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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, March 13, 2018
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with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

The wrong signs


The Bacolod City government, in cooperation with Grab Philippines, will install road safety signages/reminders in major thoroughfares of the city in a bid to help ease its traffic problem.

According to the press release, Grab is providing the city government about 200 signages that will help guide motorists by redirecting their movements to ease up the road density of motor vehicles in certain areas of Bacolod.

The contents of the signages are customized and were designed by the Citizen’s Traffic and Road Watch Group, a non-government organization that started installing them along Lacson Street in Barangay Mandalagan on March 7. The group hopes to finish the installation in other major streets next week.

A photo published on the Business section of our Visayan DAILY STAR showed Grab-Bacolod manager Jocelyn Ann Yoshida turning over the road safety signages/reminders to Bacolod Councilor Dindo Ramos, chairman of the Sanggunian Committee on Transportation and Traffic. The sign they were holding in the photo advised “SLOWER VEHICLES, ALL MOTORCYCLES, ALL TRICYCLES: STAY ON RIGHT LANE ONLY.”

My thought bubble upon seeing the photo: Good luck with that.

The private sector is doing all it can to help ease the traffic problem but we have already seen that signs do not help. Many years ago, insurance company Prudential Guarantee donated traffic advisory signs that were posted on many major intersections. I remember their sign advising motorists that the vehicle on the right lane must turn right. It’s a common sense piece of advice, designed to keep the traffic flowing in intersections that are easily congested. But my experience with those signs is that nobody obeys them. Despite the presence of those beautiful signs that have stood the test the time, the rightmost lane is almost always blocked by vehicles that have no intention of turning right, ironically stopping right in front of those donated signs.

If the city accepts and installs the donated signs without any intention of enforcing the common-sense suggestions, we already know just how effective that Grab-donated sign advising slower vehicles such as motorcycles and tricycles to stay on the right lane will be.

It is good to see businesses such as Grab and Prudential Guarantee donating traffic signs. It is great to see a NGO such as the Citizen’s Traffic and Road Watch Group get involved in the design of the signs. It gives us hope when a member of the city council accepts the signs for installation. The assumption we make when these things happen is that the city’s executive branch and its enforcers will support those initiatives.

Traffic signs are good when the “suggestions” and “advice” they dispense are actually being enforced and followed but if nothing happens, those signs only make city officials look bad.

Take for example that “Right lane must turn right” sign that was donated to the city. What will a law-abiding driver think when he sees the lane blocked by a vehicle that ignores the sign, right in front of a traffic enforcer or a gaggle of policemen? Don’t you agree with me that it would be better for public officials if there were no such sign instead? The existence of signs that nobody follows only confirms that rules, laws, suggestions, advice and traffic signs are not enforced. If there were no signs, anybody can do anything as they usually do on our roads and nobody will complain.

If city officials do not intend to enforce the rules or feel that their personnel are incapable of enforcing simple traffic laws, then my advice for them would be not to put up signs. In a land where laws cannot be enforced, roads are better off without traffic signs, pedestrian crossings and road markings because they only raise expectations among those who try to comply and increase disappointment when people who at least try to abide with the laws see those signs and markings being ignored with impunity.

Of course the other reason companies like Grab and NGOs like the Citizen’s Traffic and Road Watch Group could be donating the signs would be to pressure the city government to do its share and focus on enforcement. This is an angle city officials should be aware of if they don’t want to be forced into actually doing their jobs. A city official who thinks enforcing the law is a pain in the ass shouldn’t accept those donated signs.

City officials that accept donated signs should be prepared to face the consequences of those signs. It can make them look good if they can ensure compliance or it can make them look bad if the signs will only highlight their inability to enforce laws.*


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