The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) lockdown that started in March last year, while harsh and necessary at that time, did have some good effects on the metropolis. For one, we saw clear blue skies again. With almost no vehicles on the road then, the filthy veil of smog was lifted. Then we also finally saw the Sierra Madre mountain range in high definition detail. And even the drive from Quezon City to Makati became a realistic 15 minutes instead of the usual two hours. And with less cars on the road, there was less stress behind the wheel.
In June 2020, just about two and a half months after the government imposed ECQ to control the spread of the emerging COVID-19 virus, transportation and mobility was again allowed for many of us. While the return to mobility did not necessarily bring back the return of what was deemed normal prior to the lockdown, it did give the country’s roads a different complexion.
Coined as “The New Normal” back then, the reopening of society and the economy was deemed necessary to save jobs and businesses. And with people locked up in their homes, it was a welcome respite to finally be able to head outdoors.
The move to GCQ was also an opportunity for the Department of Transportation to finally ram the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit system they have been pushing for since 2016. Crude as the introduction of EDSA Carousel was, with haphazardly erected concrete barriers along EDSA and chicken coop-fenced bus stops, the new public transport plan was effective in cutting down travel time to both ends of EDSA. That is if you did not find yourself trapped in the occasional stationary bus queue.
Another scheme that saw light because of COVID-19 was the cashless toll collection in the expressways. Again, we saw the worst of drivers who lined up for RFID stickers at the last possible moment. Similarly, we also saw the worst of the government which, despite lack of preparation and readiness, still pushed forward with the plan much to the confusion and dismay of the motoring public. Birth pains they say. More like lack of foresight and planning.
But perhaps the biggest introduction to our concept of the New Normal was the opening of Skyway Stage 3. Motorists heaved a sigh of relief once they finally experienced driving from Balintawak to Makati in 15 minutes. And it really is a game changer, much like NAIAX was to our travel to and from the airport. At least until San Miguel Corporation starts charging toll fees for it. Then we will see its worth as an alternative to EDSA.
While access to roads, malls and other recreational facilities gradually came back over the last few months, so did our age-old enemies – traffic and mayhem on the streets.
As we move back to General Community Quarantine, more and more vehicles start to come back on the roads. Traffic is once again becoming a part of our daily routine. The crawl to work, for those allowed to come back to their offices, is something that we have not really gotten rid of despite the new roads we have access to.
Along with traffic, the lack of discipline among motorists is also making an unwelcome comeback. We still see people cutting into lanes and not giving way. Kamote riders have not shied away from their seemingly wanton road rule transgressions. And now we are sharing the road with bicycle riders, some of which counterflow, cut across lanes and cross a stopped intersection just because they can.
With all these changes to our mobility landscape, why is it that our old ways are still with us? Is motoring really that hopeless in this country? Will we ever see a transformation not just in the infrastructure we make use of, but also in the manner we use them?
With all these changes that we have to deal with now today, there are some realities, practices and attitudes that we continue to live with. Here are some old attitudes we wish would go away, like the virus we have been desperately trying to eradicate for more than a year already:
The attitude of self-importance
Contrary to popular belief, the motoring world does not revolve around you. Cars will not stop and create space for you just because you are coming, unless you are driving an ambulance, a fire truck or a police car responding to an emergency. The road is meant to be shared, not lorded over by arrogant people who are in power, or those who think they are.
Believing you are
above the law
We’ve said it once, and we will say it again, no one should be above the law. Drivers and riders who go over the speed limit, those who counterflow in a one way street, even those who park illegally, they should all be penalized on the spot if we ever plan to make an example of what not to do out of them.
The misguided notion that nothing is impossible for a brave spirit does not always work, especially on roads governed by laws. Crossing a deep flood, overtaking on a crest or a blind corner, squeezing between trucks, these are at best foolhardy, and at worst, a clear demonstration of one’s inability to possess a driver’s license. If one was able to do something and get away with it, it does not mean you can too. Or you should. Remember, two wrongs do not make a right.
It is a driver or rider’s responsibility to know the rules of the road. One cannot claim innocence just because of ignorance. The assumption is, as a license holder, you should know the conventions and symbols, as well as be updated with the latest road regulations. If you are not, then you have no business operating a motor vehicle.
Playing the poverty card
When will we stop making this as an excuse to behave badly on the road? Or to brazenly disregard existing regulations? The laws do not discriminate between rich or poor, the haves and the have nots. Those who wear slippers or those who wear shoes. All road rules care about is the road users’ safety and efficiency in operating a vehicle.
Leaving everything to the last minute
If the RFID fiasco taught us anything, it is that it pays to get things done early. The fact that we can count on people to drive in droves at the last minute before something comes into effect means there is something fundamentally wrong with our mindset. Do not wait until the last moment to comply with a new rule or law. Jump the bandwagon of complacency and misplaced nonchalance.
It is sad that columns such as these have to rely on repeating messages again and again with the hope that people will comprehend, accept and change for the better. It is also sad when you see people blame everyone except themselves for the mess we are all in.
In the end, it is us who have the power to change everything. The government can legislate, issue executive orders, or craft memorandum orders to instigate change. But if we the people will only complain, destructively criticize and find excuses for not complying with the law, then we should not expect any change forthcoming.
The reality is, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.