Metro Manila is basically not a cycling-friendly metropolis. Road space is practically devoted to motor vehicles and sidewalks are not wide enough to accommodate a lane for cycling or space that can be shared by pedestrians and cyclists. The latter observation on space is actually arguable considering that in Japan, narrow sidewalks and carriageways are usable for cyclists and people are generally respectful of others’ right-of-way and perhaps right to travel. As such, conflicts are minimized among pedestrian, cyclists and motorists.Such situations can also be achieved in Metro Manila and other Philippine cities as well. Key is to have a consciousness among people of everyone’s right to space. Also, there is a need to actively, persistently promote a safe interaction among road users such as what has been done by cycling advocates like the Firefly Brigade and what the MMDA is now doing with their initiatives promoting NMT.
Searching for some quick wins aside from the example of Marikina (where there are formal bikeways already in place), I’m featuring a few photos taken around Metro Manila that can be regarded as examples where there have been initiatives toward quick wins in promoting cycling. These include a couple of photos in the Malate, Manila area and couple along Marcos Highway in Pasig City.
Bikeways in Malate
Segregated bicycle lane along Marcos Highway
Cyclists along Katipunan Avenue (C-5)
Except for the case of Katipunan, all the photos show space designated for cyclists. But Katipunan should be seen as a corridor that has a high potential for walking and cycling given the nature of the land use between Ateneo and UP Diliman. There are opportunities here to promote suitable non-motorized modes of transport while also working for a reduction in car use associated with the schools in the area. While there are still issues of encroachments (e.g., vehicles parked on the sidewalk, and depriving pedestrians and cyclists of their space) in the case of Marcos Highway, these are enforcement issues that LGUs like Antipolo City should address. I cite Antipolo because Marikina and Pasig are generally for cycling and have often reminded establishments to clear the space for pedestrians and cyclists.
I had wanted to write about the relationship between housing and transport. This relationship falls under land use and transport interaction or LUTI, as it is often called. But while I continue to procrastinate on writing an article on this topic, I refer my readers to another article that appeared in a regional daily. The article from The Freeman written by a good friend who is now the Manager of the Mactan Cebu International Airport and was the City Planning and Development Officer of Cebu City relates about public housing in Singapore and gives a commentary on their strategic locations in relation to Singapore’s efficient transport system. The article is part of a series that the author is writing about his observations in Singapore, and provides a peek into housing and transport in a developed city state. I believe such is an example of a best practice in public housing that the Philippines should learn from in order to solve its own housing problems.
Addendum: Here are the first and third parts of the series of articles by Nigel Paul Villarete for The Freeman. There are also archives of his articles under his column Streetlife. Good reads that our officials at the national and local levels should indulge in to have a grasp of solutions and best practices concerning transport and traffic.
My father-in-law was reviewing photos he had taken the past few years and found a few he had taken at the PNR Station in Naga City prior to his return to Manila more than a year ago. The PNR is still currently enjoying a period of revival that started a few years ago with the acquisition of some old but well-maintained trains from Japan. This was followed by rolling stock from Korea that are now being used for the commuter line.
The following photos were taken at the Naga Station of the PNR prior to my father-in-law’s trip back to Manila.
Tarpaulin showing train fares for air-conditioned and economy classes
PNR Naga City Station
Platform for the currently single track system
Commuter line train at the yard – similar trains serving the long-distance trips are used for the PNR’s commuter line connecting Manila with southern Metro Manila and Laguna but with a different seating layout.
The platform from the perspective of a waiting passenger seated on the benches.
Old car that obviously has seen better days steadily deteriorating in Naga.
Manila-bound train at the platform.
Seats inside the train reminded me of the JR Tokaido Line trains I used to ride between Yokohama and Tokyo. These are more suitable for longer commutes (1 – 2 hours) where passengers would be more comfortable if seated compared to the benches of typical urban commuter trains.
The cars do not offer the same comfort as the sleeper cars I featured in a previous post. Nevertheless, it offers some creature comforts such as toilets and air-conditioning. There are also still few passengers at the time so one can have an entire seat for himself/herself.
Each car of the train is connected to another and one can easily transfer between cars even during the trip. The trains are not high speed but travel times are respectable and competitive with road transport.
