Friday, March 9, 2012

STREET-SMART MOTORCYCLING


I RECENTLY WENT to Gaas, in the highlands of Balamban, Cebu, Philippines last September 2011 to be reunited with my visiting sister, who just came from the U.S.  She is staying temporarily with my cousin.  Going there is expensive since there are no bus routes along the Transcentral Highway.  There are only two alternatives:  the vehicle-for-hire and the motorcycle-for-hire.

It is a Saturday and it is 6:30 PM and I gave up the four-wheeled transport when a lot of passengers are stranded at the Ayala Terminal due to shortage of V-hires.  I transferred to JY Square to look for motorcycles.  I found many.  I negotiated with one and I need to ride without sharing a seat with another and I was charged 250 pesos.  Fair enough.

You know why I don't want to share a seat with another?  It is for my own safety.  The motorcycle run only on two wheels and is already placed at a disadvantage before other bigger vehicles on the road.  By wonders brought about by the laws of physics, it could stand on its own on the road provided there is a driver to steer and maintain its balance.

Motorcycles-for-hire are a dime a dozen and they are not strictly regulated.  Although it is not classified as a public transport yet people prefer to ride on one.  It could access the most remote mountain trails and cross rivers where no four-wheeled vehicle could.  It could travel anytime you would wish.  It has a following of its own and no government regulations could stop it. 

Motorcycles-for-hire are illegal per se.  The drivers behind are an ill-disciplined lot and they break every traffic rule as fast as you could type your name on the keyboard.  They don't put premium on safety and they deny that as well to their passengers.  They are there on the road plying their trade at very long hours.  Some took amphetamines to extend their waking time well into the early mornings.  

If circumstances forced me to ride on one, then I should be responsible to that risk else I could express my prerogative like not sharing a seat at my expense or insisting to wear a safety helmet to the driver's detriment.  I know how to drive a motorcycle and I know where I stand.

Steering a running motorcycle demands great concentration especially if you are negotiating on a mountain road like the Transcentral Highway with a passenger or passengers.  The lesser the load the better are your chances of survival.  Motorcycle brakes cannot absorb the force during downhill turns at a fast speed and would likely cause wheels to burst or flop the motorcycle forward.

Driving a motorcycle demands great responsibility as well.  The word that comes to mind is SAFETY!  Safety cannot be compromised or replaced by anything else.  The best item to describe this is the safety helmet.  It is not something to hang at your steering bars or worn lackadaisically above your head to comply with the law.  It should be worn with workable strap locks and do not separate from the wearer during a road accident. 

If possible, wear long pants and shoes.  Long denims give some protection to your knees and could absorb the heat of the muffler when you keel over to the right with the motorcycle on top of you.  The shoes would protect your toes and would complement the brakes anyway as people tend to use their feet when slowing down as if they are riding a bicycle.

Do not race with another or be challenged by one who just overtook you.  Survival on the road is not a race.  Regulate your speed and enjoy the moment.  The slower you are the more inclined are you to control your motorcycle provided you are on the rightmost lane reserved for slow-moving traffic.  

Do not overtake at the right especially when you are following a bus, a jitney or a taxi.  Drivers of these public modes of transport do not take consideration of who is following them and are more concerned of profits.  The rightmost lane is their domain but, most often, they stop at the middle of the road to take in passengers.  Their levels of discipline are just as worse with motorcycle-for-hire drivers.

When you do overtake at the right, like taking advantage of a slowdown in traffic or during a stoppage, flash the right signal light and drive slow else you might hit a crossing pedestrian that appear suddenly from amongst vehicles or get snagged by a just-opened door of an expensive SUV.  As a rule, I don't tread upon these tight paths that limit my evasive options either only to the curb or to the canal.

Always overtake on the left.  Make your intentions known by flashing the left signal light.  When I say “make your intentions known”, I mean you do it as early as possible particularly when you are making a left turn or a right turn.  (A U-turn is already considered a left turn in the Philippines.)  It is very important then that other drivers notice your intent and you should flash the signal lights from 80 meters to 100 meters before a corner.

