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I’m a strong believer that a lot about the world is wrong. If it is all good and rosy, I would not have to write stuff about them. Many of them are caused by uneducated drivers who magically get granted drivers’ licenses by the LTO. Also, many public officials don’t appreciate the need for following a land use plan. Just take a look at the unfinished eyesore visible behind Rizal’s monument. It’s a disgrace.

I’ll try to rank my most hated happenings, manners, or mistakes. There are so many and I can add things here every single day but then this article will be too long for to make interesting reading. Here are my top things I hate most about time on the road.

Cutting cars

Cutting cars to get in line to pass an flyover. Man, How many curse words have I flung to offensive motorists (all in my head of course) who cut or try to cut me on times that I almost make it to the safety of the flyover railings. Since my first encounter of this kind of motorist, I’ve accepted that many more drivers like these exist out there. It may be because of rushing, or trying to copy others also doing it. Also I feel more forgiving and even more generous in letting cars pass me if they simply turn on their signal lights. 

Another thing that I hate is a cutting car that has no signal light on and looks really aggressive. Sometimes I feel the urge to slam my car to an aggressive cutting car. But then again, I think that it’s not wroth risking my life in exchange for a gash or a dent on the piece of trash’s soap box. But seriously, slamming on his car would make a really cool movie style chase scene.

Oh and by the way, this also applies to motor bikes, too.

Not signalling to turn

This is kind of offensive driving is very dangerous especially if road visibility is poor and(or) driving at high speeds. I turn my signal on even though I know there is no one immediately behind me. this kind of safety precaution is very useful if some mad driver comes from another lane who plans to move to my current lane. Signals were made to make driving safer when other drivers see them. It would be pointless to switch them on when their car crashes to another car who did not know they were making a move.

Stopping suddenly without switching on the car’s hazard lights

This is a common Filipino driving error that has to stop. While driving it’s very annoying to see the car in front of you come to a crawl, stops, and then switches on his/her hazard lights. I mean, you should switch it on before you come to a crawl to alert me that something is wrong and you need to stop. Plus, PLEASE do it on the side of the road and not in the middle of the street where I could hit you IF I’m distracted!

Pedestrians

Crossing the road can be an easy task. You just find yourself a pedestrian crossing (a “zebra” if you will) or an overpass. If there are no overpasses or crossings nearby, then you can take a look both ways down the road to check is cars are passing and can’t stop if you decide to risk your life and cross. I am a pedestrian myself an I can’t figure out why other people can’t find the discipline or the mental fortitude enough to do a safe passage. Many of these people are lazy. I know I should not be saying this but if I see accidents on the television pertaining pedestrians not crossing the right way, I always feel that it will happen and am not surprised one bit.

If those people don’t want to live anymore, FINE. Just leave me and my family members out of your miserable existence. Moving on…

Parked Cars in the side of public roads 

I know public roads are, well, public but that does not give an excuse for roadside restaurants to let their customers park on the side of the road and make the roads more constricted than usual. The parked roads are a hazard to oncoming traffic but also makes it a sore to look at. I mean if you are a really great business establishment, then why have you guys seem to have forgotten to build bigger parking spaces? GENIUS MUCH?

And yes, I am looking at you Banapple and Conti’s! (Katipunan) Shame on you all! Does it look pretty to you guys thinking to yourselves that just because the cars in your 4-car parking spaces are overflowing that business is good?! Well wouldn’t it mean that your business is thriving if you can make a parking basement or move to a more spacious location? Whatever and I’m not a fan of your food anyway.

Cops/MMDA/Planners/Officials who have no clue on how to solve traffic problems

You know what people? Most problems start small, then if left unsolved, they grow and grow and grow some more. If problems are left unsolved after X years, then the result is Metro Manila traffic and poorly planned cities.

