Proper road courtesy leads to safer roads for both cars and motorcycles
I have rarely met a motorist that thought about motorcycles in traffic and gave a warm remark. Aside from people who are actually into motorcycles or use them for their everyday transport, the people I talk to find motorcyclists rude to their automobile brethren and feel that they usually do not have to abide by the same laws as those with four-wheels.
In defense of those on two-wheels, sometimes they do what they have to do because some of those in cars do not know how to properly address a motorist on two-wheels while on the road. I have seen it many times on C5 while on the way to school. Someone on a motorcycle with full safety gear, riding properly in his lane, on center, when the car right behind him feels the need to squeeze itself between the free spaces between the motorcyclist and the car on the opposite lanes. The car tries to overtake the motorcycle while driving ON the lane markers. What happens next is either the guy on the bike has to swerve to the opposite direction from where the overtaking car is coming from or the guy in the car starts honking like it was a god given right that a motorcycle give way. Presuming both were driving at the appropriate speed, neither was over speeding or driving below the MINIMUM speed limit, people in cars should remember to treat motorcycles as if they were WHOLE cars and not breach on a motorcycle's space. The same way cars are not supposed to infringe on each other's lanes as dictated by lane markers.
On behalf of those in cars, just like we have really bad car drivers, those in motorcycles aren?t all saints. How many times have I had multiple motorcycles trying to squirm through the cracks in dead traffic, sometimes rubbing their metal against my car's paint. Or how about those in high speed traffic, weaving through open holes like Harry Potter after the last golden snitch in Quidditch. What is worse is when they overtake you at high speed, cutting very close, almost hitting your corner front bumper and right after doing the death-defying tactic, turn their nearly smashed head to the side to give you the evil stare. You know that stare. It's the one that tries to make you feel that you were at the wrong with the gleam of a curse word.
What we have here is not a problem of what vehicle is chosen for transport, you can travel in a vehicle with two, four or even eighteen wheels, but the attitudes of the people on or in them. That is where education is key in promoting and indoctrinating people in road safety. Places like the Honda Safety Driving Center (HSDC) comes to mind, a good initiative recently launched this past March 2007, the 2.3 hectare lot in East Service Road, Paranaque contains a training track for teaching road safety for motorcyclists and those in regular automobiles as well. The track aims to mimic real world situations which contain pedestrian, motorcycle and automobile interaction to best simulate to the learner how to negotiate safely through the urban jungle in their vehicle. For those in the provinces with very little to no paved roads at all, the safety course includes a dirt track for motorcycle riders to learn how to manage their motorbikes on muddy paths.
In the ASEAN region, motorcycle sales have been upbeat for the past decade and show no signs of slowing down. In the Philippines they are on average outnumbering cars at least 2 to 1 in sales. The growth can be seen in this data chart from the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers in the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI):
As you can see motorbikes aren't going away anytime soon. We might as well learn to live together by learning how each traveler experiences their vehicle.
I'll leave you with some tips on cohabitation on the road for people on motorcycles and automobiles.
1. Roads are for automobiles and motorcycles, expect motorcycles to be on the road
People usually fall into complacency of just having to avoid cars; this is the Philippines so expect both kinds of vehicles to be on the road, that way, you will always be on the lookout for the occasional biker that may not be totally seen in your rear view and side mirrors. Side mirrors have blind spots and bikers don't take up as much space as cars, you might not see them, so anticipate them instead.
2. Know the limitations of those on bikes
People on bikes usually steer with "pawis-steering". It takes more energy for them to steer. They use their hands for both braking and accelerating. They have to balance on two-wheels. Bike wheels are usually very narrow on the average bike you see on the road. What does this mean? Potholes won't just inconvenience them; it could make them fly off their vehicle. Expect them to take evasive maneuvers if you see a pothole ahead of them. Environment affects the way a car handles on the road. Mud, sand or water can affect they way a car drives, but it is critical for the motorcyclist who must also maintain balance while moving.
3. Give bikers their space
Imagine a biker as a whole car when you see them on the road. Give them their space; don't try to squeeze your car in their lane to overtake and don't try to share a lane with them. Those on bikes need the space to maneuver properly, especially in the event of an emergency (remember that bikers sometimes have to use their body weight to turn).
4. For those on bikes, stay visible!
We both know its hard enough to see bikes, they are small and disappear even more when in a motorist's blind spot, so if you are on a bike, try positioning yourselves away from a vehicles blind spot. When behind large vehicles like vans or trucks, do not stick to close to them because they cannot see you when you are close to their rear and they might just back up on you. If riding at night, wear light colored clothes or safety gear specifically designed for you to glow at night to increase your visibility.
5. When approaching intersections, be wary of your visibility
Bikers are hard to spot in traffic and when making a turn at an intersection, not seeing one could lead to a biker getting bumped off their ride while taking the turn. Be sure when approaching an intersection that nothing is blocking you from being seen, especially if you are on a small bike. If not sure, slow down, look both ways, then cross.
6. Getting along is part of being safe on the road
Don't accelerate when a car or motorbike tries to enter your lane. It is not only rude, it is dangerous. Whether in a car or on a bike, give way at an intersection, simple courtesies go a long way in making traffic bearable and safe.