Saturday, June 24, 2017
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Ban on motorbikes lingers

There are a number of rumours about why motorcycles were banned in Yangon in 2003, as well as mumblings that change is on the horizon. One version about the ban is that a person on a motorbike made a threatening gesture to a military general; another is that a motorbike rider distributed pro-democracy leaflets, and the third is that a general’s son was killed while riding a motorbike. There are no doubt others also.

Would you like a fine with that? A courier takes a chance in Yangon. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)Would you like a fine with that? A courier takes a chance in Yangon. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)

Unfortunately for motorbike enthusiasts and those who believe that the reintroduction of motorbikes would do wonders for traffic congestion, there are no plans to lift the ban any time soon.

U Myo Lwin, deputy director of the Road and Bridges Department of Yangon City Development Committee told The Myanmar Times that the rule will continue indefinitely, while an officer from Yangon traffic police department, who did wish to provide his name, said motorcyclists were involved in many accidents and criminal activity before the ban was introduced in municipal Yangon.

In fact, the authorities appear more determined than ever to penalise those who breach the rule. According to a spokesperson from the Yangon region traffic police department, motorcycles are being confiscated by police if they are being ridden in a banned area. In 2012, more than 800 motorcycle riders were fined for riding in restricted areas.

Ko Moe, 24, lives in north Dagon township, which allows motorbikes in specific areas, said the bus is slow, uncomfortable and not worth the money. So he bought a motorcycle and rides it around his locality. He said he considers himself lucky not to have been caught once in the last two years – his uncle was and paid a 20,000 kyat fine. The penalty for not wearing a helmet is K10,000.

Many motorbike owners are also reluctant to pay registration fees of K50,000 to their local traffic police station, so they opt to risk paying a fine of K50,000 if caught.

Only government-related officials may use motorcycles in the Yangon municipal area. They are not allowed to carry passengers and must wear motorbike helmets. Nor may motorcyclists from out of town ride their bikes into Yangon.

An editor of a publishing house from East Dagon township said he doesn’t want to see motorcycles re-introduced, because he is already concerned about the dangers motorcycles pose to the public. He said that he often sees motorcyclists without helmets and driving unsafely. However he also added that buses are responsible for a large number of injuries and conceded that a motorcycle taxi service would be an affordable and convenient option for many city dwellers.

The traffic police official said that two people die every day in motorbike accidents, and that numbers would spike if the ban was lifted.

Some may therefore be surprised to see police riding motorbikes around Yangon – it is known that 65 motorcycles are used by police to carry out their duties. Other exceptions include post and electricity workers. According to a 2008 Myanmar Times report, “Only government-related officials may use motorcycles in the Yangon municipal area. They are not allowed to carry passengers and must wear helmets.”

The officer conceded that the ban on motorbikes is not being effectively enforced due to a lack of human resources. And despite the recent crackdown, sales of motorbikes continue to rise and they remain the most popular form of transport across the country.