Making our roads safer
Editorial

Making our roads safer

/ 04:35 AM March 04, 2024

The rapid growth of electric bicycles (e-bikes) and e-trikes is a global phenomenon, brought by the need for a safer and reliable mode of travel, especially during the pandemic when public transport was scarce and physical distancing was the norm. But when COVID-19 restrictions eased and the traditional vehicles returned to the streets, the big number of e-bikes and e-trikes joining them posed a lot of risks to the public. The problem got worse because there are no regulations in place for these types of e-vehicles.

In a bid to address this growing menace in the Philippines, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and other government agencies met last Feb. 15 to discuss the creation of a unified regulation for e-vehicles.

Reckless drivers

Among the concerns raised during the meeting were minors driving e-bikes and e-trikes on national roads, driving without helmets or protective gear, and these low-speed vehicles occupying the middle of highways. “The users of e-vehicles are increasing, and we’re seeing more and more of what we can call reckless drivers,” said MMDA acting chair Romando Artes, adding that there were 554 e-vehicle-related accidents and two deaths logged last year. “We won’t wait for these figures to blow up before we regulate it, considering the increasing number of users of these kinds of vehicles,” Artes pointed out.

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San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora, who chairs the Metro Manila Council (MMC), also noted that many e-vehicle users do not have driver’s licenses, which means they do not have the proper training and required skills to drive vehicles on public roads. “We even have a video of a person, who looks like an [elementary] school kid, driving an e-trike with fellow children [on board]. Is this what we want on our roads?” the San Juan mayor asked.

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Busy thoroughfares

Last week, the MMC, through the MMDA, approved a resolution prohibiting these types of transportation on major thoroughfares in the National Capital Region. Under MMDA Regulation No. 24-022 series of 2024, the use of e-bikes and e-trikes, as well as tricycles and pedicabs on national, circumferential, and radial roads in Metro Manila will be banned starting April this year. The list of national roads where e-bikes and e-trikes will be prohibited are mainly the very busy thoroughfares such as Edsa, Roxas Boulevard; Marcos Highway, and Commonwealth, Quezon and Katipunan Avenues in Quezon City. A driver’s license will also be required for those driving e-vehicles and tricycles, while those who cannot present their license upon apprehension will have their vehicles impounded. Violators will also be fined P2,500 and their units impounded if they are not able to present a driver’s license upon apprehension.

Public safety

There is no denying the benefits of e-bikes and e-trikes. They are considered “green” for being less harmful to the environment unlike carbon dioxide-emitting vehicles. They are also cheaper than cars or even motorcycles. As a bonus to users, e-bikes are easy to weave through horrendous traffic, require very small parking space, and provide some form of exercise when riders choose to pedal on flat roads. However, the absence of a national law regulating the use of e-bikes means anyone, with or without a driver’s license, can operate them on major streets. E-bike are also not required to have a number plate or be covered by insurance, making it difficult to identify users during accidents and make them accountable.

This sector needs regulation as it concerns public safety. The MMDA circular is a good first step in acting on the risks posed by the proliferation of e-bikes and e-trikes. After this, however, the government may have to reconsider the use of e-bikes and e-trikes by many micro, small, and medium enterprises in their operations, mainly for delivering small quantities of goods such as food products, distilled water, and other essential items to their customers. But in doing so, the government must impose an age restriction on who can use them.

Hazard to the public

In the United States, there are proposed regulations that will prevent people under 12 years old from riding an e-bike, and require a government-issued license or permit for eligible users. The Philippines can do the same and add an age of accountability of 15 years old, the same age used in cases where a person is deemed capable of discerning right from wrong. The government can also expand the coverage of the ban on busy national roads. Sen. JV Ejercito, a rider and a biker himself, agrees with the government’s move to prohibit e-bikes and tricycles on national roads, but said he believes the prohibition should not be limited to only the 16 cities and one municipality making up Metro Manila.

It is hoped that an adequate and fair regulation will make users of e-bikes and e-trikes more responsible on the road and less of a hazard to the public that they are becoming now.

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TAGS: e-bikes, e-trikes, Editorial, opinion

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