Two motorcycles in Fairview, Quezon City. Photo by Rod Lagusad

Despite the risks, motorcycle taxis remain a popular option to beat traffic

It takes Jayson Nievera 30 minutes to travel from his home in Malabon to his workplace in Fairview when he rides a motorcycle-taxi. When he takes the bus or jeepney, travel time is about two hours.

"The fastest way to get to school is using Angkas," the 29-year-old teacher from the Good Shepherd Cathedral School said, referring to the popular app-based motorcycle taxi service.

Getting to work the fastest way is a major consideration for Nievera and many of the commuting workers in Metro Manila. So is safety.

Nievera said one time, the motorcycle he was riding was involved in a minor incident along EDSA because of spilled oil on the road. He fell off the motorcycle.

He said the rider insisted to bring him to the nearest hospital even if he said he was not injured. He was appreciative of the Angkas rider’s thoughtfulness.

"Hindi naman ako huminto, Angkas pa rin ako (I did not stop. I still take Angkas)," he said.

Axel John Olleres, 24, Obstacle Course Race Coach at Pretty Huge Obstacles in Bonifacio Global City, is another Angkas user. He said one takes a risk in riding a motorcycle taxi but then, the same is true when one rides the jeepney, bus or utility van or even a taxi, he added.

It depends a lot on the driver. "There are drivers who they don't really care about their passengers," he said.

Jean Paula Besmonte, 24, another teacher from Good Shepherd Cathedral School, said she prefers using Angkas over other modes of transportation even if she gets a panic attack when the driver weaves in and out of lanes on the road.

“I'm comforted by the thought that these Angkas drivers have safety as a priority because riding a motorcycle is their livelihood,” she said in Filipino.

What is important, she added, is riding a motorcycle taxi saves her from being stuck for long hours on the road.

It’s a band-aid solution, she said. "For now until there's really no foreseeable solution to traffic, I think Angkas is a very good (option)."

Olleres said one pays more riding Angkas than taking public utility vehicles (PUVs). But “it is still reasonable,” he said. "When you're in a rush you won't think of the price anymore, you won't (think) twice."

Weighing the benefits over the risks, it looks like the motorcycle taxi is the riding public’s solution to the stressful Metro Manila traffic situation.

Under the Land Transportation and Traffic Code of the Philippines, motorcycles are not considered PUVs. Amending the 55-year-old law is being studied as a way to legalize the operation of motorized two-wheelers as public utility vehicles.

One important consideration in the study is the issue of safety as motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users.

Land Transportation Office records show increasing numbers of road crashes involving motorcycles from 2010 to 2015, except in 2012 when there was a slight decrease.

Records show that in 2010, there were 3,543 incidents recorded; 3,665 in 2011; dropping to 3,112 in 2012. By 2013, the number again rose to 4,616; further increasing to 5,720 in 2014; and 8,728 in 2015.

Educating motorcycle drivers on road safety

Eric Lazarte, chairperson of the Philippine Advocates for Road Safety, a volunteer advocacy group that focuses on road safety, said that while waiting for the result of the government assessment of Angkas, they are continuing their education and information campaigns for vulnerable road users, such as motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

He said that road crashes involving motorcycle riders are caused by different factors such as the riders’ low level of awareness, the worthiness of the vehicle where parts of the motorcycle are modified, and road engineering.

Other factors, he added, include the behavior of other road users such as car drivers who get too close to the motorcycles especially in traffic, and pedestrians who do not use the pedestrian lanes.

Lazarte said Angkas has a rigid screening process for riders and based on his observation, its drivers have better knowledge and appreciation of road safety compared to ordinary motorcycle riders, he added.

He said among the risky behaviors of motorcycle riders that cause road crashes are speeding, swerving in and out of lanes or moving in a zigzag direction, motorcycle racing, and alcohol intoxication.

Lazarte said Angkas should remind its drivers about safety awareness to prove to the public that their platform is safe.

Aside from the helmet that must be full-faced, he said, Angkas should provide basic safety gear such as knee pad, elbow pad, and gloves for both drivers and passengers to minimize, if not prevent, the injuries in the event of an accident.

"Right now, we have no solution. Until we fix the mass transport system, the motorcycle taxi is the solution,” Lazarte said.

He is concerned that if the government disallows the use of motorcycles as PUVs, there is a high probability that the motorcycle taxi will become an illegal mode of transportation.

"If they are not controlled, or regulated, there is a higher risk for public commuters because there will always be people who will take these rides,” he said.

If they are regulated, he said, the government must ensure the safety of the public, and there must be accountability for every error. In the event that other motorcycle taxi companies are allowed in the market, a rigid screening process for driver applicants must be implemented, and thorough apprehension to those who operate illegally must be imposed.

Lazarte said one of inadequacies in the present situation is the lack of mandatory motorcycle safety training before someone can buy a motorcycle unit. He lamented the fact that anyone who can afford a down payment for a motorcycle can drive one even without proper training or driving knowledge to begin with.

"The government should take a broader perspective so that from the point of purchase, there can already be some kind of regulation,” he said.

A driver, he added, should not only have a responsibility to himself but also towards other road users.

Two new players join pilot test

A technical working group (TWG) formed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to assess the safety and viability of motorcycle taxis as PUVs has extended the pilot run given to Angkas for another three months until March 2020.

In addition to Angkas, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced last Dec 20 that two new operators will join the pilot run: JoyRide and Move It.

It also decided that only 10,000 bikers will be allowed per operator for Metro Manila and another 3,000 per operator each for Metro Cebu.

In a statement released on Dec 21, Angkas said that around 17,000 bikers in their platform will lose their source of income because of the cap set by the LTFTB per transport company.

"Ngayon sa halip na kami ay dagdagan, nagpasya ang LTFRB na bawasan pa ang Angkas bikers mula 27,000 hanggang 10,000 na lamang,” (Instead of an increase, the LTFRB decided to reduce the number of Angkas bikers from 27,000 to only 10,000),” the statement said.

It said the decision might compromise the quality of service the public can expect and will affect around 17,000 families.

In response, the government said it was unfortunate that Angkas “has resorted to emotional blackmail in its attempt to cement its foothold on this transport service.”

“It is one thing to make an assiduous representation to state your case and your points on the matter, but it is another thing to use the issue as a forum to protect your vested interest at the expense of the government, which has nothing but the overall public interest in mind,” the TWG said in an open letter posted on the DOTr’s FB account.


This story was produced under the Road Safety Journalism Fellowship carried out by VERA Files and the World Health Organization under the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety.

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