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Article on the “Boring Company” and the reinvention of transportation

Here’s another quick post where I share this interesting article on Elon Musk’s Boring Company. Central to the article is the notion that certain things related to transportation needs to be reinvented. This was written in March last year. To quote from the article:

“The Boring Company is emblematic of the Silicon Valley conviction that everything must be reinvented, literally: Airbnb is building a hotel, Uber is moving closer to operating like a bus service, and Elon Musk is slowly inventing the subway all over again…”

Here’s the article:

Marx, P. (2018) Can we please let the Boring Company die already?,” http://www.medium.com , https://medium.com/radical-urbanist/can-we-please-let-the-boring-company-die-already-8562067adc1b [Last accessed: 01/11/2019]

Smoggy Metro Manila and a look forward to improving transport and air quality in 2019

I took the photo as we were driving up to Antipolo one morning this month when the opportunity presented itself for a quick photo of Metro Manila:

This serves as a reminder for those working to improving air quality in Metro Manila and elsewhere. It has already been established that much of the air pollution in Metro Manila and its adjacent areas can be attributed to mobile sources (i.e., motorised transport). A reduction of motor vehicle use, particularly cars, combined with more efficient engines and cleaner fuels should be lead to significant air quality improvements and, ultimately, an improvement in the quality of life. Of course, there should be parallel efforts to improve facilities for walking and cycling, and implementing the mass transit projects that will carry most people between the origins and destinations regardless of the distances.

Here’s to the approaching 2019 and the optimism that comes with the New Year!

Manigong Bagong Taon sa lahat!

The Julia Vargas Avenue protected bike lane

I thought I already posted an update on the Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City. It turned out I was only able to upload photos on my folder but wasn’t able to get to writing about the bike lane. And so we conclude the year 2018 with a positive post of something we would like to see more in 2019 and beyond. We are hopeful that the protected bike lanes along Julia Vargas Avenue, connecting C-5 with the Ortigas Center, will expand and that this example along those of its predecessor bikeways in Marikina and Iloilo would be replicated across the country particularly in highly urbanised cities.

A view of the westbound bike lane along Julia Vargas at the Ortigas Center. Note that the eastbound bike lane (visible in this photo) is not similarly protected vs. motor vehicle encroachments. It would be preferable for that lane to be protected, too. Parang bitin pa tuloy ang effort nila.

Another view of the protected bike lane along the westbound side of Julia Vargas Avenue in contrast with the obviously congested lanes available for motor vehicles.

The middle lanes of the carriageway are wide and can accommodate motorcycles though the latter always seem to prefer filtering or splitting the lanes. The median lanes are generally for low occupancy vehicles (less than 3 passengers) while the middle ones are for high occupancy vehicles (3 or more passengers) including UV Express vans and buses.

Happy New Year to all!

Katipunan bike lanes?

Here are photos of the bike lanes along Katipunan Avenue (Circumferential Road 5). The lanes are basically just marked with a solid green line but without any signs or pavement markings reinforcing this designation. The lanes are not protected ones like the example along the eastbound bike lane along Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City. And so, as expected, there are many motor vehicles encroaching upon the Katipunan bike lane including parked or standing vehicles as shown in one of the photos below.

The bike lane is derived from the outermost lane of Katipunan

Here is the bike lane along the southbound side of Katipunan at the approach to Tuazon Avenue. That’s a pedicab on the bike lane so one can easily appreciate the dimensions particularly the width of the lane.

Bike lane along the northbound side of Katipunan approaching Ateneo’s Gate 2

The bike lane along with the designated truck lane and motorcycle lane.

Here are cyclists using the lane past Ateneo’s Gate 3 and approaching the main gate of Miriam College

I’ll try to sketch a few recommendations into the photos as I have done in a past article:

On the Pasig HOV lane experiment

This can also be used for exercises I assign to my graduate and undergraduate classes when we’re on the topic of complete streets.

About the habal-habal again

There’s a nice article written by the current City Administrator of Cebu City, Nigel Paul Villarete. Paul has a regular column in a major daily and one that is always a good read. The article is a consolidation of previous articles he has written about the habal-habal or motorcycle taxi.

Villarete, N.P. (2018) “Habal-habal: the Two-Wheeler “Public” Transport in the Philippines,” http://www.streetlife.com, http://streetlife.villarete.com/habal-habal-the-two-wheeler-public-transport-in-the-philippines/?fbclid=IwAR06y9lrH-j6YtXRLf6rDL_JssnewNhR0b49dJ4Muc2PKyCzxeK50X6Ul6Y [Last accessed: 12/21/2018].

