More disconcerting, though, is the traffic. Motorcycles are outlawed from Yangon’s urban townships, markedly changing the manner of traffic in the city from the rest of Myanmar, and most of Southeast Asia.
Yet there are a few motorbikes to be seen. Many are used for law enforcement, while some are driven outside the rules.
To service these motorbikes springing up in urban areas, a number of shops have quietly opened their doors.
Traffic officials say the shops themselves are not technically illegal, though shopowners are keen to keep a low profile.
Ko Mg opened a store in South Okkalapa township. His signage and outward displays are for bicycle repair, but he also carries motorbike parts.
His customers are not only locals but come from many different areas.
He said stores in the suburbs, where motorbikes are legal, such as a market at 10 Mile, specialise in parts. His shop captures customers who are not able to travel that far.
South Okkalapa resident Ko Zarni, who declined to provide his full name, said he frequently rides his motorbike in the suburbs, as it is convenient transportation.
“People in this area use motorbike – or if not, bicycles,” he said. “Most people even have licensed motorbikes, and if police catch us, we pay a fine. The police do not seize our motorbikes or arrest us.”
The owner of a shop in North Dagon township said the area previously had been banned to motorbikes, though this has gradually changed.
She said she reckons each family now has at least one, and a number of stores have opened their doors.
Initially, government officials periodically ordered the shops to be closed, though this has become less common, she said.
Still, without explicit legal sanction legitimising her business, she said she worries it may still be closed down.
An official from the Yangon Region Supervisory Committee for Traffic Rules Enforcement said the committee does not regulate motorcycle shops.
“Repair and spare part shops in the restricted area are not a direct concern of the traffic police,” he said. “We cannot arrest these motorbike shopkeepers.”
While it is more difficult to get away with using a motorbike the closer one goes to downtown Yangon, suburban dwellers say it its often the transportation of choice for them.
The owner of a Hlaing Thayar township shop said his business is good as many people ride – and break down – in his area.
Whether urban Yangonites will ever be legally able to ride downtown remains to be seen, but there will be some repair shops ready for them.
Source: Myanmar Times