Saturday, April 25, 2009


From what I’ve seen in some countries in Europe and Asia that I’ve been to in the course of my work, pedestrian lanes are respected by drivers and pedestrians alike. People crossing the streets use the lanes where available. Drivers slow down when approaching pedestrian lanes and stop if there’s someone crossing. What I’ve seen in many instances in my country, particularly in Quezon City where I live and in the capital city of Manila where I used to reside, is that pedestrian lanes are like a magnet to many drivers. Many don’t care if there’s a pedestrian lane ahead, they don’t slow down nor stop even if there’s already a person OR persons crossing the street. At the sight of a pedestrian lane, they speed up, as if the white lines are pulling their vehicles to run faster. Sometimes, the drivers don’t even give a hoot if the pedestrian signals that he/she wants to cross. When the light turns red, drivers stop their vehicles on top of pedestrian lanes while waiting for the green light, effectively covering the area where pedestrians are supposed to safely and comfortably cross. The drivers of these private or public transport vehicles/public utility vehicles (PUVs) EXPECT the people on the pedestrian lane to GIVE WAY TO ONCOMING VEHICLES. Now how can pedestrians with just legs contest the conviction of people who control the steering wheel and the brake of three-, four-, six-wheeled vehicles? Many drivers speeding up to the pedestrian lane are seemingly competing with the pedestrians as to who gets to cross the line first—even if the pedestrians ARE already walking over the lane.

I’ve observed that drivers of PUVs on the road (in the Philippines, that’d be mainly jeepneys, tricycles, taxis, buses) (and throw in also delivery trucks of some companies) are more pedestrian-blind than drivers of private vehicles, even though there are also this breed among the latter. And among the PUVs, I’ve also observed that the most disrespectful of pedestrians and pedestrian lanes are drivers of jeepneys (usually 17-seater vans), and tricycles (usually four-seaters, where a covered seat with a wheel is attached to a motorbike). I surmise that it could be due to the drivers’ plain ignorance of road rules; eagerness to earn money so all their focus is on their income for the day, never mind the rights and safety of other road users; lack of proper licensing/training/information-sharing on road rules at the concerned government agency; corrupt traffic officers who look the other way in exchange for grease money (corruption which also might have started in the concerned government agency); and other reasons. Of course, these drivers also violate many other road rules and laws, like their habitual swerving or suddenly going out of lane with nary a light or hand signal (see photo below), and I go back to the same reasons I cited in the previous sentence. And no proper law implementation by the authorities, no apprehension, and the presence of corruption breeds undisciplined drivers. That’s why traffic in the Philippines is one of the worst in the world.

Be careful
So if you’re visiting my country and you happen to be crossing the street on a pedestrian lane, watch out!!! Give way to that speeding vehicle. Run for your life!!! Hurry up or you might not make it to the other side of the street (and you'll make it to the hospital or worst-case scenario). Be ready to be scolded by the driver for blocking the way!!! (And which has happened to me a few times.) Congratulations if you happen to encounter drivers who respect you and many other Filipinos who dutifully use the pedestrian lane. And you’ll continue to live and enjoy the Philippines's many tourist spots (like Tagaytay City's Taal Volcano, said to be the world's smallest volcano, in photo from and the delightful food that the localities offer, in the company of genial hosts. :)

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