Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Traffic mayhem in Antipolo

I had written earlier about traffic management in Antipolo City. My daily commute allows me to observe transport and traffic in this pilgrimage city east of Metro Manila. For a highly urbanised city (HUC), its traffic management is quite rural or provincial at best with enforcers trying to do their thing based more on gut feel rather than sound knowledge of traffic principles. Intersection traffic management, for example, needs a lot of improvement as enforcers are pre-disposed to apply the buhos approach to dissipating queues that actually lead to longer queues, tremendous delays to travellers, and therefore low levels of service (LOS) at the intersections. The signalised Masinag Junction is probably one of the worst intersections outside of Metro Manila with queues along the south approach (Sumulong Highway from Antipolo) stretching to Mambugan (about 2 km) even on a Saturday. Along the east approach (Marcos Highway from Cogeo) the queues can stretch all the way to Cherry Foodarama supermarket (about 1 km).

Masinag, of course, is a big intersection with heavy traffic due its being the junction for 2 major highways (Marcos and Sumulong) that collect much of traffic from Rizal and Marikina bound for the general direction of Quezon City and Manila. Marcos Highway is the main alternative corridor to Ortigas Avenue, which is itself a very congested road, between the eastern towns and Metro Manila. There are many other problematic intersections in the city, which are mostly unsignalized where traffic is managed manually by enforcers. I’m sure there are some minor intersections that are manageable at most times of the day and may not actually require enforcers if motorists give way to each other. However, there are those intersections that require stricter and more systematic (if not scientific) methods to manage traffic. For example, along roads leading to the Antipolo cathedral where there are a lot of people posing as parking attendants going over to aggressively engage motorists at the intersection. Enforcers routinely turn a blind eye to these people who pose as safety risks along the roads.

 

IMG07990-20140410-0756Tricycles occupying the outermost lane along Ortigas Ave. Ext. and Oliveros Street at the junction with Sumulong Memorial Circle and just across from the Rizal Provincial Capitol – to exacerbate the situation, jeepneys and UV Express vehicles usually stop in the middle of the road to load/unload passengers. Such informal terminals should not be allowed in these areas considering it is a chokepoint for traffic along these busy roads. So far, enforcers around the capitol seem oblivious to the mayhem caused by these terminals and turn a blind eye to the disruptive manoeuvres of tricycles in the area.

IMG07991-20140410-0803Dangerous intersection along Sumulong Highway – there is road at the right (where a tricycle is coming from) that is used by trucks and other vehicles coming from Marcos Highway. Olalia Road connects to Marcos Highway and there are many residential subdivisions along this road that generate the traffic to and from Marcos and Sumulong Highways.

More on Antipolo traffic soon!

 

On road safety and courtesy

I spotted what apparently was a father and daughter riding tandem on a foldable bicycle along Katipunan and heading to the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman. Both were dressed quite appropriately for the weather and for cycling. It was good to see that they both at least have their helmets on; though ideally it would have been better if they wore elbow and knee pads and “reflective” clothing for them to be easily seen on the road.

IMG08070-20140502-0830Waiting for a chance to cross – the cyclist was waiting for a chance to cross Katipunan towards the University of the Philippines’ Magsaysay gate. True to form, motorists along Katipunan’s southbound directions do not slow down to allow for others to make a left turn to UP. Motorists bound for the university have to inch their way and create gaps for themselves to cross. Often, one has to rely on the Katipunan jeepneys whose drivers are braver than others in forcing their way to be able to cross the road. The father and daughter tandem were able to cross safely, taking advantage of a screen of motor vehicles (including ours) that made a left turn to enter UP.

I have observed that jeepney and truck drivers are more likely to stop and give way than private car drivers and motorcyclists. Motorists generally don’t give way to others even in heavy traffic, often blocking intersections just because the green light is still on for them. Many do not give way to pedestrians and do not know how to share road space with cyclists. Worse are motorcyclists who use sidewalks and bully pedestrians to give way to them! Meanwhile, you have pedestrians who throw all caution to the wind to cross anywhere and anytime along roads like Commonwealth, commuters occupying the carriageway as they wait for their rides, and cyclists hogging the middle of the road when there are actually lanes designated for them. These are manifestations of how poorly people are trained for road use and often an indictment of a failed licensing system as well as traffic education in general.

IMG08071-20140502-0831Pedalling along – after successfully crossing Katipunan, the father and daughter tandem finally enters the more friendly roads of the UP campus. UP Diliman already has bicycle lanes along its academic oval and the community is generally aware of the rights of pedestrians and cyclists as road users. I would like to think that people who have a connection with the University and those who are also advocates of walking, cycling and road safety respect each other’s rights. But as always there will be those irresponsible people (e.g., pasaway, barumbado, etc.) who will disregard traffic rules and put lives in danger with their behaviour on the road.

In many cases these days, we just need a little common sense and perhaps more of courtesy to make travel safer and better for everyone. Everybody needs to learn and practice respect for each other’s rights on the road and courtesy extends to everyone so we can have order in our streets. It doesn’t take a genius (or experts, international or local) to point out things that are basically common sense and require common courtesy if not decency.

Scenes by the roadside at the port area in Manila

Traveling along Radial Road 10, you get to see how life in Manila really is. It is not the glitzy new developments that people try to present as the face of the city. The real deal is in places like Tondo, the Baseco compound and Smokey Mountain. The areas along R-10 starting from across from the North Harbor to Smokey Mountain (yes, it is still there) provide us with a peek into everyday life in this part of Manila.

IMG07923-20140321-1518Carpenters working on the body of what would become karaoke machines. The TV or screen will be installed at the upper shelf and the machine and controls will be installed in the lower part. These are popular around the country and are often rented out for parties. The quality varies but I would say that there are really good quality karaoke machines with digital quality equipment providing crisp music and the correct lyrics to karaoke lovers.

IMG07924-20140321-1519As these are informal communities, houses do not have water or electricity connections. As such, people purchase water from nearby establishments or houses, and many have illegal water and power connections for them to have water and electricity. Such illegal connections have led high losses to utility companies that translate to costs passed on to legitimate customers.

IMG07925-20140321-1524Many roadside stalls sell a variety of fruits like the bananas shown in the photo. It’s actually interesting to note that just across from the stalls is the port area whose walls don’t seem to be enough to discourage people from trying to pilfer the containers and crates containing various stuff shipped through the Port of Manila.

IMG07926-20140321-1525Roadside stalls selling practically anything and everything. This one is selling hard hats and reflective vests. These vests can be used by construction workers as well as traffic enforcers. Recently, motorcycle riders have been required to put on vests for them to be more visible to other road users.

IMG07927-20140321-1525Shanties line up along the road, actually on the road as these were built on top of the space already allocated for R-10. Many sections have already been paved where shanties have been built. These shanties are now the subject of a program to remove them and open up the space for traffic to ease congestion along this road, which has much truck traffic.

IMG07938-20140321-1529It seems that a lot of people have pedicabs as a means for livelihood. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this, the issue is mainly with regards to their excessive numbers and suitability as a public transport mode given their operations and propensity to go against traffic rules and regulations.

IMG07939-20140321-1530The mass housing in the Smokey Mountain area are multi-storey apartments that look like they definitely have seen much better days. These buildings actually look like multi-storey shanties (similar buildings elsewhere including BLISS projects look much better or are better maintained). Many units have been extended and the structures now pose hazards (e.g., fire, earthquake, etc.). Alleys are not passable to emergency vehicles like fire trucks as residents have maximized occupancy of the spaces at the ground level. These look like the perfect cases for how NOT to develop mass housing.