The tandem problem

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Saturday, August 23, 2014


The first and only time I rode a motorcycle was in the ‘60s when I could spend one whole day in a corner of the street and not ever see a motorcycle pass by. I don't remember wearing a helmet at all; neither was there enough awareness in people about the danger of road motor rides. Besides, motorcycles didn't sell much then. And I hardly saw riders in tandem.

An acquaintance, who was my host in Dumaguete City, drove me to a hot spring in Negros Oriental using his personal motorcycle during a break from his classes. What I remember of our trip from Dumaguete to Dauin in Negros was that we drove out in a trip where no tourists were around, with only nature quietly overwhelming us.

It was also a time when there was no law about wearing helmets and I saw the vehicle more with its driver only. There was hardly the picture of men riding in tandem because only a few drove motorcycles and only for family and personal use, not for public hire.
I remember walking into the hot spring in some quiet corner where land meets warm water while my friend talked about water heated up long ago by the volcanic mountains nearby. In nature’s development through the years, the sizzle now doesn’t hurt.

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But this is not about hot springs.

My memory of that Negros visit was of my one and only motorcycle ride. At this time, perhaps the hot spring area now has plenty of motorcycles parked or passing by. But now people aren’t only talking about motorcycles in Negros Oriental, not only of those in Cebu but of the vehicle fast increasing in number all over the country.

The talk, especially, is also about “tandem criminals” which is the result of the use of motorcycles as the vehicle could run off quickly after the rider at the back snatches bags or shoots someone and the tandem quickly flies out of the traffic with the loot and the crime done.

Still, it would be some more years from that time on before more motorcycles would appear in cities and towns in the country, with drivers wearing (or trying to wear) helmets anywhere, and with criminals using the drive in tandem with assistants who could grab bags or hold up people quickly and get away with it faster than if the getaway machine were a bulky car trapped in heavy traffic.
You've read about a young man shot dead in Carmen town, a pawnshop held up in the Cebu City, an ex-soldier killed in Talisay City, money lenders robbed in Mandaluyong City, bags grabbed in Divisoria, all by two or four criminals riding motorcycles in tandem and getting away with it.

The police have reported 3,000 incidents of crime in tandem using the motorcycle in 2013, or 8 a day in the country.
Then Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada says riding motorcycles in tandem should be banned. Rep. Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City says the local government should be able to legally suspend the Motorcycle Helmet Act because the headgears cover the faces of criminal motorcyclists riding in tandem, giving police the problem of identifying them. Sen. Vicente Sotto says motorcycles should be used only by families, with brothers as riders.

They are talking about what to do with “tandem criminals” and getting flak from some sectors, for sounding “anti-poor.”
This coming week, Mandaluyong City will ban motorcyclists riding in tandem unless the passenger is an adult female or, if male, related to the driver in the first degree, and the children aged 7 to 10. Violation of said city ordinance has P1,000 as penalty or up to three months of imprisonment.

But it’s a very difficult problem to solve. It’s not like the government would ban motorcycle use. Not when the availability of the vehicle use has solved family problems beginning with the motorcycle being cheaper to use, “easier to repair, easier to park…more flexible in traffic…” good for habal-habal drivers who are paid for the drive.

The population to police ratio can solve the problem, but when can we have enough policemen in our life?

It will help to let the public into the matter of the onslaught of tandem criminals, like reminding people not to stay in places known for these crimes. Don’t be like a friend who stood by the road waiting for a ride with her bag loosely hanging over her shoulder as she spoke on the mobile phone, throwing all caution to the wind.

Guess what happened next.

(ecuizon@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2014.

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