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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.
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:
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.
Electric vehicles are still basically motorized vehicles and should be treated so on the roads. While the previous models were slow and small, many of the newer ones coming out of the factories have similar performance features (e.g., speed, power, etc.) and dimensions as conventional vehicles. Many conventional models have electric or hybrid variants as companies attempt to attract customers using their tried and tested models and brands. BMW, for example, has electric sedans that are practically the same in interiors and exteriors with their conventional models. It is not surprising that vehicle safety researchers are now studying how electric vehicles fit into the road safety conundrum. I am sharing this brief but informative article that describes the efforts of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) of the US in studying the EVs and safety:
Tucker, S. (December 27, 2022) “How electric cars are creating new challenges in car safety,” MarketWatch, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-electric-cars-are-creating-new-challenges-in-car-safety-11671646057?mod=technology [Last accessed: 12/29/2022]
To quote from the article:
“It’s comforting to know that EVs will face the same tests as gas-powered cars. But the fact that the IIHS worried it might need to build new equipment to accommodate them illustrates something important.
At the rate the auto industry is modernizing toward EVs, almost all of us will be driving them someday. But there will inevitably be an overlap period when some cars on the road are electric, and others are gas-powered.
In an accident, weight matters…
Crash tests can only estimate the likelihood of injury to someone inside the tested car. They can’t predict injuries in the other car. And we’re all about to share the roads with other cars that dramatically outweigh ours.”
You’ve probably seen one of these micromobility modes but take a closer look and you will notice a more spruced-up version of what you thought was an electric kick scooter (EKS). No, this one in the photos is not electric-powered but running on an internal combustion engine. It is a modified, fossil fuel-powered scooter.
You can see the modifications on the scooter – the engine and the gas tank.
These can be hard to detect for drivers or riders and can be risky at night time when visibility is a major factor for those using these vehicles.
I’ve seen these modified scooters along my typical commuting routes. They seem to be faster than the regular EKS. They also appear to have more power for uphill or climbing as I’ve seen these having no trouble ascending to Antipolo via Sumulong Highway or Ortigas Avenue Extension. As for maneuverability, I cannot really make an assessment except for what I’ve observed. But what worries me is that there are also reckless riders of these vehicles who tend to weave in traffic whether its congested or free flowing. If it’s difficult to anticipate the movement of motorcycles and bicycles along highways and streets, it’s even more with these scooters. But before you react and say that drivers and riders need to be slowing down (and all that jazz), remember that it takes two to tango. Even if you do slow down or practice safe driving or riding, if that other person will be reckless then there will be an increased likelihood for a crash to happen.
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.”
“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.”
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.
I’ve been involved in studies on electric vehicles and their applications in the past. I continue to take part in studies about informal transport including continuing research on motorcycle taxis or “habal-habal” as they are called in the Philippines. The combination of the two is an interesting research area and there are many topics that can be developed as we determine the most appropriate applications for electric vehicles. Here is an interesting article on electrifying informal transport that sets the context for research:
Ribet, L. (August 30, 2022) “The role of data in electrifying informal transport,” Slocat partnership, https://slocat.net/the-role-of-data-in-electrifying-informal-transport/ [Last accessed: 9/9/2022]
To quote from the article:
“However, electric two-and-three wheeler startups, informal transport retrofitting pilots and e-bus initiatives cannot be the only answer to the mobility challenges facing developing cities. Phasing out oil-reliant public transportation is needed and investing in electric mobility solutions may well improve the overall picture quite substantially, but there is a far larger challenge that is omitted from these ambitions: addressing the complex operations of informal transport systems that characterise lower-income countries’ urban mobility. Electrifying minibus taxis is not synonymous with more reliable, affordable and convenient public transport, and we need to prioritise the understanding and improvement of overall informal transport systems data first.”
I’ve shared some articles and opinions about electric scooters. Here is another one that delves into the safety about these vehicles that have become quite popular in the US. Here in the Philippines, they still seem to be in infancy in terms of popularity and to some, are seen as more a novelty and touristy rather than a mode of transport for the typical work trips.
Donahue, B (June 11, 2022) “How to Make Electric Scooters Become a Safer Way to Travel,” Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2022-06-11/how-to-make-electric-scooters-safer [Last accessed: 6/18/2022]
To quote from the article:
“Dediu believes that in time micromobility will attain critical mass, as other modes of transit have already done, and that infrastructure will come as the user base grows. “We didn’t build airports and then have airplanes show up,” he’s said. “I’m confident, given the history, that we’ll see things like more safe roadways for micromobility vehicles.” “
Scoot-to-work at BGC, Taguig, Metro Manila
It is not really about the vehicle but the environment in which it is being used. One can say a lot about walking, for example, being dangerous but without touching on the why and the how its become a dangerous or risky mode of travel. It’s the lack of infrastructure or facilities as well as the car-oriented environment (that includes archaic laws and other regulations) that make active mobility and micro mobility modes dangerous or risky. If we can address these basic issues, then perhaps we can entice more people to use these modes more often and for the most trips we make everyday.
And don’t forget that these modes are the most fuel efficient! Saves you from the every increasing prices of fuel!
Much has been said and written about how electric vehicles could be the game changer for transport. Those include supportive material and also those that are more critical and provide different perspectives to EVs. Here is another article that discusses EVs in the context of the avoid, shift, improve framework:
O’Riordan, V. (November 30, 2021) “Electric vehicles aren’t a fix for carbon emissions. These 3 things need to change—fast,” Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/90700832/electric-vehicles-arent-a-fix-for-carbon-emissions-these-3-things-need-to-change-fast [Last accessed: 12/17/2021]
There’s a recent article about the environmental impacts of manufacturing EVs including the batteries used by these vehicles. I will share that in another post.
One of the so-called new mobility modes is the e-scooter. It is categorized as a micro mobility mode and in appearance is no different from a kick scooter with the difference lies in the former being motorized. Not all are powered by electric motors as I’ve seen ones that are gas-powered (small internal combustion engines). The latter are noisy and have emissions but seem to be more powerful especially when encountering inclined road sections (e.g., going up to Ortigas Center from C5, going up to Antipolo). Some seem to be customized for more power as I’ve seen motorcycle shops doing what looks like modifications and not just repairs.
I’m sharing an article below about e-scooters and their involvement in road crashes in Europe:
Meaker, M. (December 7, 2021) “E-scooters are everywhere in Europe. So are grisly accidents,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/escooters-accidents-europe/?bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&esrc=AUTO_OTHER&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_content=WIR_Daily_120721&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_120721&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=P4 [Last accessed: 12/9/2021]
I think the proverbial jury is still out there in as far as these vehicles are concerned. Safety-wise, there should be concern if users speed up and zig-zag through traffic. These are the same concerns in the European cities mentioned in the article. Personally, I don’t see these vehicles gaining as much popularity for typical commutes compared to the bicycle, which has seen a surge in use during this pandemic and with bike lanes (pop-up and permanent) in place in many areas. These same bike lanes are now also being shared by these e-scooters. I think more people will opt for the motorcycle, which comes in different sizes and engines, and which provides more in terms of versatility of use. But again, there are risks involved here and perhaps some e-scooter users are mimicking the undesirable, risky motorcycle rider behavior. Are they e-scooter users to be regarded and treated as drivers or riders considering they are using motorized vehicles? Perhaps the government should be working on this and other relevant, current policy (if not regulations) to e-scooter use.