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Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

Here is a quick share of an article about the link between walkability and affordable housing.

To quote:

“While early pandemic pundits predicted the ‘death’ of urban areas, recent trends show that people—perhaps more than ever—value the benefits of compact development and easily accessible amenities and services. But “Demand drives up costs and can reduce low- and moderate-income households’ opportunity to live in highly walkable areas,” the report warns.”

Source: Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

Some people seem to be baffled why people choose to purchase homes and reside in the suburbs or away from the city centers. It is actually simpler than what many tend to overthink and attribute purely to the condition of our transportation system. It takes two (or more apparently) to tango and housing affordability is critical for the Philippines’ case.

Recent transport features of fast-food restaurants

We went to a McDonald’s drive thru a couple of weeks ago to get some food before picking up our daughter at her school. We decided to go a new branch along the way from the office and found a new feature at the fastfood chain’s parking area – electric vehicle charging stations. There were two slots where e-vehicles can re-charge while owners eat at the branch.

Electric vehicle charging station at the new McDonald’s branch along Sumulong Highway (Mambugan, Antipolo)

Bike dining station – you can park your bike at one side and have a comfy seat while eating and drinking on the other side

The bike and dine is not a new feature but one that McDo has installed in many of their new branches and retrofitted old one with during the pandemic. Still, we hope they have this in and the charging stations in most if not all their standalone branches. Of course, other chains should follow suit especially rival Jollibee, which has more branches and an even wider network of companies (e.g., Chowking, Greenwich, etc.) under it. This will help in promoting both cycling and e-vehicles.

On electric vehicles overshadowing public transportation

There seems to be much ado about electric vehicles. Here in the Philippines, there is much hype about hybrid and electric cars as incentives are now in place for people to purchase them at reduced prices and in Metro Manila at least, there is that additional incentive of these vehicles being exempted from the number coding (vehicle restraint) scheme. Here’s an article

Woodhouse, S. and Mohsin, S. (January 26, 2023) “EV Hype Overshadows Public Transit as a Climate Fix,” Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-01-25/public-transit-gets-left-behind-in-us-climate-change-conversation [Last accessed: 1/28/2023]

Some quotes from the article pretty much describes why we must focus on improving public transportation to increase or at least retain riderships:

“If we want to reduce carbon emissions we can’t just have technology-focused answers…

“Buses and trains have a fraction of the greenhouse gas impact of private cars, whether internal combustion or battery-powered, according to the International Transport Forum. A 2021 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that the energy saved by passengers in the US using public transit rather than personal vehicles saved 63 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018 — roughly the equivalent of taking 16 coal-fired power plants offline for a year…

“In the postwar era, the US prioritized building out its road network, leaving transit behind. For decades, highways and roads have consumed about 80% of federal transportation funding, with transit getting only 20%. In 2019 state and local governments spent $203 billion on highways and roads alone, with a quarter of expenditures coming from federal transfers. At the local level, continued car use is fueled by suburban development patterns and land-use practices like minimum parking requirements, which require developers to set aside space for vehicles. Outside of major cities, transit options are often limited, and historically low level of public support translate into poor convenience and reliability…

“We’re not going to be able to successfully fight climate change — and prevent more damage to the climate — without heavily investing in mass transit and specifically public transit.”

Here is something I shared last year:

https://d0ctrine.com/2022/09/16/on-bicycles-vs-self-driving-cars/

You’ve probably seen the image that evolved from the original comparison of 50 people on cars, bus and motorcycles from Munster, Germany. The variant is 50 people on conventional cars, 50 people on electric cars and 50 people on self-driving cars. That is another perspective (road capacity and congestion-wise) of how electric vehicles will affect traffic.

 

On the need to change mindsets about bike lanes

Public acceptance of bike lanes has grown during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were few supporters especially among local government units and national agencies that seem to be comfortable with the status quo. Few like Iloilo and Marikina had any bike facilities worth mentioning. The pandemic was supposed to change that and it did for many. However, the acceptance and the gains seem to be eroding as we return to face-to-face activities and the ‘old’ normal situation.

I’m sharing below an article on the need to change mindsets about bike lanes and cycling in general:

Thompson, C. (January 24, 2023) “The Battle Over Bike Lanes Needs a Mindset Shift,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/the-battle-over-bike-lanes-needs-a-mindset-shift/ [Last accessed: 1/27/2023]

To quote from the article:

“Maybe bike lanes will always be fraught, until enough of the public is finally in a true lather about climate change—and it seems reckless to not have them.

Crises, after all, have a way of opening people’s eyes to possibilities. During Covid, restaurants and cafés lost so much business that cities nationwide began allowing them to build curbside seating areas where people could sit, safely, in the open air. It greatly reduced parking—but because, well, crisis, shop owners didn’t see any way around it. Patrons loved the outdoor seating so much that cities are making it permanent: A New York City study of several streets closed during Covid found storeowners making more than before, and diners digging the al fresco lifestyle. If data won’t change minds, customers might.”

