BANGKOK – A video of a Japanese student blocking motorbikes from riding on the sidewalk has once again reminded people how riders just don’t care.
Last week, video footage of Megumi Morimoto, a senior student at Kasetsart University blocking scooters from riding on the sidewalk went viral.
“I’ve been doing this for over five years because as a pedestrian, I don’t feel safe walking in Bangkok,” she told Thai media.
“Motorbike riders hijack the city’s sidewalks at the expense of pedestrians. They don’t know that they’re endangering others, nor do they care that they are damaging public property.”
Over the past five years, Ms Morimoto said she has blocked more than 100 ignorant drivers from riding on the sidewalk. She has also been attacked at least four times.
“I would urge riders to obey the law, but believe it or not, some of them don’t even know the traffic law,” she said.
This latest video on social media show how the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) efforts to stop riding on sidewalks has failed.
It also shows how Thailand still has a problem with law enforcement and misplaced compassion towards wrongdoers.
Shortly after the video went viral, the BMA immediately ordered local police to arrest motorcycle taxi drivers who were parked on sidewalks. A typical knee jerk reaction to save face by Thai authorities.
We arrested scores of motorbike taxi drivers,” deputy Bangkok governor, Sakoltee Phattiyakul told the Bangkok Post.
The deputy governor also said enforcement remains an issue, and the penalties aren’t enough to deter people from riding on sidewalks.
In August the BMA doubled the fine for riding on sidewalks to 2,000 baht. BMA also said offenders who fail to pay their fines will have their motorbikes seized until the fines are paid.
In the 14-month 21,755 riders have been fined making some 12.59 million baht for the city’s coffers.
Despite the fines collected, the deputy governor admitted the problem is far from solved.
“We can still see motorbikes riding on sidewalks despite the fines,” said Mr Sakoltee. “Our officials should be working harder.”
There are Plenty of Laws in Place to Punish Motorbike Drivers
There are plenty of laws in place to punish motorbike drivers who ride on sidewalks. Section 43 (7) of the 1979 Land Traffic Act, for instance, sets the fine for this offense at between 400-1,000 baht. Section 19 (2) of the 1992 Public Health Act also deals with the problem. Setting the maximum fine at 5,000 baht for each violation.
BMA officials had previously mulled raising the fine from 5,000 baht as a last resort.
In addition, Section 390 of the Criminal Code could also be used to prosecute riders who cause accidents and injuries. Violating the code may result in a fine of up to 10,000 baht, one-month imprisonment or both.
These laws are almost never enforced, Mr Sakoltee admitted, the “attitude of officers” on will determine the campaign’s success.
“Municipal police officers let offenders off the hook because they believe the 2,000-baht fine is too high,” the deputy governor said.
Motorbike Riders Blame Everyone Else for Breaking the Law
Vasin Sakulnont, a motorbike messenger, said I was fined the day the new penalty came into effect.
“It was only for a few meters to the main soi,” said Mr Vasin told the Bangkok Post.
“The traffic around Bangkok is so bad that sometimes couriers, motorcycle taxi riders, have no other choice but to take a shortcut.” (Always blame something or somebody else)
While Mr Vasin admitted that he violated traffic law, he suggested the BMA should work harder to educate the public. Saying many people are still unaware that riding on sidewalks is illegal.
Urai Phewnuan, a motorcycle taxi driver, backed that stance and asked for some understanding.
“We don’t want to ride on the pavement, and we prefer to ride at normal speeds on normal roads,” he said.
“However, many of our passengers are office workers who aren’t shy to press us to ride on sidewalks to save time.”
Placing Blame on the Second party Despite Knowing the Law
The sidewalk campaign is being welcomed by Bangkok’s pedestrians. However, many pedestrians remain doubtful of the city’s ability to keep motorbikes off sidewalks.
Businessman Athiwat Sachadamrongrit said the high fine will gradually deter people from taking a shortcut at the expense of pedestrians.
“Of course, there will be a bunch of bad apples who will refuse to comply,” he said.”But the campaign effectively establishes the sidewalk as a pedestrian-only zone.”Eventually people will realize that riding on sidewalks is not an acceptable thing to do.”
Office worker Thanchanok Kulima said actual law enforcement is key to the campaign’s success.
“These riders even sound their horns to force pedestrians to make way for them, as if the sidewalk is their own,” he said. “These irresponsible motorbike riders are giving all of the other riders a bad reputation.”