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On the need for more facilities for cycling and ensuring they will be used for cycling

I read and hear a lot of comments about two particular items: pedestrian overpasses and bike lanes. Most of the comments call for pedestrians and cyclists to have priority over cars and for the latter to give way to pedestrians and cyclists every time. The hardline stance for some is for the pedestrians to be allowed to cross anywhere and for cyclists to be able to bike on any lane they choose to. Of course, the concerns about these are quite obvious and safety still calls for people, no matter what mode they choose, to use the appropriate spaces. What few actually discuss and delve into are design solutions to these problems. Many cite good practices elsewhere but stop at sharing these and not really going into in-depth and constructive discussions on how to implement these good designs here. Most of the time its just “the government must do this” and “the government must do like what (insert city or country) is doing”. Worse are those who tend to simplify it as an “architect vs. civil engineer vs. planner” kind of conflict. Playing the blame game doesn’t get us anywhere if we wanted the planning and design of transportation infrastructure improved.

Cyclists use the overpasses to cross the wide Marcos Highway between Pasig and Marikina. There are only 2 ramps, one each on either side of the highway and it partly occupies the sidewalk beneath. Could there be a better design for such overpasses?

Motorcycles using the bike lanes along Ortigas Avenue. How do we make sure that spaces are utilised according to their intended users? How do we design these spaces to include elements that will deter such incursions?

There are many references out there showing us what good design should be from the technical and social perspectives. Surely these can be taken up not only at the workplace for architects, engineers and planners but in schools where such principles are supposed to be learned and inculcated into the minds of future architects, engineers and planners.

On the need to increase NMT and public transport use

A recent report reinforces what many of us already probably know or are aware of – that we need to shift away from dependence on car use to more sustainable modes of transport in the form of non-motorised transport (NMT) and public transportation. Here is the article from the AASHTO Journal:

Global Climate Report Calls For Expansion Of ‘Non-Motorized’ Transport And Public Transit (2018)

There is a link to the report in the journal article. The report is conveniently available in PDF form and is very readable (i.e., not overly technical).

Incidentally, I was involved some time ago in a project led by the group Clean Air Asia (CAA), which involved several experts from across ASEAN as well as Japan that attempted to determine the necessary transport programs and projects in the region to stave off the projected increase in global temperatures. In all the scenarios evaluated, non-motorised transport (NMT) and a rationalised public transportation system By the term ‘rationalised’ I am referring to the use of higher capacity vehicles as against the taxis and tricycles that typically carry few if not one passenger. Here is a link to the final symposium for that study that has links to the materials presented:

The Final Symposium on the “Study on Long Term Transport Action Plan for ASEAN”

Here’s a slightly updated slide on the future image for a large city in the Philippines:

On EDSA transport and traffic, again

There’s a recent decision by the Metro Manila Council (MMC) comprised of the mayors of the cities and municipality of Metro Manila and chaired by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair that vehicles bearing only one passenger (the driver) will be banned from travelling along EDSA. The problem with this is that by banning cars with one passenger from EDSA, you only succeed in making other roads like C5 more congested. It’s a simple case of transferring traffic and worsening it elsewhere since you’re not doing anything to alleviate congestion along those roads. Did MMDA run this and other scenarios using analytical or simulation tools at their disposal? If so, can these be shown and used to explain the soundness of this policy approved by the MMC? I suspect they didn’t and likely depended more on gut feel based on the data they have including what is often reported as 70% of vehicles traveling along EDSA having only one passenger. Meanwhile, the state of mass transit along EDSA still sucks.

IMG_3028A very crowded Boni Avenue Station platform (photo courtesy of Mr. Raul Vibal)

Of course, the pronouncement from the MMDA launched quite a lot of memes on social media. Some people shared the typical quotes on planning (you know, like the ones about planning for people vs. planning for cars). Some offered their own ideas about how to “solve” traffic along EDSA. And so on…that only succeeded in showing how everyone had an opinion about transport and traffic. Everyone is an expert, so it seems.

Some thoughts and not in any order:

  • The government can initially dedicate a lane each for express buses (a la Bus Rapid Transit or BRT). This idea has been circulating for quite some time now and has a good chance of succeeding. The DOTr is already deploying buses that they say are supplementing the MRT 3 trains (i.e., there aren’t enough trains running so passengers have the option of taking a bus instead). Running along the inner lanes of EDSA would mean, however, that they would have to find a way for passengers to cross the road and one idea would be for the stations to be retrofitted for this purpose.
  • Those cars along EDSA are not necessarily for short trips so walking and cycling while needing space may have less impact in the immediate term for such a corridor. In the meantime, serious consideration should be made for bike lanes whether on the ground or elevated and improvements to walking spaces.
  • But these efforts to improve passenger (and freight) flows should be a network-wide thing and not just along EDSA.
  • It’s time to have serious discussions and perhaps simulations (even a dry run) of congestion pricing in Metro Manila. Congestion pricing for all major roads and not just one or two. Funds collected goes to mass transit, walkways and bikeways development. DOTr was supposed to have already discussed an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system like Singapore’s with the company and people behind the same in the city-state. That doesn’t seem to be moving along.
  • Working and studying from home might work in terms of reducing vehicular traffic but then we generally have lousy internet services so that’s a barrier that needs to be broken down.
  • How about legalizing, once and for all, motorcycle taxis? Many are opposed to this citing safety concerns but then we are running out of options outside the usual motherhood statements pertaining to building transport infrastructure. Think about it. Give it a chance. These motorcycles might just surprise us in a nice way; that is, helping alleviate congestion.
  • Carpooling and lanes dedicated to High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) would be good but the LTFRB made a pronouncement about these being illegal as they would be considered ‘colorum’. Such statements do not make the situation any easier and sends mixed signals as to the government’s being serious in considering all possible angles to improve transport and traffic particularly for commuting.

