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.