Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: February 2019

Bitukang Manok

I woke up from a long nap just before we entered a major zigzag section of the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. That literally translates to “chicken innards or intestines”, which is how many travellers would describe the alignment of this section of the national highway network. We decided to take the “old zigzag road” instead of the “new diversion road” since the latter is known to be already congested especially as trucks and buses take this road instead of the zigzag.

Expectedly, the road offered all kinds of curves and grades throughout. I was glad to see relatively new barriers already installed or constructed along the entire length of Bitukang Manok.

Here is a particularly challenging section combining sharp hairpin curves with steep inclines.

We caught up with this rider along a relatively straight and level segment of the road

There are flagmen strategically deployed along the most difficult parts of the road including this one that might lead inexperienced or erring drivers to drive/ride straight off a cliff.

Here’s another hairpin curve; this time on the way down from the mountain.

The final turn of the road before it merged with the diversion road

Sign at the other end of the road showing travellers the divergence of the national highway into the “old zigzag road” and the “new diversion road”. Notice the platoon of southbound trucks at right. 

I remember Bitukang Manok as a dreaded section among travellers before not just from the safety viewpoint but also because many can get sick (e.g., motion sickness that may result into throwing up) going through the section especially if the driver is not as smooth in manoeuvring the vehicle through the zigzags. There were also long distance bicycle races before where the Bitukang Manok featured as the main challenge to the best cyclists and the winner of that leg of the race was pronounced as “king of the mountain”.

Some snapshots of the PNR ROW along the way to Bicol

I promised to post about my trip and here are a few photos I took of the PNR’s right of way (ROW) showing the railways crossing with the Pan Philippine Highway (Asian Highway 26 or AH 26) at many points.

After traveling in the early hours of the morning, we finally got a good glimpse of the PNR’s south line that basically runs parallel to the national highway.

The single track line will actually go underneath the bridge downstream from where this photo was taken. I just couldn’t get a clear shot from our vehicle. I hope to get one on the way back.

Railway tracks are currently used as access to communities with dirt roads often running just beside the tracks.

Railway tracks leading to what looks like an area that still has a lot of vegetation. Note, too, what looks like check rails in the photo.

Railroad crossing signs along the highway – the standard one is obvious in the photo

Much of the PNR’s ROW has encroachments making it unsafe for modern railway operations.

An obviously unused (dormant?) part of the line in Quezon

The government plans to upgrade or rehabilitate the PNR’s Main Line South with the help of funding (and technical assistance?) from China. A colleague opined that maybe since the north line rehab is to be undertaken with the help of the Japanese, then perhaps the south should similarly be rehabbed with the help of Japan. That should ensure the same quality and standards will be applied throughout the system. What do you think?

More photos and stories soon!

On conducting a national travel survey in the Philippines

There’s a nice article about the National Household Travel Survey regularly conducted by the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):

Lewin, M. (2019) “Learning from the National Household Travel Survey,” http://www.planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/102508?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-02042019&mc_cid=03588de77e&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 2/6/2019]

There is a lot to learn from such surveys and especially if historical results can be compared in order to establish trends and issues. I recall that we attempted to engage the then National Statistics Office (NSO) back in 2005 for them to include certain items in the national census but for the purpose of data collection for inter-regional passenger and freight flow. That didn’t bear fruit but perhaps it is about time to reconsider and for the Philippine Statistics Agency (PSA) to include questions specific to travel in the census.

Ideally, of course, is to have our own national travel survey where we can obtain data not just for inter-regional or even inter-provincial or inter-island passenger and freight transport characteristics. Data from a national household travel survey would give us details on a lot of things including but not limited to the following:

  • Average commute data – e.g., commute travel times & commute distances for those taking private or public transport
  • Vehicle ownership data – e.g., car, motorcycle and bicycle ownership and usage
  • Travel cost data – e.g., various cost components for traveling via private or public transport

Such information can be categorised a number of ways like according to age, gender or income. It will definitely help us understand how people travel including their perceptions and choices. It can help formulate solutions to a lot of issues, transport and traffic-related, that cities and municipalities are trying to address. Of course, this will definitely involve big data but this is not a new thing, and large data sets have been used in many transport studies including those for Metropolitan Manila (e.g., MMUTSTRAP, JUMSUT, MMUTIS, MUCEP) and the inter-regional study (SIRPAFF) we did a decade and a half ago. The advantage now is that we have more sophisticated tools for analysing such data.

Looking forward to another long road trip

It has been a while since I had a long road trip. The last one was not particularly long as it was only until Lucena City in Quezon. Prior to that was a trip to Baguio City. And so I am looking forward to this trip to Bicol this week and I do hope to take a lot of photos along the way. That includes photos of arches that I have not had the chance of taking that I know I can get a lot of during this trip that will take us through several provinces in Southern Luzon. Those photos and the experiences from the trip will probably dominate the postings this February.

On fact-checking articles in this blog site

Last month, I received an interesting and intriguing comment that was actually an inquiry about an article I posted that contained a photo of a section of the Marikina Bikeways. A news agency was fact-checking something circulated by trolls praising Davao City for putting up bikeways. The problem is that they used my article and photo taken some years ago:

https://d0ctrine.com/2014/09/30/lets-revisit-the-marikina-bikeways/

The photo was taken by me one time I was driving along Sumulong Highway in Marikina City’s downtown area. I take similar snapshots whenever the opportunity presented itself and I thought this one was perfect because it showed bicycle infrastructure and a cyclist using it. I don’t put any watermarks or other identifiers on my photos but routinely advise those using or intending to use them to do the proper attribution or citation.

Credit is due to the people of Marikina and their leaders for making their bikeway network a reality. Of course, there are issues here and there but the important thing was that they were able to construct it and show that it can be done given the resources in support of active transportation modes. I am not sure if Davao has initiated a program to plan and construct a bikeway network for their city. Perhaps there is and perhaps there’s none. But perhaps, too, they should take the cue from Marikina and develop one that can also be emulated or replicated in other LGUs as well. It is better to come up with something real and tangible rather than being credit for something inexistent.