicles on the roads than cars.
There were 20,940 incidents which involved vans resulting in 34 deaths. Incidents involving trucks were logged at 17,858, with 118 dead, making them the second deadliest vehicles on our roads.
The younger set of drivers at 18-24 years old has caused 163 of the total deaths and 6,182 non-fatal injuries.
Four deaths were caused by drivers 17-years and under, who also injured 136. But why did they drive vehicles in the first place?
Safest drivers are 66-years old and above. But there are a few of them on the roads.
The MMDA numbers also declared near and after midnight as the most dangerous hours to be out.
Surprising as they may, but jeepneys, buses and taxis recorded the least road mishaps, really.
There were only 10,163 incidents which involved PUJ (with 33 deaths), 9,214 buses (22 deaths) and 6,378 taxicabs (12 deaths).
Although most of the public transport vehicles often cause congestion with their road acrobatics, let’s give the drivers respect for keeping their passengers and themselves safer.
Bumpy road ahead
Along the road I take every day to go anywhere, the changes have been quite telling over the years.
From being a tree-lined avenue where cows and goats used to be seen being led by their owners to fields that are now gone, it has become a restaurant row where residences are fast disappearing.
The din of daily traffic and constant rush one feels leave me with the knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again.
That is progress. That is change. One cannot avoid it, ignore it, let alone resist it.
Change, however, sometimes brings pain. Metro Manila denizens, for instance, had long wanted traffic-free roads, and through so many attempts, it is only now that experts say some improvement is being felt.
A local business paper recently reported that in 2017, “the average volume of vehicles that passed through Metro Manila’s circumferential and radial road each day was recorded at 2.7 million.
“Cars accounted for more than half of the volume, which was estimated at 1.47 million, followed by motorcycles with 697 thousand.”
EDSA remains the most congested road, followed by three places in Quezon City where I live: Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon Avenue and Katipunan Avenue.
The Departments of Transportation and Public Works have been hard at work with their “Build, Build, Build” program which is a more all-encompassing vision than previous efforts to address the traffic problem.
Their plans of building airports, roads and bridges are exciting to hear and we begin to think we can soon catch up with our progressive neighbors after lagging behind for years because of our “internal” problems.
Their efforts have yielded new transport hubs here and in the regions, spreading the flow in a way. It has also yielded some controversy, like the right of way issue that has linked the past administration to anomalies.
But to focus on improvements, I must quote a columnist in another broadsheet who recently said, “When DPWH Sec. Mark Villar assumed office, he made a number of reforms in the mode by which right of way is acquired.
“For instance, he instructed the creation of a right-of-way task force for every priority project, revised outdated department orders through the creation of inter-agency technical working groups (e.g., DICT-NTC-DPWH TWG for the telecoms sector), required weekly and bi-monthly ROW status updates and reports and issued Department Order (DO) 65 which delegated and decentralized all ROW approval authority to the regional level and to the PPPS director for TRB and PPP projects. The reforms led to significant improvement.”
“EDSA remains the most congested road.
Sad to say, the department had also gotten flak for delays and unfinished road projects that have inconvenienced people on a daily basis.
During budget hearings this year, it was revealed that around P16 billion worth of road projects had been delayed by unresolved right of way issues. This has further revealed the defects in the process, some loopholes and possible neglect and abuse of power.
As I go through an hour and half of traffic daily, unable to do any work or even relax because of increasingly bumpy, pot-holed roads, I ruminate about this life — about changes that come and changes that bring pain.
I know our country has a long way to go before we can feel the progress that our current leaders are smoothing ahead. I know we have to be patient and do our own part in this whole dream of building a nation.
Believing that a new and bright future awaits helps me endure these maddening bumps along the way.