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The need for speed (limits)?

My social media newsfeed regularly contains updates being posted by various entities about transport and traffic in Metro Manila and across the Philippines. Among those I regularly see are posts on road safety and interesting to me are the frequent posts on legislating speed limits at the local level. These are in the form of city or municipal ordinances that are supposed to strengthen, supplement and/or clarify speed limits that are actually already stated in the road design guidelines of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). These limits apply not only to national roads but to local ones as well. However, their effectiveness may be limited or reduced by the absence or lack of signs, markings and, most importantly, traffic law enforcers who are supposed to monitor traffic and apprehend those violating rules and regulations.

While there is a need for defining and clarifying speed limits perhaps in the form of local legislation, I believe the more urgent matter is the implementation and enforcement of laws. It has often been mentioned that we already have so many laws, rules, regulations and the truth is we do, and may not need more. One really has to go back to the basics in terms of enforcing these laws and that means enforcers need the knowledge and tools to be effective in their work. There is an opinion that many enforcers are not knowledgeable about many rules and regulations and therefore are prone to just focus on a few including violations of the number coding scheme, truck bans and the much maligned “swerving”. You do not often seen apprehensions for beating the red light, beating the green light (yes, there is such a violation), speeding, or “counter-flowing” (or using the opposing lane to get ahead of traffic in the correct lanes). There are also turning violations as well as those involving vehicle (busted tail lights, busted headlights, busted signal lights, obscured license plates, etc.). More recently, there are anti-drunk-driving laws that also urgently need proper implementation.

I think the current work that includes sidewalk clearing operations and anti-illegal on street parking of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is one good example of going back to the basics. These address the necessity of clearing space for both pedestrians and vehicles; space that have been constrained by obstacles that should not be there in the first place but so often have gotten the blind eye treatment. Going to the “next level” though requires tools such as speed guns,  high speed cameras at intersections, and instruments for measuring blood alcohol levels in the field (breath analyzers). And these require resources for acquisitions as well as capability building in the form of training personnel to handle equipment. No, I don’t think we need more laws, rules and regulations. What we urgently if not direly need is their proper implementation to effect behavior change that will improve both safety and the flow of traffic.

Ortigas Center walkways under construction

Currently under construction at the Ortigas Center are elevated walkways that are part of the Ortigas Greenways Project. Following are some photos I took a few weeks back (they’re old!), and so the current state should show significant progress from what is in the photos.

Elevated walkways are currently under construction at the Ortigas Center. This part can be seen along Julia Vargas Ave. at the intersection with Garnet St.

Structure at F. Ortigas, Jr.

Close-up of the F. Ortigas part of the elevated walkways

Walkway section under construction along the approach of ADB Ave./San Miguel Ave.

Crossing under construction at the intersection of Julia Vargas with San Miguel Ave. (to the left) and ADB Ave. (to the right).

View of the F. Ortigas crossing walkway along the eastbound direction of Julia Vargas Ave.

This project is perhaps one of the most hyped pedestrian facilities in Metro Manila and if I recall right, the concept for this can be traced to workshops conducted during one of the Transport Forums organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose headquarters are located in Ortigas Center. It took a while to be realized but should be completed soon. This won’t be the first of its kind in Metro Manila as Makati already has one connecting office and residential buildings to Greenbelt and Glorietta. I really do hope it is able to reduce congestion in the area but this would require studies after the facilities are opened for public use. We need more of these around Metro Manila as well as other major cities. We direly need facilities to encourage walking as a preferred mode over motorized transport.

Some articles on walking, biking and transit for wellness

Here are a couple of recent articles on walking, biking and transit:

Walk, bike, and transit benefits boost people of all incomes [McAnaney, P. in Greater Greater Washington, June 13, 2017]

“Bikes are happiness machines.” Behind the Handlebars with cyclist extraordinaire Joe Flood [Maisler, R. in Greater Greater Washington, June 7, 2017]

I posted these partly for future reference but also to promote walking, biking and public transport. These are essential elements for mobility anywhere and governments should ensure that people have these as options for traveling about and not be dependent on automobiles for transport.

