Monday, December 11, 2006
Motorcycles in Chiang Mai
Like much of South East Asia, Chiang Mai has a very large abundance of motorcycles. They are everywhere: roads, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and schoolyards. In fact, your average parking lot here is typically sectioned to have a fourth or fifth of its area reserved for motorcycles, also known as motorbikes.
Thinking about it, there are a lot of perks to riding a motorcycle. For one thing, to fill up a tank of gas only costs 70 baht, which, in Canadian dollars, converts to just a little over two dollars. Another thing would be the extremely simple process of parking. Wherever a firm level surface and enough room for a kickstand can be found, there lies your parking space.
Unfortunately, along with these come a worrying list of downsides that can be filed underneath the heading 'Cons'. The permit age to ride a motorbike here is sixteen, although that won't stop you from seeing up to three kids, aged ten to twelve, all speeding down the road on the same bike. There is also here, in the Kingdom of Thailand, a law that restricts the riding of motorbikes when not wearing a helmet. This can also be observed being broken daily, as half the motorists can be viewed racing past traffic, sometimes with their helmets in the bike basket, in easy reach for the upcoming traffic check by the authorities.
Furthermore, some motorcyclists are reckless, and can be seen riding on the side or middle of the road, against traffic, and speeding past red lights, or riding ahead while the light is still red. We’ve seen that almost anything can be carried on a motorbike. From bamboo poles, to dogs, to up to four children, a wide variety of various items, a few almost as large as the vehicle itself, can be seen being transported by motorcycle.
All of these facts add up to the fact that accidents are becoming regrettably more frequent. Twice in just the last 2 months we have been greeted by the tragic scene of a motorcyclist lying outstretched on the pavement, bike smashed, bystanders all around. Both incidents were seen on our morning drives to school. Both were caused by one of the first topics mentioned, the habit of driving against traffic on the side or middle of the road.
These accidents are met with much prayer for those involved, and our cries for protection of the lives caught up in all this.
We hope the government will be stricter on the implementation of their law on one way riding only and on helmets so that death and tragedies would be avoided. Until then, we can only do what we can, which is to lead by example (through only Linda rides a motorbike) and, as always, to pray.