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Challenges concerning pedestrian overpasses

January 2015
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A photo went viral over social media last year about power lines jutting out of a pedestrian overpass in Metro Manila that also happened to be a steel structure. There are others like it that were constructed with the implementors not paying attention to the details, that is referring to the power and communication lines or cables that are practically everywhere in Metro Manila and other cities. I give the designers the benefit of the doubt as they likely did the designs assuming there were no constraints such as the overhead cables and wires.

Over the holidays, we observed some very crowded overpasses along Commonwealth Avenue particularly those at the Fairview and Litex market areas. Here’s a photo of one very crowded overpass where pedestrians seem to be walking single file in two directions:

IMG09868-20141224-1625

It is clear in the photo that the main reason for the very crowded overpass is the presence of vendors on the overpass itself. This seems to be the case in many other overpasses in other commercial areas (e.g., Quiapo, Ortigas, Cubao, etc.) where vendors practically occupy half of the area along the overpass thereby constricting the space people can use to cross the road beneath it.

Who is in-charge of these overpasses? Do local governments or the MMDA tolerate such practices by vendors? I already answered the first question – the MMDA and local government units are in-charge and are responsible for keeping these facilities clear of other activities other than pedestrians using the overpass to cross the road. I recall that there are actually ordinances with the MMDA and the respective LGUs pertaining to the proper use of overpasses and there are actually penalties for vendors and others setting up shop on these facilities. Judging from the scenes atop the overpasses that we see every day (e.g., the photo above), it is clear that the people in-charge are neglecting their work (surrender na?) and this is clearly an inconvenience to pedestrians, many of whom can also be seen crossing the wide Commonwealth Avenue and risking their lives and limbs as they evade motor vehicles including zooming buses along the highway.

These are examples of challenges that pedestrians face everyday and something authorities should be urged to act on and immediately and decisively. Such action should not only be for the case of overpasses but to sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities as well. These have significant implications to road safety as well as the efficient use of transport facilities and improvements will surely enhance quality of life as well. We cannot claim to promote walkable communities if we fail to deliver on the spaces that are supposed to be for walking. And we cannot promote healthy cities without having such spaces for people to be encouraged to walk.

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