A few weeks ago, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued a memorandum ordering all local government units (LGU) to keep tricycles off of national highways. The memorandum was made in response to the rising number of viral videos of vehicular accidents, typically involving vehicles trying to avoid slow-moving tricycles on the inner lanes of national highways.
To ensure strict and rapid implementation, the DILG has even threatened LGUs with administrative action if they fail to enact this new rule. Some LGUs, however, have taken this a step further, enacting ordinances that include sub-400cc motorcycles in the same group as tricycles and e-bikes, and forcing them to stay on the outermost (rightmost) lane of the highway.
For example, the City of Angeles in Pampanga claims that these small motorcycles, along with tricycles and e-bikes, inhibit the flow of traffic. Therefore it is only fitting to keep them on the outer lane of any highway.
Such developments raised the question among motorcycle riders: is the rightmost lane of our national highways safe for the motorcyclist?
Recently, MotoPinas.com had the opportunity to ride 350+ kilometers up north to the beautiful town of Candon, Ilocos Sur to attend the grand opening of Bristol Motorcycle's Ilocandia showroom. During the ride, we observed that almost all the towns along the national highway, from Pangasinan to Ilocos Sur, had these signboards that ordering tricycles, e-bikes, and MOTORCYCLES to stay away from the national highway's inner lane.
To better understand where some of these localities are coming from, I managed to try some of the national highway sections in localities where motorcycles should only stay on the outer lane only and here's what I have observed:
In some places, there is no 'outermost' lane
No outer lane in more remote areas. Just a dusty shoulder.
Sometimes I can't help but wonder, “Do government officials even use their heads?” For the most part of the McArthur Highway (the national highway of north Luzon), there are only two lanes: one going north and the other going south. The “outer lane” that these LGUs are referring to is the shoulder of the highway. According to Wikipedia, “The purpose of building a shoulder is that in the event of an emergency or breakdown, a motorist can pull into the shoulder to get out of the flow of traffic and obtain a greater degree of safety.”
Unfortunately, shoulders in more remote parts of the country are not even part of the road at all. They're made up of loose material. Motorcycles, particularly those with street tires, will not be able to grip the surface effectively, making it dangerous, particularly if their destination is far away.
Some outer lanes are still under construction
While some LGUs are already in the process of building an outer lane, some of these are far from complete. Some LGUs have started to dig ditches with which to build the road extension on. In these ditches, they will pour cement to add another lane to the existing two-lane highway within their jurisdictions. Unfortunately for the Juan Dela Cruz rider, many of these ongoing projects, particularly the ditches, have little to no early warning devices or signs informing motorists of the construction ahead. This is potentially hazardous for riders wanting to comply with the law, especially during the night or during bad weather, when visibility is poor. In some cases, these road projects are only half complete, left by their respective contractors unfinished for whatever reason for long periods of time. These open ditches and construction sites are accidents waiting to happen.
Electrical posts obstructing the lane
The same sign can be seen at almost every town in Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Sur.
Another familiar site along the national road is sections where the road widening has already been completed, but another department has not completed its duties. These are evidenced by electrical posts oftentimes in the middle of the new lane. Before the road was widened, their placement was fine, and hardly a hazard to motorists. Unfortunately again for the Juan Dela Cruz rider, many of these posts still have yet to be moved by the utility companies or the government that put them up in the first place. What's worse is that these electrical posts are very hard to see during night time.
Outer lane used as drying field
Construction debris on the left, while the right lane is used as a drying field by farmers. Photo by Victor Lacreo.
During the harvest season, many farmers use the outer lane of the highway to dry their produce, be it rice or corn, or sometimes, even the tiger grass used for making walis tambo. Though this practice was already outlawed many years ago, it's still a common sight today. Four- or three-wheeled vehicles will have no problem rolling over this obstacle. However, it's much more dangerous for those on two wheels. These loose particles could easily cause a motorcycle to lose its grip and balance, spelling disaster for the rider.
Animals, parked vehicles, tents, and other obstructions
Finally, there are many locals who see the national highway's outer lane as an extension of their home and property. Many of these locals and residents turn it into a parking spot for their vehicle. There are also many roadside food stalls that are set up right at the edge of the road. These encourage any patrons driving by to use the highway's outer lane as parking lot, when buying their goods. Pet dogs, chickens and other animals are also often allowed to roam free on these roads. Some can also be seen having a siesta on the outer lane.
Perhaps the worst violation I've seen tents being erected at the outer lane. Sometimes bearing the local lawmaker's name, these tents are set up to accommodate guests attending someone's wake, complete with tables for gambling.
For the most part of what I have observed, the outer lanes of our national highway are a complete circus and unsafe for motorcycle riders and this is just a small part of our highway system! There's the AH-26 (Maharlika) Highway and the other inter-connecting national highways throughout the country.
While it's true that locals from towns along the national highway frequently hog the inner lane and inhibit the flow of traffic, it would be unfair to force all motorcycle riders to use this outermost lane. Many are just passing through and more than capable of rolling in accordance with the regulated speed of traffic.
Let's just hope that our local leaders see the light and employ common sense-based solutions to improve traffic and make travel safer for everyone.