Grab a chance at fairness

Grab a chance at fairness

The GrabBike motorcycle taxi service launched in Bangkok in May 2017 and has since become increasingly popular among many commuters. Users particularly like the simplicity and convenience provided by the service, especially compared to that of the ubiquitous orange-vested "Win" drivers found at many street corners in the capital.

With GrabBike, customers get door-to-door service they arrange through an application platform and are picked up anywhere, even at the end of a dead-end soi. It's another story for Win drivers, who wait for passengers in one spot at a queue.

GrabBike users also have the option to pay by credit card or cash. Service fees are reasonable if not cheaper than those charged by Win bikers.

Unsurprisingly, since its arrival, GrabBike has met with strong resistance from Win riders. Some resistance has escalated to heated quarrels and the occasional brawl between the two competitors, with Win accusing GrabBike of being an illegal service that threatens their source of income.

The conflict has dragged on for years despite petitions submitted by both sides to the Department of Land Transport (DLT) to intervene and settle the problem.

Recently, it seems Win's efforts have borne fruit: the department has issued an ultimatum for all GrabBike service providers to be off the streets of Bangkok by July 15 at the latest.

Any GrabBike riders who want to carry on with the job are required to apply for a public transport driver's licence and change their private vehicle licence plates to yellow commercial licence plates. Additionally, GrabBike drivers will then be allowed to operate only within designated zones.

The DLT claims this top-down measure is intended to properly regulate app-based motorcycle taxi services and create a level playing field, or riding surface if you like, in order to reduce conflict between competing groups as well as to ensure passenger safety.

The department's aim of regulating and in effect legalising GrabBike is fair enough. But regulations pertaining to zones of operation require review.

A major appeal of GrabBike is convenience, especially for office workers who may live in one district but must travel far across the city to reach their place of work. Restricted operation zones would put paid to this advantage.

As to Win, a poorly kept secret is that most of its services are operated by mafia-type influential elements with police or military connections and who, it happens, lack the management skills or expertise to compete with GrabBike. In such circumstances, GrabBike merely rolled in and started providing job opportunities and revenue for many motorcyclists.

With regulation looming, several of these same GrabBike operators have expressed concern that the DLT may limit the number of operators and possibly put them out of a job -- and this in what are already difficult economic times. The concerns are even more anxiety-producing as the department has yet to provide clarity on the issue.

Motorcycle taxis have long been and will remain a vital mode of travel for many in the city. For this reason, the regulation process must include listening to drivers' voices during policy formulation, not after. It will go a long way towards allaying GrabBike operator concerns and making the daily commute much less stressful for many.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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