Initially conceived to reduce motorcycle accidents, the Motorcycle Lane (MC Lance) is now commonplace on many Metro Manila roads. While not exclusive to motorcycles, the cars are 'discouraged' from using it, the lanes are designed to keep riders in one lane of a major thoroughfare, making it easier for motorists in cars to spot them and give way.
The motorcycle lane was first pilot tested on Commonwealth Avenue in 2011 by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), in order to reduce the number of motorcycle related accidents. After a "successful implementation," according to the MMDA, it has since been applied to other major roads, such as Macapagal Avenue, EDSA, C5, Quezon Avenue and Gil Puyat (Buendia) Avenue. They are typically marked with blue dashed lines, as well as with a sign above the lane on an overhead gantry. The MMDA has also laid plans to give EDSA a 'road diet.' The proposal includes provisions for an exclusive motorcycle lane.
Now, 8 years since its initial implementation, we wonder, do they really make a difference? Do they make commuting safer for riders?
A lot of motorcycle riders are everyday Juan Dela Cruzes who ride their steed for the daily work commute. I'm pretty sure that those daily commutes involve a major thoroughfare, particularly one that has a Motorcycle Lane or 'MC Lane' on them. I for one, ride through the stretch of EDSA on a daily basis. And since 2016, when the motorcycle lane was 'strictly implemented' by the MMDA, my commute through EDSA has become the most despised part of my daily routine. So, are designated motorcycle lanes across Metro Manila safe or unsafe for us motorcycle riders? Here's what I have observed:
1. Unequal Enforcement
The lead agency that implements the MC Lanes, the MMDA, which sometimes apprehends riders outside the MC lane, is not very strict on apprehending vehicles that are not supposed to be on the MC Lane. Granted, it's not exclusive, but there are some vehicles that aren't supposed to be there in the first place. Take for example, city buses, which have their own lanes. Yet, they seem to enjoy using the MC Lanes from time to time. Depending on the road, the MC Lane can be two whole lanes away from the bus lane, or just beside it. Often times, these buses will bully their way into it, and if you are not alert, they may run you and your motorcycle over.
2. Discriminatory Mindset
Motorcycles may be smaller, but that doesn’t mean we deserve any less of our rights on the road. Unfortunately, some motorists on four wheels don’t share that idea. Many drivers of private vehicles have this mindset that motorcycles are just a nuisance on the road. Not only do they leave little room, if any at all, but will make it difficult for a rider to simply stay on the MC Lane. Many of these drivers will tailgate a motorcycle rider, or pass dangerously too close on the sides, leaving the rider no other choice but to switch lanes in order to avoid an accident. Even worse, this maneuver for safety could cost him PhP500 for an MC Lane violation if caught by an MMDA traffic constable. The vehicle that forced him out gets by scot-free.
3. Unenforced Speed Limit
While many other drivers respect the MC Lane, there are some that see it as an overtaking lane. At times when traffic is light, the MC Lane may appear light or clear, tempting drivers to move into it to pass a slower vehicle on their lane. Commonwealth may have a strictly enforced speed limit, but speed limits on other roads with MC Lanes are not enforced, even though they are all limited to 60 km/h. This leads to many private cars, SUVs, buses, and even trucks speeding through MC Lanes, angrily honking as they go. This “Sandali lang naman, eh,” (Just for a quick moment), attitude should not be tolerated. If the driver were to encounter a motorcycle, it would not go so well for the rider. If a motorcycle is hit from behind, this can cause him to lose traction, balance, and control, resulting in him falling off his bike and possibly being run over by another vehicle.
4. Lack of Maneuverability
One benefit motorcycles have over cars is their maneuverability. Because they are small and light, it’s much easier to maneuver in traffic, allowing us to quickly change lanes to avoid an obstacle or accident. Forcing a motorcycle to stay in one lane diminishes that ability. Worse still, the small motorcycles are even harder for other drivers to spot in heavy traffic. How many times did we hear the phrase, “Ay! hindi kita nakita!” (Oops! I didn't see you!) from drivers after they had accidentally side-swiped a motorcycle rider?
5. Numerous Obstructions
To encourage any motorist to use a lane, it should be more convenient and free from obstructions. However, it seems like the MC Lane, often set as the rightmost lane on a busy road, is the least enforced when it comes to this.
The stretch of Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City is the perfect example of this. Look for the MC Lane on the stretch or road, just across the World Trade Center area. It is often obstructed, sometimes used as parking lot by taxis and buses. Further down the road, an illegal PUV terminal not only occupies the lane, but two or three more as well. The same goes for the MC Lane in C5 Libis, near Shakey's and in the Diego Silang area where it is obstructed by a big, illegal PUV terminal. Again, this forces us to change lanes to avoid them and risk the infraction.
The motorcycle lane may have been conceived to improve safety on our roads, but with how it is managed today, it doesn’t appear very safe for anyone at all.