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On the need to change mindsets about bike lanes

Public acceptance of bike lanes has grown during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were few supporters especially among local government units and national agencies that seem to be comfortable with the status quo. Few like Iloilo and Marikina had any bike facilities worth mentioning. The pandemic was supposed to change that and it did for many. However, the acceptance and the gains seem to be eroding as we return to face-to-face activities and the ‘old’ normal situation.

I’m sharing below an article on the need to change mindsets about bike lanes and cycling in general:

Thompson, C. (January 24, 2023) “The Battle Over Bike Lanes Needs a Mindset Shift,” Wired, [Last accessed: 1/27/2023]

To quote from the article:

“Maybe bike lanes will always be fraught, until enough of the public is finally in a true lather about climate change—and it seems reckless to not have them.

Crises, after all, have a way of opening people’s eyes to possibilities. During Covid, restaurants and cafés lost so much business that cities nationwide began allowing them to build curbside seating areas where people could sit, safely, in the open air. It greatly reduced parking—but because, well, crisis, shop owners didn’t see any way around it. Patrons loved the outdoor seating so much that cities are making it permanent: A New York City study of several streets closed during Covid found storeowners making more than before, and diners digging the al fresco lifestyle. If data won’t change minds, customers might.”

There are two opposing sides on this matter. On one side are advocates who naturally will push for bike lanes and will promote them as The solution (emphasis mine) rather than one of a cocktail to address the transport mess we are in. On the other side are conservative, status quo types (or car-lovers as bike advocates will call them) who believe cars should have the roads to themselves. Unfortunately, many in government and particularly in transport agencies are with the latter. Perhaps they should be the first ones that need to be converted to favor active transport?

Some takeaways from a lecture

I lecture from time to time at the Philippine Public Safety College. This is the counterpart of the National Defense College. In the latter graduates are conferred a Masters in National Security Administration (MNSA) while in the former, graduates are conferred a Masters in Public Safety Administration (MPSA). It is no wonder that many who take these courses are military or police officers seeking graduate degrees that may later be useful for them after their typically early retirement (military and police officers retire at 56 years old instead of the typical 65 years mandatory retirement for other government employees). There are many civilians who take these programs, too. The MNSA degree actually promotes a person to a high rank as a military reservist. I am not sure about the MPSA degree but graduate degrees like these are useful for promotions in their respective offices.

I lectured recently to a class consisting of two batches of their MPSA program. Each batch consists of uniformed (mostly senior police officers with a rank equivalent to at least a Lt. Col.) and non-uniformed personnel (from various offices and professions including public and private universities, private companies, etc.). I get a lot of questions and comments regarding transport and traffic during my lectures. Some can be out of context or perhaps posed in a smart-aleck fashion but most are well-intentioned. After all, who doesn’t want to “solve” traffic? Among the more notable comments during my recent lecture are as follows (not in any order):

  1. There is a need to have better urban planning for our cities;
  2. Investments for transportation infrastructure need to be shared by government and the private sector;
  3. A holistic approach is required and we cannot isolate transportation or traffic;
  4. There is a need to have a law restricting vehicle ownership (mostly related to parking);
  5. There is a need to invest or allocate more resources to develop other cities to help decongest the larger cities.

Based on my experience having lectured at the PPSC over 5 years, these two batches had more listeners and were more sensible when they posted their comments and opinions on the chatbox (the lecture was via Zoom). There were only a couple of comments with ideas I did not agree with:

  1. Transferring the capital to another location – this seems to be a trendy (read: “nakikiuso”) topic and a very tempting one for discussion but it is not a simple task and has had mixed results in other countries that tried it (e.g., Brazil, Pakistan and Malaysia). Is it worth exploring? Probably.
  2. Cable cars for Metro Manila – I explained that this is still band-aid solution that does not address the roots of the transport problems experienced by Metro Manila. It is not suitable as for one, it will not have the capacity required for regular commutes and, to me at least, it is more a novelty than a solution. Resources would be better allocated elsewhere such as active transport.

Overall, I thought that this most recent lecture generated the best feedback so far from my students. I look forward to more lectures and interactions like this. And perhaps the next one will be face to face.

On getting started on bike commuting

Here is another article on bike commuting. It really is a challenge to get people into bike commuting even if their workplaces or schools are close to their homes. What more for people who have to travel longer distances between their homes and workplaces or schools?

Bassett, E. (December 1, 2022) “The No B.S. Guide to Getting Started Bike Commuting,” Medium, [Last accessed:

To quote from the article:

“Assume you’re invisible until proven otherwise.

