Bus lane abuse

The number of urban motorcyclists is growing rapidly, largely because of motorcycles’ affordability, flexibility, and maneuverability on our congested roads.
Bus lane abuse

Nothing probably gives them a more frenzied thrill than getting away scot-free after racing down the exclusive Epifanio Delos Santos or EDSA Carousel Busway.

Never mind that they pride themselves on being beyond reproach, even as they figuratively middle-finger the many resilient others whose daily forbearance surviving the miserable surrealism that is EDSA is strangely consoling.

Nothing good can be said of the bus lane violator. Only that their comeuppance comes quickly after apprehension, followed by copious ludicrous apologetic excuses and hefty fines — currently a cool P5,000 for the first offense and more for recidivists.

Apprehension sometimes is a comical ballet as when daredevil motorcycle riders dangerously outmaneuver stern Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, or MMDA traffic enforcers bent on giving chase.

By and large, there are now markedly fewer daytime violators following the apprehension of hundreds last week. Still, disrespecting the EDSA bus lane seems fairly common, especially at night and on Sundays when the authorities aren't around.

(EDSA traffic is still under constant monitoring and surveillance by the relevant authorities. Virtual apprehensions, however, aren't possible yet as the no-contact apprehension policy is still under legal challenge.)

Nonetheless, going truant on the bus lane generally testifies to the fact that many Filipino drivers and motorcycle riders still have a troubled relationship with the traffic-free busway.

A troubled relationship that doesn't at all mean the EDSA bus lane isn't the transformative people-mover solution for Metro Manila's congested main artery.

Instead, troubled relationship here distinctly means it's all about how many Filipinos are still harboring deep inside themselves what traffic psychologists call "aberrant driving behavior."

Although it is far more convenient to irritably dismiss these violators as simply lacking in road discipline, there's more to why these deviant violators still don't get what the bus lane means and is for.

These violators have turned the EDSA bus lane into a striking urban showcase of impunity, entitlement, consternation and social judgment.

(An aside: Under existing rules, the bus carousel lane is exclusively for authorized passenger buses, ambulances, and marked government vehicles responding to emergencies. Outside of the vehicles ferrying the President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, all other vehicles are strictly barred from the lane.)

As such, the abject refusal by many to understand the intent of the bus lane or to comply with its rules stuns me into disbelief — that I consider seriously concerning.

True, desperation over Metro Manila's choking traffic and the unceasing daily fight for available road space can cause enough crazed reactions to prompt traffic violations and dangerous driving.

But it also generally means that many Filipino drivers and motorcycle riders haven't sufficiently internalized normal defensive driving behaviors.

Could this be because many Filipinos place too much faith in their supposedly innate ability for sweet-talking or bribery as a surefire means to get out of sticky situations?

At any rate, all this means that educating Filipinos about traffic rules and road safety sadly still has a long way to go.

Many things can be said about further educating drivers of four-wheeled vehicles, starting with the inordinate Filipino mania for cars and more cars.

But it is also important to consider motorcyclists as a group distinct from other road users. Motorcycle riders, in fact, count for more than half of all bus lane violators.

The number of urban motorcyclists is growing rapidly, largely because of motorcycles' affordability, flexibility, and maneuverability on our congested roads.

Generally, we can't seriously begrudge the popular transport of our toiling masses.

But we really have to dramatically address their noticeably aggressive driving behaviors of late, like pushing their motorcycles through narrow gaps, speeding, driving recklessly without a helmet, and overtaking on the wrong side.

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