Freeman Cebu Business

Riding Safe

BUSINESS AFTER BUSINESS - Romelinda Garces - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — I cannot question the industry of the Filipino. Ma-diskarte, we find ways to earn and we hone whatever skills we have to put food on the table. And this is the mindset I have to take at times when I get upset with the number of motorcycles that indiscriminately park along the narrow roads in our barangay.

The habal-habal or motorcycle taxis, registered or not as a public utility vehicle, ply the routes to earn a living. The number of motorcycles in the country rose greatly in the late part of 2021 still during the pandemic in fear of COVID transmission from public rides. When the restrictions were relaxed in 2022, after people got vaccinated, the sales of motorcyles escalated further. And for this year, the first quarter sales has shown 651,928 registrations getting closer to the two million target in motorcycle sales for the country.

Now, imagine where those will be. And who the drivers will be. Yesterday, a motorcycle rider adeptly balanced jugs of water at the back of his seat at he straddled a sack of rice in the front side of his bike. He was selling water in an ATM (Automatic Tubig Machine) in his small sari-sari store. He retailed rice as well. He adeptly maneuvered his vehicle through potholes in the busy Marigondon roadways.

My cousin, who has long been away from the country recalled his own experiences in his youth and how he dared to brave traffic through speed in a motorcycle in Metro Manila, but how different it is now with so many motorcycles plying with just any driver handling the vehicle. A kid, looking like he has not even reached puberty was driving a motorcycle along our road with what looked like his mother in the passenger seat. She was carrying some vegetables and eggs possibly to sell.

Since COVID, various platforms that utilize motorcyles for deliveries have created jobs for so many Filipinos. The registered riders have a pretty reasonable price while the unregistered “colorum” riders do their estimations of cost per distance required. The sum must be hefty to encourage more habal-habal riders to wait at the mouth of inner subdivisions and homesteads.

It is dangerous to say the least, as the two-wheelers park in both sides of the road. Making it hard for two-way traffic in a two-lane road to safely get through.  But we Filipinos become forgiving because we see their desire to earn and provide for their families. Each time I see the lines of motorcycles parked on the road, I just have to think the drivers too have families to feed. But let us help them do so responsibly and safely.

It is my dream that someday, we can really have habal-habal stations, routes and lanes so that the riders and their passengers are safe. It is also my wish that they are given safety seminars and are sanctioned for non-compliance CONSISTENTLY, so that they make safety their habit.

I am looking forward to the motorcycle taxi law being finalized so as to protect our riders and their passengers soon.  Hopefully, with this the law on parking along the barangay roads for long periods and overnight will likewise be revisited and CONSISTENTLY implemented.

I saw a habal-habal station in Liloan-Consolacion area. It was just a simple space beside a motorcycle shop, but I found the initiative good. Passengers knew where to take a ride, and some of the drivers had their group uniform to give legitimacy to the driver and avoid untrustworthy riders. This can be a good start. In Catmon, there is a habal-habal terminal, and park and ride stations in both Talisay City and Cebu City. These stations make it easier for both driver and passenger to embark and disembark safely just like bus stops.

Maybe we can revisit best practices in traffic management that we have done before.  There was a time when counterflowing was strictly implemented, jeepney stops were respected and drivers were penalized for not stopping in the right areas. It disciplined both drivers and passengers. But this has to be done CONSISTENTLY.

We can do this one at a time and move forward.

May God bless all commuters.

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