Thursday, July 26, 2007

Trisikad

Twenty years ago, some genius with a welding machine cobbled together some GI pipes and flat bars and a bench and a wheel into a sidecar. Said genius bolted the sidecar onto a bicycle and -- voila! -- the trisikad was born. That's the story as it goes here in Davao anyway.

Twenty years later, that protogenical trisikad has spawned into hundreds of other clones in the city, along with other mutant variants like the trisiboat, which is a trisikad with a modified pumpboat motor.

A trisikad looks thus: the bicycle is typically an old BMX, with its small wheels not the most efficient, but probably cheaper than most. Attached to the bike is the sidecar, a flat platform with a bicycle wheel. On the platform is a thinly cushioned bench that seats two. A gigantic lawn umbrella, attached between bike and sidecar, protects driver and passengers from the heat of the sun.

Providing motive power for the trisikad is the trisikad driver, invariably a wiry sunburnt male in sando and tsinelas. The avarage age of the driver is in the mid-20's but the variance is spread wide: as young as the teens to as old as the fifties. These fellows live hard lives and you can see it.

The trisikads ply the corner routes of Davao City usually near subdivisions and schools. They are regulated by the local barangays and have their own associations. Beyond that, there's not much else. If you're injured while riding, good luck filing a claim of any sort. Chances are, the fellow will just scratch his head.

Trisikads are a constant source of irritation for motorists. They're slow, they're ungainly, and with their converted lawn umbrellas, they take up a lot of space. They're a hazard, too, as motorists have no choice but to cut into the other lane to pass them, often in the face of oncoming traffic. Yes, just like the pedicabs of Dumaguete, only much worse.

Regardless of the dangers they pose, it looks like the trisikad will be here to stay. From the economic perspective, there's no shortage of customers who'd rather ride than walk the distance. For all the measly farthings that such an occupation brings, well, it seems some people think it's worth it.

The trisikads are so numerous and well-entrenched that it's probably political suicide to pass any ordinances against them. Such is the trouble once an unregulated homegrown industry like this takes root.

Prevention, as they say, is better than a cure. Cebu took this route way back when, and specifically forbade trisikads for the road hazards that they were. Nip it in the bud early enough, before it becomes some underproductive ersatz livelihood and it never grows into a problem that you'll have to deal with later on.