The PNR suffered some glitches last year including several incidence of crashes with road vehicles. However, ridership is slowly but surely increasing. More resources are needed to improve infrastructure including the acquisition of newer rolling stock and perhaps the electrification of the entire system. The PNR should also attract tourists as the Bicol Region has been quite aggressive in promoting destinations such as the CamSur wakeboarding facilities and natural attractions such as the Mayon Volcano and the beaches in the region. Caramoan, for example, has become a popular destination after the area was featured in the Survivor reality TV shows. Hopefully, ridership will increase to a point where the currently single track system in Bicol would have to be upgraded to a double track system to increase capacity for what was called the PNR Main Line South. The PNR needs a lot of support for it to recover fully from the decline it experienced in the last few decades and it can only be competitive if the entire system, including its stations and fare collection, is modernized and integrated with the urban transit lines of Metro Manila. Hopefully, such support is given by government and perhaps the private sector through a PPP arrangement.
The Pasig River Ferry is in the news again as a major corporation considers reviving the ferry. I’m just not so sure about their motivation for this as what I’ve read on news media seems to say that their plan for reviving the ferry service is linked with their real estate projects, especially one in Manila that’s shaping into Circuit Manila, on land that used to be the Sta. Ana race track. The nearest ferry terminal or station would be the Valenzuela ferry terminal, which is accessible via S. Osmena St. The same street connects to Makati City Hall. Public transport should be service oriented, which the main reason why many public transport systems, particularly rail transit, losing financial ventures and have to be subsidized by governments around the world. But note that I mentioned “financial” in the previous statement because there are definite and established benefits from economic perspective. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt, however, in so far as the track record of the company gives us hope that their entry would be good from the management and marketing perspective of the ferry system. A successful venture here would prove the viability of a water-based system that has so much potential considering it could connect Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong and Pasig directly with other towns of the provinces of Rizal and Laguna around the Laguna De Bay.
There are many informal settlers along the stretch of the Muelle del Rio (now also known as Riverside Drive) from MacArthur Bridge to Plaza Mexico in Intramuros. Several families can be seen living under the bridges or with their carts along the linear park.
The stretch between Magallanes and Ayala Ave. along EDSA is not exactly the most ideal of sections for a bicycle sharing program. However, its success would be symbolic of a small and quick win for cycling in a metropolitan area that’s been perceived to be unfriendly to walking and cycling. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) could have chosen other sections like a longer one along Commonwealth Avenue or perhaps a section of Circumferential Road 5 (C-5)/Katipunan Avenue like the stretch from Aurora Boulevard to C.P. Garcia Ave. that connects three major academic institutions: Ateneo De Manila University, Miriam College and the University of the Philippines Diliman. Marcos Highway, which stretches from Masinag Junction in Antipolo City to Santolan in Pasig/Marikina, was rehabilitated and now has exclusive bicycle lanes along either side of the highway. And, of course, there is the bicycle network in Marikina City, which is the first city in the country to have bikeways.
A friend posted an article about “The Best Bike-Sharing Program in the United States.” It is a good read with lots of lessons for cities formulating their own bicycle-sharing programs. Such programs are made in part to encourage a shift from motorized transport to non-motorized modes like cycling and walking. With motorcycles becoming more popular in the Philippines, there should be strong efforts to promote bicycle use especially for short trips.
Another perspective on promoting/encouraging cycling comes from Europe. I read an article that caught my fancy sometime last year and searched for it on the internet. The article appeared on the online version of the New York Times stating as its title: “To encourage biking, cities lose the helmets.” This is an interesting article because, for one, the author relates experiences in Europe that seem to be in contrast with those in the US. Particular mention is given to cyclists being required to wear helmets in US cities while many European cities are lax about this practice that is strongly associated with road safety.
There I said it. Road safety. A primary concern for many if not most road users including those using bicycles is safety. In the cities where cyclists share road space with motor vehicles, crashes involving NMT and motorized vehicles may result in fatalities. Studies in the US have linked fatalities and serious injuries to cyclists not wearing helmets. However, in European cities where there are more cyclists and drivers of motor vehicles are probably more aware and respectful of cyclists, the perception is that laxity in helmet use helps promote cycling.
In the Philippines, where mandatory helmet use for motorcyclists is a continuing enforcement challenge, strictly requiring helmet use for cyclists can also be a challenge and can be a turn-off for many would-be cyclists. Strict helmet-wearing requirements might be equated to cycling being a dangerous activity and therefore discourage a lot of people from using bicycles. Definitely, safety should not be sacrificed and where there are high risks but these sections need to be identified and enforcement along these should be firm. These include routes where bicycles and motor vehicles share the same road space. In routes, however, where there are exclusive space or lanes for cycling, perhaps the rule on helmets may be relaxed. Speed is one consideration here where those using bicycles for trips between their homes and workplaces or schools are not necessarily speedsters compared to those who cycle for recreation or for sport. Utilitarian cycling should be treated differently from recreational or sport cycling, which can be more risky and requires not only helmets but other safety gear as well.