Calls for regulation of motorcycle taxis in Mandalay
MANDALAY resident Ko Kyaw always takes motorcycle taxis to go from the Kywal Sal Kan Highway bus terminal every time he returns to Mandalay from Yangon on business. He always feels unsafe but he has no other choice.
Some motorcycle taxi drivers tell their passengers to wear helmest but some even don’t keep extra helmets for passengers. Passengers like Ko Kyaw are anxious about accidents but they have no choice and take the taxis, and pray.
There is also the fear of robbery along desolate stretches of road and there have been reports of several this year.
Ko Kyaw mostly reaches Mandalay at dawn and he takes motorcycle taxis so he doesn’t have to bother his family to pick him up at that early hour.
“I haven’t experienced of any accidents due to speeding motorcycle taxis yet or being robbed by a motorcycle taxi driver, but I always worry every time I ride,” he said.
It’s not just the passengers who worry about the state of the service, Even some motorcycle taxi drivers say they feel unsafe due to robberies and stabbings.
Motorcycle taxi driver Ko Thant Zin Win says crime creates doubt between passengers and drivers.
“The passenger does not trust the driver. Likewise, the driver does not trust the passenger. Although I’m a motorcycle taxi driver, even I get scared,” said Ko Thant Zin Win.
He says one of his regular passengers, a university professor, only rides with him because she was once threatened by two men and robbed of her necklace.
While Ko Thant Zin Win prioritises the safety of his passengers, many drivers have a more lackadaisical attitude.
It is not unusual to see motorcycle taxis carrying dangerous loads or more than one passenger.
Traffic Police Force Captain Kyaw Kyaw Aung says there are some 15,000 traffic accidents a year in and around Mandalay, mostly due to reckless driving and speeding
Even he has had experiences of rude and dangerous motorcycle taxi drivers.
“Once, I had to go to another township and when I reached there, I hired a three-wheeled taxi. He asked for K3000 and during the journey he stopped at a house for some reason. When he came back out, he appeared very angry and started driving very fast and dangerously. When I asked him to slow down, he threatened to hit me, not realising I was a police officer,” Captain Kyaw Kyaw Aung recounted, adding that taxi drivers should follow traffic rules and be courteous as they are service providers.
Another example of bad behavior among motorcycle taxi drivers cited by members of the public is the mad scramble for passengers whenever long-distance buses reach a terminal. Passengers say the taxi drivers almost appear to be fighting for fares and pieces of luggage have been lost in the chaos.
The internet is full of stories about taxi drivers demanding higher fares and getting aggressive if passengers refuse.
Despite the numerous complaints, the authorities have not been able to come up with a system to regulate motorcycle and three-wheeled taxis in Mandalay.
“Calling the taxis through phone applications would be better for passengers as the driver’s name, photo, and phone number would be required, and people would have a place to call if they had complaints,” said Ko Thant Zin Win.
Although there is currently a taxihiring service via a mobile application being run by private companies, the system does not cover the whole city yet.
Given the circumstances, regulations and procedures appear necessary for the safety of everyone.
For example, a supervisory organisation for motorcycle and three-wheeled taxis could be formed to register them, educate drivers about traffic rules, and to receive complaints and to supervise.
Proper taxi stands should also be set up at bus terminals to avoid confusion.
Ko Thant Zin Win says, unless a control mechanism for different taxis is established, travellers arriving at Mandalay will continue to suffer frustration.