The article is relevant and current in its take on the motorcycle taxi and why it is important to consider this mode of transport as a form of public transportation. For one, it obviously gives people another choice for travel that is supposed to be able to cut down travel times compared to when they use conventional public transport or private vehicles. The question and perhaps the challenge to those operating such services is to prove that they are a safe mode of transport. Also, not to forget, is the question of fares and how to set the proper structure in order to protect people against abusive or excessive fares charged by the service providers.

There is news recently that the DOTr is convening a technical working group (TWG) to look into what they perceive as an issue on habal-habal. I wish the TWG well and hope that this will lead to something constructive including regulations that everyone can agree to. That said, I also believe that service providers, especially transport network company (TNC) Angkas, should exert more effort to prove they are a safe mode of transport rather than resorting to what appears to be more a fallacy of appealing to the emotions of people while trying to evade the legal constraints imposed on them. There is definitely a difference in motorcycle taxi operations in rural areas compared to those in the urban setting including the fact that they would have to deal with more vehicular traffic along urban roads. This means more interactions with other vehicles that may lead to an increased likelihood of road crashes involving motorcycle taxis if the latter don’t exercise safe driving practices.

On re-designing or re-imagining our transportation system for people

Here is another good read especially for those who advocate or even just beginning to appreciate the concept of people-oriented transportation:

VannPashak, J. (2018) “Design for humans as they are, not as you want them to be,” http://www.medium.com, https://medium.com/@jvannpashak/design-for-humans-as-they-are-not-as-you-want-them-to-be-ef95076c0988 [Last accessed: 11/23/2018].

In a recent symposium where I made a presentation about low carbon transport and visioning and re-imagining transport, I was asked how we can re-design our transportation to be more people-oriented than car-oriented. I replied that we have to do a lot of unlearning. That is, many planners and engineers would need to unlearn many things they’ve learned in school and those they got from their workplace. One convenient excuse for not coming up with a better design, for example, is that certain planners or engineers just followed what their offices or agencies have been doing. What if what their offices and agencies (and consequently their seniors at work) where wrong all these years and what was “ginagawa na” or “nakasanayan” have led to deficient outcomes? I even joked about whether these offices or agencies were “open minded” referring to a favourite by-line by networking companies. Being open-minded in the context of having people-oriented transport solutions would be difficult if everything was “nakakahon” because these were what you learned from school and/or the workplace. It is difficult to admit that something was and is wrong.

On the viability of bike lanes in the Philippines

I have been inserting topics on complete streets in the undergraduate and graduate courses I teach at university. Some students have also been researching on best practices and designs that they are supposed to apply to real world situations in Philippine cities. The results are still generally mixed but I like how my undergraduate students are able to grasp the concepts and apply them in the short time they have been ‘exposed’ to the concept. I thought my graduate students, most of them practicing engineers, found it more challenging to unlearn many of the things about street design they have learned from their schools including UP and DLSU, which I thought would have the more progressive programs in Civil Engineering.

Here are a couple of helpful articles that explain the business (economic) case for bike lanes. After all, the most persuasive arguments to convince LGUs to take on bike lanes will always be economics or business. That’s also how you can probably convince the business sector to pitch in and lobby for more active transport facilities especially in the downtown areas.

Jaffe, E. (2015) The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes, http://www.citylab.com, https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2RDPGy52R27zmpOAFVbiEWGZtMSjyr1Z3Kf56oPVoPI6LUfdreDWpBM5E [Last accessed: 11/1/2018]

Flusche, D. (2012) Bicycling Means Business, The economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, http://www.bikeleague.org, https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2RDPGy52R27zmpOAFVbiEWGZtMSjyr1Z3Kf56oPVoPI6LUfdreDWpBM5E [Last accessed: 11/2/2018]

One issue often brought up by opponents of bike lanes is that there are few references for bike lane design and operations in the country. Perhaps the only really comprehensive example is Marikina City though I know for a fact that the last three of their mayors (yes, including the incumbent) is not so keen about their bikeways. In fact, one mayor tried to dissolve the city’s bikeways office only to relent and allow it to exist but under one of its departments. Iloilo City is supposed to have some bike lanes but it is still more like a landscape architecture experiment than a fully functional system (sorry my katilingbans and panggas). And so we look to the more comprehensive experiences abroad for evidences of viability and success. The bottomline here is that I would rather ask how it can succeed here than state why it will not.