On distracted driving vs. other, more urgent, traffic issues

Much has been written and said about the new law against distracted driving. The people who crafted the law, Senators and Congressmen, are in agreement that their intention was mainly to address the rampant use of gadgets including cell phones by motorists. Yet, when the agencies in-charge of implementation drew up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), their interpretation was the subject of a lot of complaints. Many opined that the IRR didn’t take into consideration actual vehicle dashboard designs or that the definition of the term “line of sight” was open to interpretation. This necessitated another round of consultations with stakeholders leading to the infographic below:

Frankly, I am more concerned about speeding, counter flowing and reckless weaving in traffic. These are equally if not more dangerous than many aspects of the distracted driving law. Quite serious would be the combination of distractions with any of the three behaviors mentioned. More disturbing would be the deliberate (definitely not distracted) or conscious acts of speeding, counter flowing and reckless weaving that are often the cases if one observes the incidence of these three driving behavior. We can only wonder about the likelihood of crashes due to these behaviors.

On low income cyclists

There are two articles that I want to share here. These are quite interesting for me as they tackle something not usually written about when it comes to cycling. The “invisible biker” referred to in one of the articles is the typical low-income cyclist. These are those who can be seen regularly using their bicycles to commute to and from their workplaces; likely to save hard-earned money for more important items such as food and shelter (rent?). They do not use fancy bicycles like those nice, branded mountain, road or fat bikes that you see being used by recreational bikers or weekend cyclists. They most likely use second-hand bikes like those surplus bicycles from Japan, or perhaps old BMX’s that have been modified to make it a bit more comfortable for the long commutes.

Quednau, R. (2017) The Invisible Bike Riders, Strong Towns, http://www.strongtowns.org, May 2.

Koeppel, D. (2015) How Low-Income Cyclists Go Unnoticed, Bicycling, http://www.bicycling.com, November 9.

I think these are the bike riders that we should be providing safe bikeways for. They are the ones who most often use bicycles for their trips and are at risk of being hit by motor vehicles.

On motorcycle taxis becoming the “new king of the road” (cont.)

This is a continuation of the yesterday’s post on motorcycle taxis. The feature appearing in Sunstar Philippines also focuses on the case of Cebu City where there is a rising demand for motorcycles and issues on public transport have given rise to a motorcycle taxi use despite their being basically illegal under current laws/guidelines. Habal-habal as these motorized 2-wheeler taxis are known have been in service in many cities and municipalities but are mostly tolerated in rural areas where conventional public transport services are scarce.

Part II of the feature by Sunstar:

New King of the Road – Part II

There are three articles in Part II:

Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Motorcycles on the rise, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from: http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Habal-habal drivers form group to ‘professionalize’ services, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Hailing a motorcycle taxi with your smartphone, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

 

Part III of the feature by Sunstar:

New King of the Road – Part III

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Even with BRT, motorbikes still needed in Cebu City, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from www. sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Will Cebu City lead the way?, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

I hope these articles on motorcycles and motorcycle taxis will generate meaningful discussions pertaining to their applications and perhaps their regulation. One issue, of course, that should definitely be on the table is safety. That is non-negotiable and assurances by motorcycle taxi transport providers should not be enough to persuade their becoming formalized as a public transport mode. The basis for mainstreaming these should be evidence-based including assessments based on crash (accident) data. Here is something that can be studied by the various schools around the country especially universities that have the capacities and capabilities to conduct such studies in aid of policy formulation at the national and local levels.

 

On motorcycle taxis becoming the new “king of the road”

There is a really nice feature on Sunstar about motorcycle taxis that came out today. This was shared by a good friend on his social media account, which got my attention as we just completed a study on motorcycles last January 2017. Here is the feature:

New King of the Road – Part I

Part I includes two articles:

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Habal-habal invades cities, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Anunciado, D.D. (2017) Deadly motorcycle rides, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Here’s a graphic from the second article that says a lot about motorcycle safety in Metro Manila:

I would just like to comment that the graphic shows MMDA-recorded crashes in Metro Manila. There can be a lot of incidents that went unrecorded or unreported with the MMDA. It would be interesting to check with the local government units about their own statistics and compare these with the MMDA’s. Also, “crashes” is the preferred term over “accidents” as road safety practitioners and advocates argue that these are preventable incidents.

Sadly, such statistics can only be shown by cities doing the diligent work of recording such incidents. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has already ceased collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting road crash reports many years ago (which is quite surprising for an agency mandated to plan, design, construct and maintain national roads). There is currently no agency (no, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has not yet taken over the enormous task) that is collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting on road crashes at a nationwide scale and few LGUs do so at their levels.

I will also post about Part II once its out. There is a preview of what articles will be in the next feature and so that is something to look forward to.