Almost every morning, on weekdays, I pass Valero Street in Salcedo Village in Makati City. At around 7 a.m., there will be two big buses parked near the corner of Valero and Villar streets, unloading their passengers. There are about a hundred people in total from both buses, I reckon, seemingly employees working in the establishment across the street.
Nothing wrong with hiring buses to shuttle employees to work. Many businesses do that. But what I do not get is how these buses are allowed to unload their passengers in a manner that disrupts traffic flow. Worse, the buses and their passengers do not seem to care that they are disruptive to others. Moreover, they unnecessarily put pedestrians and motorists at risk.
Valero is a one-way street, with one-side parking only. Parking slots are on the left side of the road, the driver side. Thus, the buses park on the left. But this also means their passenger doors are on the right — facing the road. As such, their passengers step out into oncoming traffic from their right. The buses are parked no more than 10 meters away from the lighted intersection and pedestrian lane.
The problem every morning is that as the stream of passengers gets off the bus, they just continue to cross the street to their place of work with little regard for oncoming traffic. Often, the bus drivers and conductors bodily block vehicular traffic to let their passengers cross. Valero comes to a standstill just about 10 meters from the intersection, as vehicles are forced to give way to the “crossing” passengers.
Shouldn’t their employer instruct their employees and the shuttle bus operators to make sure that passengers carefully alight from the bus, watch out for oncoming traffic, carefully walk to the curb and the nearby intersection, and then cross the road when the pedestrian light turns green? Why do they have to cross where they alight and disregard their own safety? Laziness?
Rules are in place for the safety of both motorists and pedestrians. Why are the buses allowed to drop off their passengers in a manner that disregards safety? And what gives the bus drivers and passengers the “right” to stop oncoming vehicular traffic just so the bus passengers can “jaywalk” to their place of work?
And vehicular traffic will just have to wait until all the passengers alight from the buses. It might have been okay if the passengers at least waited until the road was clear before crossing, never mind that they are crossing where they should not in the first place. But no, they simply cross at will as they get off the bus. It is simply a case of crossing where they want, when they want.
Many will probably view this as simply a rant, and a petty one at that. Perhaps other motorists, unlike me, do not mind letting the bus passengers cross where and when they want. Why begrudge the bus passengers for crossing to work? Anyway, a lot of other pedestrians cross Valero anytime, anywhere. Many do not use the pedestrian lane, and some even walk on the road instead of the sidewalk.
The thing is, this situation arises not only on Valero every weekday morning but in many other places around the business district. Many motorists and pedestrians choose to ignore traffic safety rules because they are either inconvenient, or observed more in breach, or because they can simply get away with it. On Rufino St., for instance, the stretch between Ayala Avenue and Valero St., many still cross the street despite the “no crossing” sign.
And despite the numerous parking slots on Valero, from Dela Costa all the way to Villar St., many still opt to double park and block traffic flow just to buy from the numerous street vendors found along the stretch of Valero. In short, when they know they can get away with it, people will choose to ignore safety rules for their convenience. And with impunity, at that.
And to me, it all boils down to people’s very poor sense of community. It is every man for himself in the central business district, obviously. There will never be enough regulations, traffic lights, traffic enforcers, pedestrian lanes, and safety signs to beat the ever-growing malaise of “me-first.” Many will continue to act in a manner that benefits them first, with little regard for others.
The Filipino term pasaway comes to mind, which can be translated to disobedient or uncontrollable. But frankly, I do not think the lack of discipline is the issue with many Filipinos. That is, discipline in terms of obediently following rules. Such discipline is usually exacted at the cost of penalty or censure. And people follow mainly because their fear of punishment.
Some people do not observe rules not because they are unafraid of punishment. Or that their need is so urgent that they are willing to risk punishment just to satisfy that need. This requires some actual understanding that one is committing a wrong but willingly does so. This does not seem to be the case.
For some people, they choose to breach rules because (1) they do not see anything wrong with the breach, or that they believe they are not doing anything wrong; (2) they think the rules should not apply to them; (3) others breach the rules and get away with it; and (4) they do not care about the consequences to them or others. For instance, a jaywalker disregards his own safety as he does not care, or realize, how his action affects others.
And this, to me, is the greater challenge. How do we change the way people think about rules and safety? How do we build a greater sense of community and a stronger sense of others? How do we make more people realize how they think and how they act impact not only themselves but others as well?
Marvin Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippine Press Council