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On sustainability and inclusiveness of pedicabs

March 2014


“Sustainable transport is inclusive but inclusive transport is not necessarily sustainable.” Is this statement true? If yes, why and to what extent? This is not a philosophical take at transport. There seems to be some conflict in that statement but there should really be no confusion once you delve into the essence of sustainability and define the limits of inclusiveness. The statement is true to the extent that all sustainable forms of transport can be inclusive. These are transport modes that are friendly to all genders, all ages, all economic classes, and regardless of physical ability. However, there are transport modes that are inclusive in the same context stated but are unsustainable from the perspectives of suitability, efficiency and energy.

For example, non-motorized transport (NMT) in the form of pedicabs (also called trisikad or padyak) are sustainable from the perspective of energy. They are most suitable for operation along minor roads, especially those in residential areas. However, if the same pedicabs operate along national roads and mixed with motorized traffic, these become a nuisance and contribute to traffic congestion. Such operations also put passengers at risk, exposing to potential crashes as pedicab drivers tend to violate road traffic rules (e.g., moving against traffic).

IMG04131-20120829-1517Pedicabs along the Quezon Avenue Service Road near Agham Road.

IMG04578-20121019-1721Pedicab ferrying passengers from the Quezon Ave. MRT-3 station to destinations along Agham Road.

IMG04579-20121019-1721Counter-flowing pedicab along Quezon Ave. just outside the National Grid Corporation (formerly Napocor) office.

Pedicabs have another dimension, which is often cited as a reason for its very existence. It is a source of livelihood for many people. Whether this is something that needs to be encouraged is the subject of debates often involving discussions on poverty and governance. That is, pedicabs are often owned and/or operated by low income people and their numbers translate into votes for local officials who tolerate pedicabs and even encourage them as a form of livelihood. It is, after all, like the jeepneys and tricycles before it, supposed to be a simple investment that generates income for the owner/operator/driver. People have glorified or romanticized the pedicab as various designs have displayed the creativeness (or even artistry) of the Filipino. However, just like other modes of transport, the pedicab should function within a hierarchy based on its suitability with respect to other modes that are similarly appropriate for a certain range of conditions. Hopefully, such concepts are understood by stakeholders if only to effect the rationalization of transport services and  correct certain notions pertaining to inclusiveness and sustainability for such modes.

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