There are two opposing sides on this matter. On one side are advocates who naturally will push for bike lanes and will promote them as The solution (emphasis mine) rather than one of a cocktail to address the transport mess we are in. On the other side are conservative, status quo types (or car-lovers as bike advocates will call them) who believe cars should have the roads to themselves. Unfortunately, many in government and particularly in transport agencies are with the latter. Perhaps they should be the first ones that need to be converted to favor active transport?

On getting started on bike commuting

Here is another article on bike commuting. It really is a challenge to get people into bike commuting even if their workplaces or schools are close to their homes. What more for people who have to travel longer distances between their homes and workplaces or schools?

Bassett, E. (December 1, 2022) “The No B.S. Guide to Getting Started Bike Commuting,” Medium, https://erikbassett.medium.com/the-no-b-s-guide-to-getting-started-bike-commuting-5dd0cbb87e5b [Last accessed:

To quote from the article:

“Assume you’re invisible until proven otherwise.

Like every city I’ve lived or ridden in, yours probably paints pictures on the ground and calls them “bicycle infrastructure.” Road designs encourage excess speed; vehicles aren’t meaningfully separated from cyclists and pedestrians; there are conflicting rights-of-way at intersections, driveways, and so forth.

And that is not right. It’s a sad commentary on urban “planning” in most places that anything but car use requires this degree of paranoia. It points to a profound dysfunction that few (with any serious influence) are willing or even interested to change…yet.

But unless or until it improves, the only viable response is to assume you don’t exist in the eyes of whoever’s driving nearby. “If I weren’t here, would they gun it to make a right turn on red?” Well, assume they will. “If I weren’t here, would they merge up there?” You guessed it: assume they will.

This is unquestionably the worst aspect of bike commuting, and if it’s too stressful in your situation, that’s perfectly fine. But in the spirit of a “no-B.S.” guide, I’d be remiss not to drive home a life-saving lesson that all these years of cycling have so deeply ingrained in me.”

The author also states the difference between bike commuting and sports biking including noting the differences in the objectives or goals for each.

Another definition of the 15-minute city

We begin 2023 with an informative article defining the “15-minute city”. This is actually an entry in Planetizen’s Planopedia, which contains definitions of fundamental concepts in urban planning:

Ionescu, D. (December 2022) “What is a 15-minute City?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/15-minute-city?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-12292022&mc_cid=ee083e2ee7&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 1/1/2023]

 

I’ve written and shared articles about this concept before. Here are a couple from 2021 where I offered my opinions about the concept as already applied in the Philippines:

https://d0ctrine.com/2021/08/13/on-defining-the-15-minute-city/

https://d0ctrine.com/2021/04/07/didnt-we-already-have-15-minute-cities-and-towns-in-the-philippines/

Examples of legislative actions in support of active transport

While the Philippine government and various local government units seem to be reneging on their commitments to support active transport, other countries have been building on their gains during the pandemic. Here are examples of legislations in New York State that will support active transport through funding of complete streets projects and institutional arrangements for representation of transit dependent individual:

https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-legislative-package-support-pedestrians-bikers-and-transit-riders

The article is about two legislations:

Legislation (S.3897/A.8936-A) Provides Funding for “Complete Streets” Projects Inclusive of a Holistic Approach to Street Design

Legislation (S.3959-B/A.7822-C) Adds Board Seats to NFTA, RGRTA, CDTA, and Central New York Regional Airport Authority Dedicated to a Transit Dependent Individual

We hope to see something like these at least at the local level. Perhaps if LGUs are able to legislate and implement these, there will be more good practice examples that will compel national government to support active transport development. The latter is actually ironic considering that many plans are supposed to spell out the national government’s commitment to active transport. There are still live memorandum orders and department orders supporting and promoting active transport. Are these also being waylaid? That will be tragic for transportation if we didn’t learn or gain anything from the experiences during this pandemic.

On the future of bike lanes in Metro Manila and other cities and municipalities in the Philippines

My friends and I were talking about the current buzz about the bike lanes including statements made by certain personalities (influencers, advocates, government officials, etc.) about biking and bike lanes. There were many recent pronouncements of motorcycles being allowed to use bike lanes or the outright removal of bike lanes. We all agreed this was backward and the way forward is to build on the current network and facilities. What we have in our cities and municipalities are not perfect and far from ideal but they are a start and perhaps the foundation for a bikeway network that can eventually make a dent on the car-centric transportation we have.

I share below the strategies, actions and targets for bicycle facilities, programs and projects from the Network Planning for the Establishment of Bike Lanes in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao that was completed middle of 2022. The project is DOTr’s with support from the UNDP. The table is from the Final Report of the project.

A Happy Christmas to all!