Like every city I’ve lived or ridden in, yours probably paints pictures on the ground and calls them “bicycle infrastructure.” Road designs encourage excess speed; vehicles aren’t meaningfully separated from cyclists and pedestrians; there are conflicting rights-of-way at intersections, driveways, and so forth.

And that is not right. It’s a sad commentary on urban “planning” in most places that anything but car use requires this degree of paranoia. It points to a profound dysfunction that few (with any serious influence) are willing or even interested to change…yet.

But unless or until it improves, the only viable response is to assume you don’t exist in the eyes of whoever’s driving nearby. “If I weren’t here, would they gun it to make a right turn on red?” Well, assume they will. “If I weren’t here, would they merge up there?” You guessed it: assume they will.

This is unquestionably the worst aspect of bike commuting, and if it’s too stressful in your situation, that’s perfectly fine. But in the spirit of a “no-B.S.” guide, I’d be remiss not to drive home a life-saving lesson that all these years of cycling have so deeply ingrained in me.”

The author also states the difference between bike commuting and sports biking including noting the differences in the objectives or goals for each.

Why do we keep widening roads?

I’m just going to share this article here. The article from The NY Times asks a question that has been bugging planners and engineers, particularly those who are in government and perhaps under the agencies like the DPWH, DOTr and NEDA. This also applies to planners, engineers and those from other disciplines involved in transportation infrastructure development and particularly roads or highways.


Examples of legislative actions in support of active transport

While the Philippine government and various local government units seem to be reneging on their commitments to support active transport, other countries have been building on their gains during the pandemic. Here are examples of legislations in New York State that will support active transport through funding of complete streets projects and institutional arrangements for representation of transit dependent individual:

The article is about two legislations:

Legislation (S.3897/A.8936-A) Provides Funding for “Complete Streets” Projects Inclusive of a Holistic Approach to Street Design

Legislation (S.3959-B/A.7822-C) Adds Board Seats to NFTA, RGRTA, CDTA, and Central New York Regional Airport Authority Dedicated to a Transit Dependent Individual

We hope to see something like these at least at the local level. Perhaps if LGUs are able to legislate and implement these, there will be more good practice examples that will compel national government to support active transport development. The latter is actually ironic considering that many plans are supposed to spell out the national government’s commitment to active transport. There are still live memorandum orders and department orders supporting and promoting active transport. Are these also being waylaid? That will be tragic for transportation if we didn’t learn or gain anything from the experiences during this pandemic.

On the future of bike lanes in Metro Manila and other cities and municipalities in the Philippines

My friends and I were talking about the current buzz about the bike lanes including statements made by certain personalities (influencers, advocates, government officials, etc.) about biking and bike lanes. There were many recent pronouncements of motorcycles being allowed to use bike lanes or the outright removal of bike lanes. We all agreed this was backward and the way forward is to build on the current network and facilities. What we have in our cities and municipalities are not perfect and far from ideal but they are a start and perhaps the foundation for a bikeway network that can eventually make a dent on the car-centric transportation we have.

I share below the strategies, actions and targets for bicycle facilities, programs and projects from the Network Planning for the Establishment of Bike Lanes in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao that was completed middle of 2022. The project is DOTr’s with support from the UNDP. The table is from the Final Report of the project.

A Happy Christmas to all!

On Metro Manila having one of the worst transit systems in the world

This is a follow-up to the previous post on the UC-Berkeley Study. Here is an example of how media featured the study outcomes:

I didn’t see whether there was a response from government. These studies end up as features and nothing more if these do not prompt or push authorities to act on the problem. Even experts from academe or industry are reduced to being commentators or even pundits providing context, assessments and opinions, even recommendations that are perceived to fall on deaf ears. Perhaps government is already desensitized about these issues and will just trudge along at its own pace? In the end, it is the commuters mostly taking public transportation who continue to suffer and lose productive time to their daily travels.

On the best public transit systems in the world

Manila’s poor ranking in recent study conducted by the University of California Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies with think tank Oliver Wynam on public transit systems caught the attention of a lot of people. Media was quick to feature this in the news and I am aware of at least GMA and CNN Philippines doing features of this in their news programs. Here is the article on the same that mentions the UC Berkeley ITS study:

Pollard, A. (November 21, 2022 ) “These Cities Have the Best Public Transit Systems,” Bloomberg CityLab, [Last accessed: 12/11/2022]

Manila, or Metro Manila to be exact, placed only 56th in public transit while ranking 48th in sustainable mobility and 58th in urban mobility readiness. I leave it to the readers to go read the UC Berkeley report rather than depending on media or social med influencers for their takes on the ranking. The report can be downloaded from the link I provided above.

