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On bicycles vs. self driving cars

You’ve probably seen this graphic, the top part of which is attributed to the Cycling Promotion Fund. The last image is reproduced in the lower part of the image but labeled to emphasize what space is required to transport 48 people on electric cars and autonomous or self-driving cars.

 

It is quite obvious that even if the current fleets of cars are replaced by electric and self-driving models, they will practically be the same problem in terms of road space occupied and the resulting congestion. So perhaps e-cars or autonomous cars are not really the solution we are looking for.

There is this nice article where the author articulates the how bikes (and active transport in general) should be the a more essential part of future transport and society than the automobile:

Collignon, N. (September 9, 2022) “Bikes, not self driving cars, are the technological gateway to urban progress,” Next City, https://nextcity.org/urbanist-news/bikes-not-self-driving-cars-are-the-technological-gateway-to-progress [Last accessed: 9/16/2022]

There are two quotable quotes from the article that I want to highlight here:

“Today the potential benefits from cycling on health, congestion, pollution and CO2 emissions are crystal clear and increasingly quantifiable, but the benefits of self-driving vehicles remain hazy. When ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft promised lower congestion and reduced car ownership, they instead increased congestion and led to a decline in transit ridership.”

and

“The concept of “jaywalking,” for example, is integral to the “car technology” of today. The crime of crossing a street without respecting the dominance of cars was invented by the car industry in the 1920s, who pushed hard to define streets as a place for cars, not people. Our car technology today is also defined by the restriction of movement it imposes on people.

When we begin to see technology through the lens of systems, it becomes clear that genuine technology-led progress will focus on dealing with the accelerating complexity of today’s world, not increasing the complexity of our tools.”

On micro transit and transportation gaps

I’ve written and shared articles before on how Paratransit, bicycles and micro transit helps alleviate the transport demand problems we are experiencing especially in highly urbanized cities. I think we should have as many options as possible for transport while also working towards the reduction of dependence on cars. Here’s an article that relates about experiences in the US:

Zukowski, D. (September 13, 2022) “Cities turn to microtransit to fill gaps in public transportation,” Smart Cities Dive, https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/microtransit-public-transportation-gaps-jersey-city-via/631592/ [Last accessed: 9/15/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Microtransit options are also helping to reduce the reliance on personal cars. “We’ve received feedback from people who say that because of Via they are now more consistently leaving their personal vehicle at home and using Via instead to travel within the city, which is exactly the kind of thing we want to see happen,” said Jersey City’s Patel.”

This final statement or paragraph in the article sums it up very well. Of course, we have to note that the experience in Asia is quite different especially in Southeast Asia where motorcycles are very popular and still on the rise in terms of their mode shares. While these may be considered micromobilities in western countries, they are definitely motorized private vehicles that, depending on how they are used and how the rider behaves, may be beneficial but at the same time also very dangerous for people.

How my students see transport and traffic

With social media and the ascendance or popularity of influencers and the like, we have often encountered assessments or opinions about transportation and traffic. While there are those that make sense, there are more that are of the rant variety. The latter include the self-righteous who seem to relish bashing professionals and government officials while not being able to present much in terms of their own accomplishments. I am aware of my students (including research advisees) being aware of these people and I often see them posting their comments on topics, articles and opinions being shared on social media. For most, their comments and posts on social media show they’re being more informed than most, especially about the state of transportation in the country.

Here are some observations and comments from my students:

  1. One of my students asked me about my take on the public transport situation. I replied that it is unfortunate that public transportation has deteriorated the way it has for the past decades. The current state is not due to recent policies or regulations but a product of various policies, regulations and even trends over so many years. My student countered that perhaps the current officials must not make an excuse of the past in failing to act in the present.
  2. I always read about posts that anchor their arguments on the supposed low car ownership in Metro Manila. These are usually followed by calls for taking lanes away from car use for public transport and cycling. While I agree with the latter, I don’t with the former arguments. A student was curious about my statement in one lecture that we need to validate the numbers because what we see on the streets appears to be inconsistent with the notion of low car ownership. There are other ways, she said, to determine vehicle ownership other than the conventional HIS data. We could probably use the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) that is regularly conducted by the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA). This will show if people own motor vehicles as well as how much they spend for transportation.
  3. I asked my students to critique the plans and implementation of airports in the Greater Capital Region (GCR) also known as Mega Manila, and which is larger than the NCR Plus used to refer to Metro Manila plus Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite. I was not surprised about their assessments as all of them did their homework in the sense that they researched on information and data they could use for their critiques. Most were in favor of developing a new capital airport in Bulacan rather than in Cavite. And many favored the continued operation of NAIA but with reduced air traffic and a different role.

More on these opinions, observations and comments as I try to recall the more remarkable or notable ones.

Have a nice Sunday!

