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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 illegal parking

The following photo pretty much sums up the topic for this post:

How many violations do you see here? The driver of the dark coloured vehicle had three outstanding violations – parking on the pedestrian crosswalk, blocking a fire hydrant, and blocking a PWD ramp.

The penalty for such violations as shown above used to be a paltry 500 pesos. However, a third violation will lead to a suspension of revocation of the driver’s license of the offender. That is, if authorities such as the Land Transportation Office (LTO) are able to track these violations. The fines have been updated recently to 1,000 pesos. Illegal on-street parking is perhaps among the most frequently committed violations that usually contributes to traffic congestion as it occupies space and reduces road capacities. It also blocks the typical paths of cyclists. A variation of on-street parking where parts of the vehicles are on the sidewalk is also problematic as it deprives pedestrians walking space and may lead to road safety issues especially if pedestrians are forced to use the road.

How do we address such issues? These are matters that can easily be addressed by enforcement. Yes, the catch all for many of our transport and traffic ills happens to be enforcement or rather the lack of it in many instances such as what’s shown in the photo above. This is an enduring and perhaps festering issue among those tasked with enforcing traffic rules and regulations. And we can only hope that they are up to the challenge.

[Note: The photo above was taken in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus along the Academic Oval and just after the intersection with Apacible Street. UP people like to say that what happens on campus is a microcosm of society. I cannot but agree in the case of the situation shown.)

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.

Build, build, build, and the cost of pursuing legacies among our leaders

Much has been written about the current administration’s Build, Build, Build program including it being billed as a “Golden Age of Infrastructure”. Many infrastructure projects though can be classified as “nice to have but not necessary”. They might become necessary in the future but then there are other projects that are more urgently needed now and need to be prioritised given the limited resources that we have. A good example of these “nice to have” projects would be the bridges proposed to connect Panay, Negros, Cebu and Bohol islands. The reality is that it is quite easy to manipulate studies in order to obtain results to support the construction of these bridges including justifying loans that will bring us deeper into unnecessary (for now) debt. You get more bang for the buck if you build instead mass transit systems and transform transportation in major cities of these same islands to favour active transport rather than be dependent on cars. Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod and other highly urbanised cities now require better public transportation and people-oriented systems. That’s where money should go and that will have a bigger impact from now to the long-term. The government’s infrastructure build-up is linked to the new tax scheme (TRAIN) but also requires a lot of borrowing from various entities including one country that has been documented to take full advantage (i.e., very disadvantageous to the borrower) of countries taking out loans from them (you know which one – China). Do we really want to get mired in such debt?

We all are in the lookout for opportunities that would probably give us something we will be remembered for. This is not limited to the leaders of our country, whether they be politicians or department heads or even district engineers, who perhaps want to be remembered for something they built, or, something they contributed in making a reality. Perhaps this can be in the form of a mass transit line, an expressway, or an iconic bridge? Perhaps for others it is in the form of a nuclear power plant or even a space program. We all have that dream project we want to be associated with.

Why are certain good people not critical of the government’s disastrous war on drugs or the proliferation of what appears to be government sponsored fake news and propaganda? It’s simple. Many of these “good” people are benefitting from the very same government particularly in pursuit of their own legacies (which are their main agenda). If you were an engineer, planner or scientist in government and your projects were funded one way or another, would you dare bite the proverbial hand that feeds you? “Complicit” seems to be a word used by the more hardline among us in terms of the socio-political-economic situation we are in now. But we have to remember that during the regime of Marcos, this was also the situation. The so-called best and the brightest were all employed by the administration back then including prominent names in industry and the academe, who perhaps enjoyed the privileges, perks and funding support for their programs and projects. Never mind martial law and its outcomes.

That is why history and its understanding is important. So we may learn from it and not relive the wrongs made in the past. We are not good in history or its application. Perhaps we only know how to memorise. And memory has its limits. That is among the costs of our current predicament. We withhold history, and memory, in exchange for what we think would be our legacies. At what cost? At what price? Human rights, freedoms, justice, financial stability, and dignity are just a few we can mention. Perhaps the biggest loss will be our humanity as we have become de-sensitized to the well-being of others.

On child-friendly cities

Here’s another article that I want to share. This time it is about child-friendly cities. Here is an article that present many good practice examples in other cities. Many are easily replicable in our towns and cities, and should be considered by local governments in order to enhance safety and health aspects in their jurisdictions.

Laker, L. (2018) “What would the ultimate child-friendly city look like?”, theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/28/child-friendly-city-indoors-playing-healthy-sociable-outdoors [Last accessed 3/9/2018]

On prioritising pedestrians and promoting walking

We begin March with an excellent article that came out from curbed.com:

Walker, A. (2018) The case against sidewalks and how cities can create new avenues for pedestrians, curbed.com, https://www.curbed.com/2018/2/7/16980682/city-sidewalk-repair-future-walking-neighborhood [Last accessed 2/23/2018].

How do we improve the environment (i.e., facilities) to encourage people to walk? Do we simply clear up sidewalks? Widen them? Build overpasses and underpasses? What should be the context for improving pedestrian facilities for our cities and municipalities? What are the implications to planning and design?

Transport safety during the holidays

I was having a late morning haircut when I overheard from the TV news reports of many road crashes occurring over the last 3 days including Christmas Day. One incident involved a jeepney that apparently veered away from its lane and crashed head-on to a provincial bus. It was ironic that the passengers of the jeepney were bound for the town of Manaoag in Pangasinan province, likely to give thanks for blessings they received in 2017 and pay homage to the Blessed Virgin whose image in Manaoag is regarded as miraculous. Not reported were the many other crashes that probably occurred all over the country over the same period but were considered minor incidents as no one perished and likely only involved property damage.

There was also an incident a few days ago involving a ferry traveling between Infanta, Quezon and Polilio Island.The ferry was carrying 251 passengers, of whom at least 5 reportedly perished. The incident again raised old but lingering issues on maritime safety including those pertaining to seaworthiness of vessels especially those plying the regular, frequent routes connecting the many islands in the country.

A lot of people travel during this season in the Philippines. Many travel to their hometowns for the typical homecomings, reunions people have during Christmas and New Year. Most trips are on the road (the mode share is dominant even considering the popularity of air travel and the sizeable number of trips on maritime transport) and the combination of road conditions, driver behaviour and other factors often lead to situations that may result in road crashes. We cannot overemphasise the importance of taking extra care when we travel, whether as a driver, a passenger or even a pedestrian walking along the road. A friend who is also an official of the transport department once gave passengers of buses advice to tell their drivers to slow down and drive more safely if and when they feel they are driving recklessly. You don’t lose lives by slowing down and driving more carefully (probably with the exception of drivers of emergency vehicles like ambulances), and this applies, too, to passengers of private vehicles who need to tell their drivers (likely relatives) to slow down or drive more safely. One does not want some joyride transform almost immediately into  a nightmare much less a last trip for everyone.

Keep safe everyone!