King of the Road?

King of the Road?

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the motorcycle is now the king of the Philippine road.

The Land Transportation Office revealed that there are over 8.5 million registered motorcycles in the country, more than any other vehicle category in the country. In an interview with Teleradyo Serbisyo, LTO chief Asec. Vigor Mendoza added that there are more actual motorcycles on the road: the agency estimates there are roughly 16-17 million of them on the road, mostly in Metro Manila and regions 3 and 4.

Again, it shouldn’t be a surprise. For years motorcycles have been marketed as a better transport option, allowing one to dodge the capital’s notorious traffic jams by weaving in and out of them. It is also marketed as a more economical option, as it requires less fuel than four-wheeled vehicles. For those who are tired of using our pathetic public transport network, owning a motorcycle is a way to achieve better personal mobility without worrying about initial or long-term costs.

Of course, motorcycle ownership has become another way to make a living. Some have shifted towards becoming full-time delivery riders – whether it be for online shopping platforms such as Lazada or Shopee, food delivery platforms like Grab and FoodPanda, or courier services like J&T. That number most certainly went up during the height of COVID-19.

And despite most of us returning to some level of normality in our day-to-day lives, the demand for delivery services have not abated. The latest e-Conomy SEA report by Google, Temasek and Bain cites moves by transportation providers to start catering to cities outside of major urban areas, and the resulting focus on growing their two-wheeler offerings, covering both motorcycles and bicycles.

This presents some interesting challenges for supply chain stakeholders, particularly in government, whose role is to foster a competitive business environment that allows logistics services to better serve their customers. The motorcycle’s appeal is despite the fact that our existing infrastructure does not support it. I always think back to Taipei, where there are dedicated areas for two-wheeled vehicles to stop at intersections. After all, the city boasts of an extensive biking network and is also fond of its motorcycles and scooters. Not everyone will say it’s the best set-up – last year there were protests in the city demanding fewer restrictions on motorcycle and scooter drivers – but they’re better at sharing the road than us.

One motorcycle group is calling for the removal of motorcycle-only lanes, particularly the one along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. The argument is, since there are now more motorcycles than four-wheeled vehicles on the road, they should get more priority. Of course I disagree. If there’s one thing we should be tamping down, it’s the thinking that certain vehicles can act willy-nilly on the road just because they are certain vehicles – and I’m also thinking of SUVs and jeepneys.

But we do need to rethink our existing road infrastructure to accommodate the evolving transport landscape – both for commuting and moving goods, both in private and public settings. A few weeks ago the Metro Manila Development Authority was talking up its stricter enforcement of a rule banning motorcycles from seeking shelter in underpasses or pedestrian bridges during heavy rains for too long a time. They said these drivers can stop in gasoline stations. But why not invest in these stopping areas? I mean, we can do waiting sheds, right? I imagine these will also help delivery riders who have to stop somewhere while waiting for orders to arrive. I also imagine this will benefit bikers – also a growing contingent, especially among the young who are keen on reducing their carbon footprints.

I imagine someone will say we’ll end up building shelters for the homeless and encourage beggars and crime… but then, these solutions are complex, aren’t they? I’m just tossing suggestions in.

The other challenge is in regulation. Again, 8.5 million registered motorcycles, and roughly 8 million more unregistered, according to the LTO. The agency has announced it will strengthen its monitoring of these vehicles and encourage those with lapsed registrations to renew. There’s also an opportunity here for drivers to be reacquainted with the rules. For instance, did you know that lane-splitting is against the law in the Philippines? A 2008 LTO order specifically bans motorcycles from doing so – meaning, you can’t have two of them sitting side by side occupying one lane. But there are no penalties for this, and thus we have motorcycle drivers who just take every open space and use it to get ahead. All the things I learned about “safe driving distance” go out of the window when a motorcycle driver refuses to respect mine.

Driver education – not just for motorcycles, but for everyone; although if the motorcycle is now the “king of the road” then they should be extra keen to follow the rules, yes? – will go a long way in ensuring safety for everyone on the road, better customer service, and perhaps, a slightly better transport experience for all.

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications director of SCMAP, and editor-in-chief of its official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at

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