Tricycles have been providing an alternative form of transport to the public by taking them to places other public transportation would not go – inside villages or subdivisions and even far-flung areas. From here, the tricycle has its uses.
Because of this, it has also become a Filipino cultural icon, second to the jeepney. It can be said, they are comparable to the jeepney in the sense they also epitomize Filipino ingenuity, being made from various materials put together to form a sidecar which attached to a motorcycle. Like the jeepney, tricycle sidecars can be designed and adorned in many different ways to make them attractive on the road.
But in some cases, they can be a problem in not a nuisance to the public as well. It has been observed that a lot if not some of these tricycle drivers lack proper education on the rules of the road and even road safety. This is evident when you see these vehicles on the main roads, most especially on the inner lane meant for passing or overtaking. Some videos see these tricycles even on highways!
The lack of education on road rules and safety among tricycle drivers makes them contribute to the traffic. They tend to mingle with larger vehicles, making their way around or getting in the way. With their slow speed (their average top speed is 40 mph), they hinder other vehicles trying to get ahead. Some have penchant for weaving their way around to get ahead. This may lead to an accident if they are not careful.
Their size and design makes them hard to see if they are coming behind a larger vehicle in oncoming traffic. When they overtake, they might surprise oncoming vehicles when they come out of nowhere, leading to an accident.
While tricycles sport attractive designs, they can sometimes go against the laws of Physics or engineering principles. Designers tend to focus more on passengers but neglect other factors such as the weight of the motorcycle, the sidecar, road friction and road conditions.
Another way they cause traffic is the illegal terminals they set up anywhere to get passengers, usually on busy streets. They occupy spaces meant for moving vehicles. As a result, roads have become narrower and less accessible. This is made even worse by their “first-in, first-out” rule. Unless you take a “special trip” which may cost a little extra, tricycles will not leave until they have enough passengers (maximum of four). This can be a problem during lean hours. Add the boundary system to make it a lot worse.
Another is they contribute to pollution from the smoke they produce. Sometimes these fumes can be inhaled by passengers inside the sidecar because their design does not allow them to escape. But in a much bigger picture, they also contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.
Besides the tricycles themselves, it is the local governments units (LGUs) that unwittingly contribute to the problem. Although the Department of Transportation (DOTr), through the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) set the guidelines, it is the LGUs that implement them. The problem is the LGUs issue different guidelines loosely based on the ones set by the DOTr. This is why they differ from one locale to another.
There is a lack of uniformity. Some strictly regulate for instance, in Mandaluyong City, those who want to operate a tricycle must be residents of the city and have accident insurance. They must also have garbage receptacles and mufflers to their exhaust pipes to reduce noise. Other LGUs do not have these same policies which is why tricycle drivers tend to commit a lot of violations.
What Can Be Done?
From these problems, the solutions are obvious. For one, tricycle drivers should be properly educated. It is not enough to simply operate a motorcycle. Tricycle drivers also need to be educated on basic road safety to avoid accidents. Drivers need to be aware that they are operating a motorcycle with a sidecar, not a single motorcycle where they can behave like them when they speed up.
Designers need to consider other factors (see above) when designing sidecars, not just to accommodate passengers or be attractive. This is to prevent accidents from happening.
In stating the obvious, illegal terminals need to be dismantled and the boundary system eliminated. Tricycle operators and drivers have formed associations (TODAs). They should negotiate for better compensation with their respective local governments.
Cleaner fuel sources should also be used. In some municipalities, electric tricycles are being introduced such as in Manila and Pasay to address pollution. Another reason why they are accepted is their designs, based on the Thai “tuk-tuks” are more comfortable and a lot safer for passengers.
There should also be a uniform system to be enforced by the DOTr-LTFRB. Erring drivers and operators should be punished.
Although the tricycle is considered a menace on the road, you cannot ignore they are still useful because they can go where other public utility vehicles would not. It is perhaps a matter of knowing their place.