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Lessons to be learned from experiences on public transport abroad

There’s this “old” article that came out last year that is very much relevant as it is timeless for its topic. The title is intriguing as the many if not most US cities are known to be car-dependent. Few have good public transportation in terms of the efficiencies or qualities we see in Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo (just to mention Asian examples). Clearly, quality of service is the main reason why people are apprehensive about using public transportation. In fact, the attraction of ride shares, for example, are precisely because people want to have what they perceive as safe, comfortable and convenient modes of transport for their regular commutes. Only, for many people, their choice is also limited by the affordability of such modes of transport. Perhaps the same is applicable if you extend the discussion to include active transport. Cities and municipalities would need to provide the right infrastructure and environment for people to opt out of cars, take public transport, walk or cycle.

English, J. (2018) Why did America give up on mass transit? , http://www.medium.com/citylab, https://medium.com/citylab/why-did-america-give-up-on-mass-transit-dont-blame-cars-d637536e9a95 [Last accessed: 08 March 2019]

Marikina’s Bike and Parking Lanes

I had to navigate through Marikina’s streets in order to reach the Feliz Mall from the city’s downtown. Normally, I would have taken the more straightforward route that would have involved traveling along Marcos Highway. However, I couldn’t because it was my number coding day and the U-turn slots in the area are usually “swarming” with MMDA and Pasig City traffic enforcers. Marikina’s streets though were not part of the coding scheme and you only need to be familiar with their road network including which streets are one-way in order to navigate the streets properly.

The bike lane is on the left side of the one-way road and to the right of the on-street parking spaces. The parking lane is the left-most and curb-side.

This actually qualifies as an example of a road diet application. These could have easily been 2-way streets before but effectively 2 lanes have been allocated for traffic flow while the others are for parking and cycling. [Of course, hard-core cyclist will say only one lane was taken away from motor vehicles.]

These bike and parking lanes were implemented in connection with the Marikina Bikeways project that was initiated during the time of then Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando in the late 1990s. The project was continued and maintained by succeeding administrations of the city and contribute to the city’s being more liveable compared to other LGUs. The reconfiguration of the streets make them safer and saner in terms of traffic flow where “traffic” is referred to as inclusive of all users.

On fact-checking articles in this blog site

Last month, I received an interesting and intriguing comment that was actually an inquiry about an article I posted that contained a photo of a section of the Marikina Bikeways. A news agency was fact-checking something circulated by trolls praising Davao City for putting up bikeways. The problem is that they used my article and photo taken some years ago:

https://d0ctrine.com/2014/09/30/lets-revisit-the-marikina-bikeways/

The photo was taken by me one time I was driving along Sumulong Highway in Marikina City’s downtown area. I take similar snapshots whenever the opportunity presented itself and I thought this one was perfect because it showed bicycle infrastructure and a cyclist using it. I don’t put any watermarks or other identifiers on my photos but routinely advise those using or intending to use them to do the proper attribution or citation.

Credit is due to the people of Marikina and their leaders for making their bikeway network a reality. Of course, there are issues here and there but the important thing was that they were able to construct it and show that it can be done given the resources in support of active transportation modes. I am not sure if Davao has initiated a program to plan and construct a bikeway network for their city. Perhaps there is and perhaps there’s none. But perhaps, too, they should take the cue from Marikina and develop one that can also be emulated or replicated in other LGUs as well. It is better to come up with something real and tangible rather than being credit for something inexistent.

The Ortigas Center bike lanes, complete streets and road diets

The MMDA recently stated they were planning to apply the road diet concept to EDSA by narrowing the current lane widths in order to add one lane per direction. While the idea seems to of good intention, the mention and application of road diet is flawed. I have previously shared an article on social media showing the definition and examples of complete streets:

What are complete streets?

Clearly, complete streets are for the benefit of everyone (i.e., inclusive) and not biased for motor vehicles. Here is a photo of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City showing the correct application of the Complete Streets and Road Diet concepts to an urban street. Note the elements for cycling and walking that are very prominent in the re-design of the street.

Protected bike lanes at either side of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center

We hope to see more of these re-designs in many other cities and towns in the Philippines. It is not a really difficult concept to apply or adopt as technically these are not complicated. However, there needs to be a change in the mindset of planners and engineers when they do these exercises considering how car-oriented our designs are. It is easy to say we want more people-oriented transportation facilities until it dawns on us how dependent we are on cars and resist the efforts to realise more sustainable designs.

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.