Shared article: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them

I’m sharing this article on active and micro mobility modes from Todd Litman, published in Planetizen.com:

Source: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them

From the article:

“Common Active Transportation Leverage Effects:
Shorter trips. Shorter active trips often substitutes for longer motorized trips, such as when people choose a local store rather than driving to more distant shops.
Reduced chauffeuring. Better walking and bicycling conditions reduces the need to chauffeur non-drivers (special trips to transport a passenger). These often require empty backhauls (miles driven with no passenger). As a result, each mile of avoided chauffeuring often reduces two vehicle-miles.
-Increased public transit travel. Since most transit trips include walking and bicycling links, improving these modes supports public transit travel and transit-oriented development.
-Vehicle ownership reductions. Active mode improvements allow some households to reduce their vehicle ownership, which reduces vehicle trip generation, and therefore total vehicle-miles.
-Lower traffic speeds. Active travel improvements often involve traffic speed reductions. This makes non-auto travel more time-competitive with driving and reduces total automobile travel.
-More compact development. Walking and bicycling support more compact, multimodal communities by reducing the amount of land devoted to roadways and parking, and creating more attractive streets.
-Social norms. As active travel increases, these modes become more socially acceptable.

The article is a must read if we are to understand how important active transport and micro mobilities are in the context of today’s transport conundrum. Of course, part of the contextualization and perhaps ‘localization’ on these modes will be related to land use or development. The latter is a big challenge especially for the likes of Metro Manila and other rapidly developing cities in the Philippines where housing in the cities (related to compact development) has become quite expensive and has driven more and more people to live in the suburbs. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this has resulted in more pressure to develop transportation systems but infrastructure development cannot play the catch up game given the limited resources for their construction. Meanwhile, services are also behind in terms of quality and requires reforms and rationalizations.

On guerilla tactics in urbanism – guerilla crosswalks

I am sharing this article on guerilla crosswalks in the US. It is interesting as communities or groups concerned with road safety decided to put up interventions (in this case crosswalks) in order to address safety concerns pertaining to pedestrian ROW along roads. In most if not all countries, pedestrians are limited where they may cross and there are jaywalking laws and penalties that are now being regarded as car-centric policies that need to be revised to favor pedestrians more than motor vehicles.

Zipper, D. (December 1, 2022) “The Case for Guerrilla Crosswalks,” Bloomberg CityLab, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-12-01/when-crosswalks-go-rogue [Last accessed: 12/10/2022]

To quote from the article:

Such acts of unsanctioned “tactical urbanism” are of a kin to many other DIY street interventions, such as pop-up bike lanes. But they are not without risks. Affluent communities could have more residents willing to volunteer time and resources, for example, even though pedestrian deaths are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods. “The locations identified by guerrilla crosswalk activists may or may not coincide with where the planners and engineers have identified as highest need,” said Sam Zimbabwe, the former director of Seattle DOT.

But in Los Angeles, the Crosswalk Collective spokesperson said that the group is “always mindful of who has access to safety installations and who doesn’t,” adding that all its crosswalks to date have been sited in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods of Central and East Los Angeles.

Zimbabwe also noted the limited benefits of paint on faster roads (which the Federal Highway Administration has documented): “Particularly on multilane arterials, only marking a crosswalk without deploying other tools does not address the ‘multiple threat’ problem, where one driver stops but the driver in another lane does not.“ (The Crosswalk Collective spokesperson agreed, saying that the group rejects proposed locations due to safety concerns “all the time.”)

But in the right setting, unauthorized street infrastructure additions can lead to one of two outcomes — and both are constructive. One possibility is that the city removes it, in which case media attention and resident backlash put pressure on local officials to be more responsive to safety requests. (That coverage may also compel more residents to join street safety groups).

The other option is that city officials take the hint and accept what residents have built. Eight years ago, Seattle transportation planner Dongho Chang won the enduring appreciation of local cyclists when he responded to a pop-up bike lane first by thanking activists for their passion, and then by making the bike lane permanent. Now working with the Washington State Department of Transportation, Chang does not share Seattle DOT’s rigid opposition to guerrilla crosswalks. “It would be good to acknowledge the effort that was done by the residents,” he said. “If there is a way to keep the crosswalk, it would be ideal to try to do that.”

This is, of course, in the US where such tactical urbanism might be in vogue in certain cities and communities. Would such be allowed or encouraged in the Philippines? Actually, there are already many cases where tactical urbanism has been applied and usually at the community or barangay level. Prior to the DPWH putting in rumble strips at the approaches of schools, junctions and other locations perceived to be accident or crash prone, people have devised ways to slow down traffic in favor of pedestrian crossings. These include laying down old rubber tires cut and stretched to become humps. There are also barriers laid out to form something like an obstacle course; forcing vehicles to zig-zag instead of going straight along critical sections. These have allowed schoolchildren to cross safe in school zones and pedestrians crossing safely at intersections.