POSTSCRIPT / April 25, 2006 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Road signs must guide, not confuse, motorists

HI-TOP TRAP: Many motorists are complaining about the unusual lane separation at the Fairview-bound EDSA-Quezon Ave. intersection. Traffic officers have been flagging down drivers of private vehicles taking the “wrong” lane of the split service road.

As I know it, the general rule on multi-lane thoroughfares in Metro Manila, e.g. EDSA, is for passenger or public utility conveyances to take the yellow right lane(s) and for private vehicles to stay to their left.

But on the service lanes at that Quezon Ave. corner near Hi-Top supermarket in Quezon City, some genius has reversed the lane assignment — private vehicles are now assigned to the right lane and public utility conveyances to their left.

Many drivers used to the private-vehicles-to-the-left-lane rule suddenly find themselves on the “wrong” (left) lanes and then receive or are threatened with citation for traffic violation.

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BAD ROAD SIGNS: Unless the Metro Manila Development Authority has taken care of the prior Engineering (and Education) aspects of traffic management, it has no right to go straight to Enforcement.

The reversing of lane assignment is wrong Engineering, wrong traffic management.

If MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando himself would care to drive through the area in the evening, he should notice that the new signs hanging atop the lanes are not reflectorized like the old signs beside them.

A motorist approaching the area will not be able to read them, even with his headlights on. If traffic signs cannot be read, because somebody cheated (and probably made money) on the paint, why should drivers be penalized for it?

When drivers cannot read bad traffic signs, they have to rely on their reflexes and intuition honed by years of driving. But the years of driving in this metropolis have taught us that the passenger conveyances’ lanes are on the right.

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NOT EXCLUSIVE: Another point: If you look closely at the sign above the passenger or utility lane, you would notice that the sign simply says that passenger or public utility vehicles must use it.

But the sign does not say that the lane is ONLY for passenger vehicles. This means that while buses, jeepneys and other yellow-plate public utility vehicles are advised to take that lane, private vehicles may also use it.

In the expressway toll plazas, some gates are marked “Trucks & Buses.” The sign does not say “Trucks & Buses ONLY” and it is thus understood that private vehicles are also welcome to line up to pay toll or get their tickets there. They do.

Sometimes one toll lane is marked “Wide Vehicles” but also without the restrictive word “ONLY.” So even compacts and motorcycles pass through that “Wide Vehicles” gate. No traffic officer hides behind the post to catch drivers of non-wide vehicles.

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PERSUASIVE: Still on confusing signs that drive us motorists crazy and cause accidents… There are still some U-Turn slots in Metro Manila marked by a “U-Turn” inside a red circle. What does that unusual sign mean?

Is that U-Turn sign inside a red circle mandatory or advisory, persuasive or coercive? Or purely decorative?

A driver who cannot cope with MMDA’s confusion is likely to stop in front of the sign (and stall traffic), scratch his head and wonder if it means No U-Turn Here or Make Your U-Turn Here. Ang gulo talaga!

If you want photographs of bewildering street signs in Metro Manila, contact Johnny Angeles, vice president of the Automobile Association of the Philippines, formerly known as the Philippine Motor Association.

As for the road signs to end all signs, you should see the “Bawal Ang No Parking Dito” scrawled near a street corner in Pasig. Or the “No Truck Ban Allowed (inclusive hours given)” in Mandaluyong (outside).

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WHAT’S SWERVING?: But which is better: a confusing sign or no sign at all?

If you are driving back to Metro Manila from the North Luzon Expressway, when you turn right to make a loop to enter EDSA southbound, hug the rightmost lane, otherwise you get ambushed by a swarm of MMDA traffic officers for their favorite violation — “swerving.”

Here we have to go back to Engineering as a prerequisite of Enforcement. How can any driver be cited for swerving when there are no lanes marked out or painted on the road? How will a driver know his lane when there are no lines or traffic signs to guide him?

How many lanes are reserved for those turning right at that loop? May a driver turn right from the second to the right or even from the third to the right lane? The lane markings or some signs should say so.

If you have the patience, you might want to ask the officer what the difference is between swerving and lane-changing. Ask him how many meters from the disputed corner is changing lanes still allowed. Or if Section 3, Article V, of the Traffic Code of the Philippines applies in your case.

Make sure you sound like a lawyer and he would likely let you go unscathed with the parting advice, “Mag-ingat po kayo, atorni,” and a friendly pat on your fender.

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THREE A’s FORGOTTEN: But nobody at MMDA seems to bother with Engineering (or Education, another requirement) as a prelude to Enforcement.

The engineering they know is the fabrication of steel pedestrian overpasses and stretches of wire fences to coop up pedestrians like backyard chicken.

The 3A’s of traffic management have gone out of fashion with the old school and with the advent of deadly concrete blocks and Fernando Fink wire fences in the middle of the road.

When the officers accost their victims spilling out of the NLEx, you will notice that they do not start writing the violation ticket right away, if indeed there was a violation. They lean over first and chat, blah-blah…. you know what follows.

And, btw, I know this could be boring already, but a few nights ago, another car crashed into Fernando’s famous concrete blocks at the same U-turn near the MRT terminal off SM North North-Edsa where a number of accidents (one of them involving me) had occurred with frightening frequency.

Ayaw nilang maniwala. That death trap of a U-turn on Edsa is a black spot, where just too many accidents happen for anybody’s comfort. There are actually many safety measures that could be taken there and in similar sites, but nobody bothers.

As I said earlier, the MMDA is probably waiting for a prominent Somebody or the speedster son of a Big Shot to get killed in an accident there for them to do something about that black spot.

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ROAD BULLIES: We cannot talk about traffic problems, especially on Edsa, without mentioning the idiots who weave in and out of rush traffic escorted by motorcycle cops and backup security vehicles with sirens blaring and red lights flashing.

This may seem a minor detail but it demonstrates at street level the arrogance of power that some public officials have developed over time.

As long as President Gloria Arroyo is unable or unwilling to put a stop to this crude display of power, I say that she does not know how to run this country.

It is so unfair, and so infuriating: These psychopaths are public servants paid by taxpayers, riding vehicles bought by taxpayers, using gasoline bought by taxpayers, and escorted and guarded by personnel paid and maintained by taxpayers.

Why do they think of themselves as so special that everybody else must give way to them?

If they are in a hurry for their dinner date with their girl friends or partners in crime, all they have to do is start out earlier. And why the guards? Why are they afraid of the people?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 25, 2006)

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