Are motorcycle lanes the new HOV lanes?

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What do you do when the roads in your city have reached the breaking point? Small-capacity motorcycles and scooters swarm every which way while cars simply sit still. Little attention is paid to traffic signals, safety gear, lanes or even the direction of traffic. In Manila and Quezon City, the answer might be dedicated motorcycle lanes intended to separate two-wheeled and four-wheeled traffic, increasing safety and speeding traffic. The Philippines is trialing two such lanes on its busiest thoroughfares and our man in Manilla is there to report.

Photos: Frank Schuengel

“The ‘blue’ lane is for motorbikes only and they have to use it,” explains Frank Schuengel. “Failing to do so is a 500 Pesos fine now, which is about $10 and a painful amount for the average worker here, so from what we could see they all stuck to it although not many cops about as it’s weekend (they’re a little 9-5 here). Cars have to stay off it as well or it’s fine time.”

“At the moment, bike lanes have been established on two of the biggest through-roads here, Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City and Macapagal Boulevard in southern Metro Manila. The attached pics are Macapagal Boulevard and it may look a bit empty on a saturday, it’s one of the biggest roads here and packed during the week, so makes sense to introduce that scheme. Lanes on more roads seem to be in the pipeline.”

“Traffic generally is simply mental — bikes squeezing through wherever there’s space, no-one giving a shit about rules and cops generally don’t care unless they’re short off money and need to collect some more bribes, sorry, fines. From what I could tell, though, it’s being welcomed by drivers and riders alike – loads of crashes here every day and anything to reduce the madness slightly is seen as a good thing, although the critics seem to think it’s just another way to extract money from motorists – especially with the gleaming reputation for honesty that cops have here.”

ABS-CBN News reports an additional benefit. In a country where assassinations are often carried about by gunmen riding two-up, the lanes make it easier to spot suspicious, two-guys-on-a-bike types. Last year, there were 1,565 killings carried out by two-up riders, in 2011 there’s already been 1,700.

As Frank suggests though, the main crimes being prosecuted appear to be simply traffic violations. During the first three hours of Blue Lanes alone, 178 riders were stopped and fined for violations including not wearing a helmet, reckless riding and swerving through traffic.

  • 2ndderivative

    If only they’d like bikes into the already-there HOV lanes here in Onterrible.

  • Artful

    But you see Wes, the Filipinos have over the years developed a riding style that is predicated on drivers not seeing them, therefore riding crazily through traffic should be the norm and expected if the tattoo model-dating motorcycle bloggers are to get to work on time.

    *removes tongue from cheek*

  • the_doctor

    Man, they take ride-bys pretty damn serious.

  • robotribe

    Too many bikes? What an awesome problem to have.

  • Mark D

    Oh sweet, motorcycle lanes just like HOV lanes? I can’t wait to get stuck behind an old guy on a trike going 55 in a 70.

    • DavidMG

      I doubt that’s something you’d ever see in the Philippines. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      • Mark D

        Errrr, no, that’d really only be in North America. Unless there is some kind of radical octogenarian 3-wheel culture in the Philippines.

  • nick2ny

    I like the idea of keeping cars out of one lane, but I don’t like the idea of complete segregation.

    • Chris Davis

      I feel sorry for the poor bastard who finds himself in the blind spot of a car about to make a right turn.

  • Ben

    I live in se asia and love the bikes here. Its just haywire, and with more people affording cars the trafic is getting worse. Lane splitting at its apex.

    Open challenge to any of the “fast street riders” you guys hype to come here to bangkok with their bike and try to beat my pizza man point A to B on his Cub. They wouldnt stand a chance. :)

    • PCPaul

      Having seen a few videos, I would not even think of taking up that challenge!

      • nick2ny

        I might be coming to BKK next month and would be up for a race.

  • KR Tong

    This would work perfectly in a country where scooters and lower CC bikes make up the two wheeled landscape. In that sense it’s an expansion of the shoulder for bikes that are too small to keep up with traffic.