I’ll start off by criticizing our cops, the Philippines’ finest (no shows). Its pretty simple, if cops start to catch traffic violators with much consistency, precision, and conviction then undisciplined drivers will sharply drop. But knowing our police force is terribly undermanned. Our current police to population ratio is one police officer for every one thousand citizens. Now that is huge! Police visibility is low, thus crimes of all sorts increase during the night as well. I definitely find the stick better than a carrot in this case.

I am not so sure about what the MMDA’s jurisdiction is and what are their duties and responsibilities are. Maybe they can catch traffic violators, but I’m not so sure what kind of punishment they can do. In any case, similar to the police, once they start to tighten up in catching traffic violators then the country’s streets will be a safer place to drive on.

Planners and officials must work hand in hand but that is not the case in our beloved country. Metro Manila is deemed a planner’s worst nightmare for several reasons. First, the space is very limited so any drastic changes to its land use or building major infrastructures will most probably involve demolishing existing buildings. If not space then the problem would be political in nature. Many cities have their own agenda on how projects will benefit their city, barangay, or town. It’s rare to see officials think about the bigger picture and how a big project can be beneficial to multiple cities, barangays, or towns.

I’m starting to think that the Government does not listen to planners. I guess they only do what’s best for business and grant huge malls, business districts, and tall condo units to rise in the middle of already congested Metro Manila. All development is concentrated here in Metro Manila and there are little efforts of decongesting it.

As I see things, our traffic problem has become a trap where there is little we can do at the moment without the cooperation of the citizens. The trap starts when the DPWH has completely forgotten how to project population levels and growth. They are completely off when deciding how wide a road shall be and how many cars will use them. Next, I think that the country has too many cars, you guys think that country’s economy is good when we have more cars in our roads. We are on the right track if we have the roads for it, if not then it  becomes a nightmare. It’s very easy to get cars here, whatever your budget is. This problem of rapid increase in number of cars is coupled by the slow or minimal efforts of phasing out old cars to make way for the newer models. This is the middle portion of the trap. Then next portion of the trap is bad public transportation. Bad trains, inefficient jeepneys are at the cornerstone of Philippine commuting. This coupled with roads that are not wide enough makes terrible commuting experiences for everyone. The most bothering thing is that many of our commuters have already accepted is as a way of life and expect nothing to be done about it. In fact many of the drivers, pedestrians, and officials accept it to be a part of our daily lives. Most probably because it is deemed and unsolvable problem, if not something almost impossible to fix.

In summary the trap goes like this: bad roads –> too many cars –> bad public transportation –> accept as part of our daily lives 

This becomes a trap when people start to think that there is not solution without sacrificing anything. Car owners will not phase out their old cars in exchange for a less congested road. Commuters will not pay more for trains in exchange for better rail cars and transport system in general. Officials thinking that nothing is wrong since traffic jams also occur in developed countries which is, in honesty, it does but it’s different if you have a very reliable public transport system to fall on.

With our lack of planning from the beginning our our government we already doomed our economy to smoothly grow and provide more opportunities for our countrymen. Yes our economy is growing but at what cost? Time with our families while commuting from work? Risking more traffic related accidents everyday? Risking more corruption among officials who generate more savings even if there are much to improve about our roads and other infrastructure? 

The list goes on and on.

Conclusion

Well there you have it. It’s a pretty bad state we are in, especially when I effectively signed up to be an aspiring urban planner. It’s really tough, especially when no body listens to anything you will say or only listen to selected things you suggest. Sometimes you can’t fight culture and I think that’s what is in play here. It’s already in our blood which makes us strong as a people, but at the same time has caused us much hardship just to attend work and school or going home.

Don’t get me wrong, I want commuters in the Philippines to experience a pleasurable commuting experience and to let them explore different modes of transportation without risking their lives or their week’s budget. Being able to commute is fun, it really is, but it’s not in this country. I hope see the day where our mass transit systems are good and reliable. Being efficient is key to the country’s further development. It’s really simple if only we planned to begin with.

These are simply some of my thoughts about the bad traffic conditions in our country and some things to ponder on the next time you ride a jeep or go behind the wheel. Peace!

—Jimbo