On the impacts of bicycle use

I’ve probably read a lot of posts on social media advocating for bicycle use. Here is another article that provides us with evidence about the impacts of cycling on travel, emissions and health:

Timmer, J. (August 20, 2022) “Here’s What Happens When Countries Use Bikes to Fight Emissions,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/bike-more-curb-global-emissions/ [Last accessed: 8/24/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Globally, adopting a Danish level of bicycle use would reduce annual emissions of CO2 by 414 million metric tons, approximately equivalent to the UK’s emissions in 2015. Boosting that to a Dutch level would eliminate nearly 700 million metric tons, or most of the emissions from Germany in that year.

The researchers also noted that countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have much lower rates of obesity than their peer countries. Based on the known health risks there, they estimate that, globally, we’re already avoiding 170,000 deaths annually due to cycling. Expanding this globally, they found that Denmark-equivalent bicycle use would prevent 430,000 deaths per year. Dutch levels of cycling would prevent 780,000 deaths.

That said, the vulnerability of cyclists to cars poses its own lethal risks. But these aren’t anywhere close to outweighing the benefits from exercise and lower obesity. (They’d add about 90,000 and 160,000 additional deaths per year for the two levels of use.) And if fewer drivers are using cars, there’s a chance that those numbers would come in even lower.

It’s worth noting that these numbers almost certainly underestimate the benefits of shifting to bikes. Bicycles use far fewer resources to produce, and they last longer than most cars. Maintenance is likely to be far less resource-intensive as well. So simply focusing on the use of the bike omits a lot of things that would show up in a detailed life-cycle analysis.

The researchers are certainly correct that there are a lot of locations where weather makes cycling a less-than-ideal option—and the range of places where heat makes it a positively dangerous option is expanding in our changing climate.

But some of the other issues are less severe than they might appear at first. For example, the advent of bicycles with electric assist means that hilly locales aren’t necessarily the barrier they might have been a decade ago. And while a number of countries have large open spaces where cars will remain a necessity, the trend toward urbanization means that most people in those countries will live in places where cycling can be made an option.

So, the biggest barrier is likely to remain the social will to rethink transportation.”

Indeed, social will (as well as political will) is perhaps the biggest barrier in our country. Many people may not agree but the evidence for this is so clear and obvious  that one has to be naive or oblivious to not see it. How else will one explain people sticking to their cars and more readily shifting to motorcycles rather than the bicycle. Of course, there are other factors to be considered and the article actually cites wealth and geography as strong prerequisites in developing a cycling culture. We need to do much more to determine where interventions are needed including land use planning and land development as well as the provision of affordable housing closer to workplaces, schools, shops and other places of interest (Hello 10- or 15-minute cities!).

 

Bike lanes at the UP Diliman campus – Part 2

The bike lanes in UP Diliman are not limited to the Academic Oval. There are now also bike lanes along other major roads including Magsaysay Avenue, which is road immediately after the portal at the Asian Center and allowing direct entrance and exit via Katipunan Avenue (C-5). The bike lanes are along either side of Magsaysay Avenue and are of Class II – Type B (separated bike lanes) but there are no  LED markers that are ideally placed along the delineation for the bike lanes.

Painted bike lanes along Magsaysay Avenue, which is the road behind Malcolm and Melchor Halls. To the left is the Department of Mechanical Engineering Building and the Computer Center. To the right is the Resilience Institute.

To the right is what used to be the Chemical Engineering Lab behind Melchor Hall. To the right is the Ipil and Yakal Dormitories.

Counting cars…and other vehicles as well

I saw a couple of these counting instruments set-u by the DPWH, one along Ortigas Avenue Extension and another along Sumulong Highway. These are mobile counting machines that are used to count vehicles along both directions of the roads. These are supposed to be calibrated to be able to distinguish among the various types of vehicles using the roads. I assume the classifications would be according to the types used by the DPWH and not simply a general count of the number of vehicles. I wonder though if these can accurately count smaller vehicles like motorcycles, bicycles and PMD’s like the one in the photo below.

If these can be calibrated to count bicycles and PMDs, it would allow for the establishment of baseline numbers and expansion or seasonal factors for what are now termed as micromobility modes. The recent bicycle counts done through volunteers and during peak hours cannot be expanded simply because there are no reference factors that can be used for this purpose. The available expansion or seasonal factors with DPWH derived from 24-hour counts at strategic locations along national roads only account for motor vehicles. These cover the variations of motor vehicle traffic over long periods of time (e.g., 24/7) that allows one to determine Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) as well as typical traffic during certain days of a week (e.g., traffic on a Monday or a Sunday).