Do you have other ideas to share?

On Quezon City’s Kalayaan Avenue bike lanes

Another example of what can be called “pwede na iyan” bike lanes are those found along Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City. To be fair, the city made an effort to paint the bicycle lane and put up signs for this. However, one will observe that there is poor enforcement in relation to the bike lane as you would find vehicles parked on the lane. There is also the question of bicycle traffic as there doesn’t seem to be many cyclists along Kalayaan, making the space fair game for other vehicles including tricycles and motorcycles. Then there is the matter of connectivity. The Kalayaan bike lane seems to be isolated and does not have a connection to any other bike lane. The lane around the Elliptical Road, for example, is in the inner side of that road. Teacher’s Village does not have bicycle lanes but perhaps it is not (yet) necessary to have exclusive lanes in the still predominantly residential area (note: commercial establishments are still on the rise along major roads in the village).

Vehicles parked on the Kalayaan Avenue bike lane

Free flowing traffic along Kalayaan – notice the vehicles parked on the sidewalk?

One big question comes to mind with regards to such bike lanes: How do we improve the situation in order to encourage more people to bike?  There are many answers to this question and the answers branch out to the infrastructure, policy, social and even societal, and other aspects concerning cycling. What we should bear in mind and what Quezon City and perhaps MMDA should work on is a strategy for promoting non-motorised transport (NMT) that includes walking and cycling that can be implemented metro-wide with safety and efficiency (incl. connectivity) as the main objectives rather than have piecemeal projects for show or demonstration.

On the opposition to “complete streets”

I recently read an article about the opposition to road diets in California, USA:

Tinoco, M. (2018) “How to Kill a Bike Lane”, http://www.citylab.com, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/05/how-to-kill-a-bike-lane/559934/?utm_source=SFTwitter [Last accessed: 5/20/2018]

So far, we know that at least three cities are progressive enough to implement road diets including Marikina City, Pasig City and Quezon City. Iloilo doesn’t count yet since their bike lane was constructed along the very wide Diversion Road. Our recommendations for Tacloban, if implemented by the city, will probably result in the second most comprehensive application of road diets/complete streets in the Philippines after Marikina, which implemented their bikeways network almost 2 decades ago. There are sure to be many who would be opposed to such schemes as many still have the view that streets are for motor vehicles. This car-oriented thinking is something that will be a challenge to advocates of people-oriented transportation systems. Hopefully, many can learn from experiences here and abroad on how to reclaim space for people leading to safer and more inclusive transport for all.

Proposed downtown traffic scheme for Tacloban City

The team from the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines presented their recommendations for the traffic scheme in downtown Tacloban City last May 4, 2018 in the city’s Traffic Summit cum City Development Council (CDC) meeting. I am sharing the image showing the proposed traffic circulation and other features for the proposed downtown scheme below:

The scheme calls for a reduction in on-street parking; restricting such to one side of the street only and where applicable. That is, on-street parking is not allowed where there is already off-street parking along establishments, where there are driveways, and within one or two vehicle length from intersection corners. There will also be designated loading/unloading areas for public transport so parking is also prohibited there.

A couple of important features in the scheme are the enhancement of pedestrian facilities, particularly sidewalks, and the introduction of bicycle lanes. These are more clearly shown in the cross-section examples included in the map. Note that for other streets where there are no designated bike lanes indicated, it is assumed that lanes will be shared with motor vehicles. This is an application of the concept of shared right of way or “sharrow” as it is also termed. The scheme is contextualised along the lines of “people-oriented” transport rather than “car-oriented”, and hopefully would lead to a more walkable downtown area and encourage more people to use bicycles. This promotion of active transport should also lead to a healthier city. I will post about the transport plans prepared for the city in future articles here.

In support of bike lanes

Here is another interesting article about bike lanes but from the perspective of a non-cyclist. I believe this (support for bike lanes) is a view shared by many but not much articulated. The assumption is usually that car-owners would like to have less of other’s cars on the road so they could benefit from the presumed reduction in congestion should more people take up cycling. But then the same can be said for public transportation and its users as well. That is, car-users would want others to take public transport so as to also reduce road congestion; allowing them faster trips/drives.

Lewyn, M. (2018) “A Non-Cyclist’s Case for Bike Lanes,” planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/97632?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-03152018&mc_cid=0e22636014&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 3/17/2018]