Perhaps there should be an assessment of cities (at least the highly urbanized ones) in the Philippines to see how they are ranked. There should be a criteria (UC Berkeley and Oliver Wynam used distance to public transit, affordability, operating hours, crowding and commute speeds among others in their study) to be agreed upon where experts can score cities using a simple-enough scale, say 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest score. What are your top 5 Philippine cities in terms of public transportation?

On guerilla tactics in urbanism – guerilla crosswalks

I am sharing this article on guerilla crosswalks in the US. It is interesting as communities or groups concerned with road safety decided to put up interventions (in this case crosswalks) in order to address safety concerns pertaining to pedestrian ROW along roads. In most if not all countries, pedestrians are limited where they may cross and there are jaywalking laws and penalties that are now being regarded as car-centric policies that need to be revised to favor pedestrians more than motor vehicles.

Zipper, D. (December 1, 2022) “The Case for Guerrilla Crosswalks,” Bloomberg CityLab, [Last accessed: 12/10/2022]

To quote from the article:

Such acts of unsanctioned “tactical urbanism” are of a kin to many other DIY street interventions, such as pop-up bike lanes. But they are not without risks. Affluent communities could have more residents willing to volunteer time and resources, for example, even though pedestrian deaths are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods. “The locations identified by guerrilla crosswalk activists may or may not coincide with where the planners and engineers have identified as highest need,” said Sam Zimbabwe, the former director of Seattle DOT.

But in Los Angeles, the Crosswalk Collective spokesperson said that the group is “always mindful of who has access to safety installations and who doesn’t,” adding that all its crosswalks to date have been sited in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods of Central and East Los Angeles.

Zimbabwe also noted the limited benefits of paint on faster roads (which the Federal Highway Administration has documented): “Particularly on multilane arterials, only marking a crosswalk without deploying other tools does not address the ‘multiple threat’ problem, where one driver stops but the driver in another lane does not.“ (The Crosswalk Collective spokesperson agreed, saying that the group rejects proposed locations due to safety concerns “all the time.”)

But in the right setting, unauthorized street infrastructure additions can lead to one of two outcomes — and both are constructive. One possibility is that the city removes it, in which case media attention and resident backlash put pressure on local officials to be more responsive to safety requests. (That coverage may also compel more residents to join street safety groups).

The other option is that city officials take the hint and accept what residents have built. Eight years ago, Seattle transportation planner Dongho Chang won the enduring appreciation of local cyclists when he responded to a pop-up bike lane first by thanking activists for their passion, and then by making the bike lane permanent. Now working with the Washington State Department of Transportation, Chang does not share Seattle DOT’s rigid opposition to guerrilla crosswalks. “It would be good to acknowledge the effort that was done by the residents,” he said. “If there is a way to keep the crosswalk, it would be ideal to try to do that.”

This is, of course, in the US where such tactical urbanism might be in vogue in certain cities and communities. Would such be allowed or encouraged in the Philippines? Actually, there are already many cases where tactical urbanism has been applied and usually at the community or barangay level. Prior to the DPWH putting in rumble strips at the approaches of schools, junctions and other locations perceived to be accident or crash prone, people have devised ways to slow down traffic in favor of pedestrian crossings. These include laying down old rubber tires cut and stretched to become humps. There are also barriers laid out to form something like an obstacle course; forcing vehicles to zig-zag instead of going straight along critical sections. These have allowed schoolchildren to cross safe in school zones and pedestrians crossing safely at intersections.

On making streets safer through woonerfs

One of the new things I learned when I was taking up transportation planning as an undergraduate student in the 1990s was about the woonerf. Our teacher then was a Visiting Professor from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He introduced to us many concepts in that elective course that paved the way to a number of us proceeding to specialize in transportation. What is a woonerf? Well, here’s a nice article defining the woonerf and providing some examples:

Ionescu, D. (October 6, 2022) “What is a Woonerf?” Planetizen, [Last accessed: 10/10/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Translated as “living street,” a woonerf employs strategies like traffic calming devices and low speed limits to force drivers to slow down and safely share street space with pedestrians, cylists, and others, often without raised curbs separating cars and pedestrians. In the Netherlands, where the woonerf originated in the 1960s, motorized traffic within woonerf zones is limited to walking speed…

…A woonerf is not a pedestrianized street, but rather one where multiple users and vehicles co-exist. However, a woonerf can be converted to car-free uses using bollards or other barriers. The woonerf maintains utilitarian uses like loading docks and parking while making the roadway safer and more accessible to non-drivers.”

There should be many applications to the woonerf in the Philippines especially in areas where the dominant land use is residential and through traffic should be discouraged. This is goes well with the complete streets concept that is now being promoted and in fact pre-dates the concept and was well ahead of its time.