On the benefits of developing and investing in active and public transportation

Here is another quick share of an article with a very relevant and timely topic – the business case for multimodal transport planning:

Litman, T. (July 2022) “The Business Case for Multimodal Transportation Planning,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/117697-business-case-multimodal-transportation-planning?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-07142022&mc_cid=03c159ebcf&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 7/15/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Conventional planning tends to undervalue non-auto mode improvements by assuming that each additional mile of their travel can reduce, at best, one vehicle mile traveled. In fact, in many situations they can leverage much larger reductions in vehicle travel, meaning that each additional mile of walking, bicycling, or public transit can reduce more than one vehicle mile … As a result, walking, bicycling and public transit improvements can provide much larger vehicle travel reductions and benefits than is commonly recognized.”

There is a box referred to in the preceding quote. I will not reproduce it here so I leave it up to the reader to go to the original article by Litman to find out how active and public transport can leverage additional travel reductions. Understanding these and the extend by which we can be independent of car-use (referring to non-car travel demand) will allow for a better appreciation, travel-wise and economics or business-wise, of the advantages of developing and investing in active and public transportation infrastructure and services.

Bike lanes at the UP Diliman campus – Part 1

I had first read about the enhanced bike lanes at the UP Diliman Academic Oval last month from a social media post of a friend. She was present as the delineations of the jogging and cycling lanes were being painted along with the baybayin marks distinguishing UP’s bike lanes from others like it. UP’s bike lanes predate the current ones around Metro Manila that mostly popped-up during the pandemic.

The Academic Oval road original had two-way traffic along its wide carriageway, that could easily fit 4 lanes. Since it became a one-way, counterclockwise road, the lanes had been divided into 3 wide lanes with one lane initially committed to bicycles.

Here are the two lanes designated for joggers/walkers (curbside) and cyclists (median). The pedestrian sidewalk was originally planned to be widened in time for UP’s Centennial celebration back in 2008. That did not materialize. The Academic Oval could have had wider sidewalks for those who are not walking for exercise.

The section in front of Melchor Hall features the words bicycles or bike lane and pedestrian in baybayin. Its certainly a novelty for now and something probably apt for the campus roads but not necessarily for others.

A closer look at the baybayin script along the jogging/walking and bike lanes.

Here’s the bigger picture on the pavement markings.

Approach to an intersection 

The UP colors inform riders about the intersection ahead. These are more visual as they are flat and not rumble strips. The older pavement markings advising riders of the speed limit should be seen in the context of utilitarian cycling (e.g., bike to work, bike to school) rather than cycling for fitness or recreation, which obviously may involve higher speeds and is frowned upon along the oval.

The intersection approach from another angle.

The Academic Oval bike lane is one of the original recommendations of a transport study conducted for the campus about 17 years ago. The study was the basis for the campus being declared as a road safety zone, which among others included a provision for its roads to have a 30-kph speed limit. The one-way counter-clockwise traffic circulation and the jogging and bike lanes, however, are officially a part of what has become a long-term experiment on campus. There are many who oppose the one-way scheme and are vehement against the ultimate plan to have the Academic Oval car-free or car-less (it is mostly car-less during Sundays – part of the “experiment”).

The other new bike lanes on campus in Part 2 of this series.

On bike counts – Part 1

Bike counts are being conducted this June and July in many cities around the country to mainly determine the number of cyclists in various locations in the participating cities and if there was an increase in the numbers. An increase will be encouraging and should support the upgrading and expansion of the bike lanes network established during this pandemic (we are not yet in the post-Covid-19 age).

The following Images are from the Mobility Awards Facebook Page where you can find the rationale for these surveys. Vehicle or pedestrian counts are perhaps the most basic type of surveys and are conducted over certain periods of time to establish variability as well as seasonality. In the case of most if not all the counts mentioned below, surveys were and are to be conducted during the perceived peak periods for bike traffic: 6:00 to 8:00 AM and 4:00 to 6:00 PM.

Counts like these need to be evaluated or analyzed considering various contexts. While the outcomes of such counts are often presented from the point of view of advocates and there is a tendency to play with the numbers (which I will explain in more detail in succeeding posts), the bigger picture relating bike numbers to other modes of transport would be among the most important. Trip purpose is another essential factor to be considered. And there is also data on the origin-destination characteristics of trips. Historical or time series data is also important if trends are to be established.

By itself, these bicycle counts are very important data that will ultimately be useful for planning, design and construction of facilities for active transport. The lack of data on bicycles while there is a bias for motor vehicle data means we cannot see the complete picture and therefore remain car-centric when dealing with transportation issues.

A Bike Master Plan for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao

Before Active Transport Week concludes this weekend, I would just like to share this collage from one of our staff at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is about the Master Plan developed for the three metropolitan areas in the country – Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.  I will share more details about this soon including a link or links to where you can download a copy of the plan.

The project concluded recently with the submission of the Final Report but most important is the Master Plan document that can serve as a reference for further development of bike lanes in the metropolises. I’ve seen the Master Plan and many of its provisions and recommendations can easily be adopted or is replicable in other cities and municipalities in the country. Perhaps, there should be a National Master Plan?