You know the videos. A bunch of fixies roaming around Metro Manila with the express desire to look like daredevils, but they end up just looking stupid in the eyes of the public. It’s a culture, they say, something we should respect. Correct them and they say you should respect their beliefs instead. But it’s hard to respect actions that will send them (or worse, others) straight to the morgue. Some people refer to them as “jempoys,” the equivalent of the sweet potato (“kamote”) moniker we’ve given to errant motorcycle riders.
They’re known to disregard trademarks by rebranding cheaper units with decals from more expensive brands. They ride around with reckless abandon. They perform modifications to their rides that should get them pre-approved for a St. Peter life plan. Usually, they’re only known to do such idiotic things within their circles, but they rise to popularity whenever videos of certain local groups go viral with several riders going around the city trying to come up with style points while making their guardian angel sweat bullets.
Wait…was I referring to jempoys? Sorry, I meant kamotes. No, I meant errant drivers.
You see how it’s not just a cycling problem?
Our vehicles are but tools to get places—whether it’s a pedestrian in its purest form of transportation, on a bicycle and its versatility and cleanliness, on a motorcycle that democratizes motorized transport, or in an automobile which seems to be the best way to get around the metro. How the tool gets used is dependent on its user, and its abuse is also dependent on its user.
And when these abuses occur, we call out the people responsible for them. It’s not because we should promote witch-hunts or because we like shaming people, but rather because we desire corrective action over punitive ones. When we see something wrong, we speak up so that these mistakes get stopped in their tracks, and so that their recurrence may be curbed. Self-policing within circles is important; staying silent amid wrongdoing is akin to condoning its existence in the first place.
Our pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is so laughably bad that they would rather risk their lives mixing with vehicular traffic than go the proper way
Furthermore, we should not be content with finger-pointing when dealing with incidents like these. Aviation’s stellar safety nowadays is in part due to their forgoing of finding out who did something wrong, choosing instead to focus on why things went wrong to begin with. We will not achieve Vision Zero—or the goal of having zero road fatalities—if all we do is blame each other and not identify why these incidents (especially crashes) exist in the first place. We can’t make our roads safer if all we do is point at these reckless individuals without first recognizing that the majority of our road users can’t even recognize nor perform basic traffic maneuvers safely, or that our pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is so laughably bad that they would rather risk their lives mixing with vehicular traffic than go the “proper” way. We can’t rid our thoroughfares of the yabang that some users exude if we don’t call them out for their blatant disregard for safety to earn style points, but we also cannot shake off the toxic elitism built into the culture within our circles if we don’t challenge these beliefs at their root. If we do not want to harbor bad ideals and actions within our communities, we must nip these problematic traits in the bud and not let it fester into the monster we must fear and avoid.
And let’s not kid ourselves: The most those boneheads can do is maim or kill themselves while inducing some property damage. On the other hand, those in multi-ton metal vehicles can do far more damage and take far more lives than the former can ever do. That’s why bicycles and pedestrians don’t require licensing, but we drivers do, and why bicycles and pedestrians get their own exclusive paths that motor vehicles cannot and should not traverse. Protecting lives takes precedence over material possessions, and no matter which way you put it, the increasing use of bicycles in our city is helping transport far more people of vastly different socioeconomic classes than our increasing gridlock can even hope to do.
It doesn’t matter how you get to where you have to be, just bring your brain and leave your pride and ego at home. Your life and those of the people around you depend on it.