If possible, refrain from making hand signals unless you just know one of your signal lights is busted or out of order.  It is very important then to check your head lights, your tail lights, your brake lights and your signal lights regularly, in that order, before speeding away else keep the motorcycle parked.  Complement your visibility by wearing light-colored clothes and switching on the headlights even during daytime.

Do not drive with one hand.  I have seen insane drivers speeding on the road using a cellphone, smoking a cigar or even licking a melted ice cream.  What's worse is that they got passengers riding behind them, to include children.  These kind of drivers are the worst kind of people and are dangerous to commuters.  I hope their stupidity would only consume them and exclude other people.

Keep both hands on the steering handlesConcentrate on the roadGlance in a while at your rear-view mirrors to be sure that a vehicle on the loose is behind you and take evasive actions.  Use your signal lights when overtaking and changing directions.  As much as possible, run on a straight lineAvoid weaving in and out of traffic or blocking other vehicle's path by your constant swerving. 

When overtaking a vehicle, do not swerve right away and close the lane of the one you have just overtaken.  Chances are the driver behind you would (a) apply an instant brake and get bumped from behind; (b) swerve instantly to avoid hitting you and collide with another; or (c) bump you hard.  Be sensible when using the road and think of others.

Be a responsible parent.  Do not allow your small child or children ride a motorcycle even if you are the ones driving.  What you have overlooked or ignored is that children have short arms to embrace you, small hands to grip you, little strength to offset the natural forces of dynamics and has short attention span where, most likely, would doze off without you knowing.  Please, ensure their safety by having them ride a healthy four-wheeled vehicle instead.

Whether you like it or not, driving a motorcycle is very stressful.  Take a lot of rest so you could possess an alert body and mind.  Avoid taking very long trips.  Sitting in one position for a very long time take its toll on the body and that makes you less alert.  As much as possible, park the motorcycle when you think you have traveled for an hour-and-a-half, at the least; or feel drowsy and tired. 

If you think you feel bored, look for something at the roadside that would attract your attention and replenish your vigor.  It may be food, a local cultural festival or something odd and rare.  When you do this, catch every moment with a camera.  Taking pictures and exercising your lower limbs is an absolute elixir to defeat ennui.   

Do not play loud music on your earpiece when driving.  It is best that you are aware of your surroundings that is beyond your field of sight.  The collective hum of engines is your best indicator that it’s time to go or not else you get a jolt from the collective blare of horns behind you.  What you cannot see is best served by hearing.  Enjoy music but keep it low.

A motorcycle is a very convenient mode of transportation and consumes less fuel.  Starting first a motorcycle at a parking area and then back yourself out by foot before speeding away once you face the road defeats fuel conservation.  I have seen many motorcycle owners do that.  What you do not know is that the amount of fuel used during that maneuver could already result to about 200-300 meters worth of fuel.  That measure would already save you pushing an out-of-gas motorcycle to the next refueling station.

The motorcycle is the only ones I could afford.  I do not want to be distracted by any pretty face and any attention-catching gestures from the sidewalks and I do my best to keep my eye on the road.  During fuel-crunch time, I am assured that my motorcycle can ply the road because its fuel consumption is very low.  If I am astride another motorcycle that I am not driving, I see to it that safety is religiously followed at my behest, of course.

Personally, my being on a motorcycle is the best form of my own interpretation of freedom.  My notion of freedom accentuates with the flow of the wind or the lope of a herd of deer.  My Native American cousins call this “unimpeded freedom” and I embrace it very much without any reserve.  Your freedom is best enjoyed by your own set of parameters and not by wanton or reckless abandon. 

BE SAFE ALWAYS and bless each and every journey by saying a short prayer of protection.  We Roman Catholics make the sign of the cross just like Manny Pacquiao do before each and every fight.  Have a safe journey, my brothers.

Document done in Libre Office 3.3

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