I have written about the need for pedestrian facilities in previous posts. These include walking as a mode of transport, walkability in the Philippines, and even some personal experiences. There is no doubt about how important pedestrian and bicycle facilities are in order to promote walking and cycling as environment-friendly, healthy, and therefore sustainable modes of transport. Cities and towns where people walk and cycle are among the most healthy and perhaps vibrant places in the world. Walking outdoors, in fact, should be promoted if not encouraged (i.e., its difficult to encourage if there are no facilities, and health and safety are concerns) in cities where tourism is also being promoted as it can be used as an indicator for how easy it is to go around the city or town and perhaps how clean the air is in the area.
Following are a few photos I managed to take along Marcos Highway that show the newly designated bikeways apportioned from the sidewalk that was constructed along with the rehabilitated carriageway. There are bikeways on both sides of the highway as what used to be the open channel drainage was replaced by culverts and the sidewalks where built on top. In order to enhance the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, concrete barriers were placed along the road margins just above the curbs. The barriers actually work in another way, preventing or discouraging pedestrians or cyclists from wandering into the traffic lanes of this busy thoroughfare.
The white line delineates the bikeway, which is the lane along the curb, from the pedestrian walkway that is on the inner side of the path. This can be a bit confusing and creates conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists as the parts of the roadside are also designated as bus/jeepney stops.
Obstructions? – the bikelane runs smack into the staircase of the pedestrian overpass while the pedestrian path leads to electric posts. Such are issues that are also present along the more established bikeways of Marikina City.
Too many signs? – from this view, there seems to be a lot of signs along the bikeway, appropriate perhaps in order to inform motorists, pedestrians and cyclists about the facilities. The signs are also useful for enforcement as Marikina City, for example, is strictly enforcing its policies against parking and other obstructions along the bikeway. Unfortunately, Pasig, Cainta and Antipolo are lax in their responsibilities to clear the bike and pedestrian paths from obstructions.
Which direction? – the bike path markings state the direction for flow. Such is at best a suggestion as it is quite difficult to enforce one way flow for cycling. It must be made clear that the bikeway is mainly for commuting or utilitarian rather than for recreational or sporting purposes. Speeds should be slow enough for cyclists and pedestrians to co-exist and perhaps share space for two-way flow.
All clear – the bike path is good enough even despite it going along so many driveways due to the nature of the developments along Marcos Highway. The bike path in front of the Metro East mall can be filled with commuters waiting to catch a ride and won’t be passable to cyclists especially during the afternoon to evening.
Unfortunately, crossing the highway is another challenge for cyclists as the steps for most overpasses along Marcos Highway are quite steep. There are at least 3 that were designed to have ramps (the Imelda Ave/A. Tuazon, Dela Paz and Ligaya overpasses have ramps) for bicycles and wheelchair access).
Establishments along highway can pitch in by ensuring the bike and pedestrian paths are clear of obstructions including parked vehicles. Incidentally, there is one gas station along Marcos Highway that is also a depot for taxis where the latter seem to always occupy the sidewalks. I have seen Marikina staff flagging them for disrespecting the right of way of pedestrians and cyclists but they seem to have some difficulty in clearing the area of parked vehicles. (Note: The Dela Paz pedestrian overpass is visible downstream.)
The pedestrian and bicycle facilities along Marcos Highway will certainly go a long way in promoting walking and cycling. At both ends of the highway though, at the Masinag junction at the eastern end and Santolan in the west, there are issues pertaining to continuity as both bikeways and walkaways disappear and pedestrians and cyclist would suddenly have to contend with mixing it up with motor vehicles along the carriageway should they want to continue in their travel. This issue of continuity should be addressed both by policy and the provision of suitable facilities for cycling and walking.
Perhaps something to think about is the realization of a link between the Marikina Bikeways, the Marcos Highway bike paths and UP Diliman’s bicycle lane along its academic oval via Aurora Boulevard and Katipunan. This can eventually be linked to the wide sidewalks along Commonwealth Avenue that can also be apportioned for pedestrians and cyclists. Perhaps such an integrated network covering parts of Quezon City, Marikina City, Pasig City, Cainta and Antipolo City can be realized quickly with enough effort from the respective local governments and maybe with a little help from the private sector including schools and commercial establishments along the network.