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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, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-12-01/when-crosswalks-go-rogue [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 intersection treatments for bicycles

With the increasing popularity of bicycles as a mode of transport particularly for commuting (e.g., bike-to-work, bike-to-school), we should be redesigning our intersections to include elements essential for the safety of all users, whether on motorized or non-motorized modes. Here is a short but very informative article on how a simple intersection treatment can significantly improve safety for everyone especially cyclists and pedestrians:

Grief, N. (December 2, 2022) “How Green Paint Can Save Cyclists’ Lives,” Bicycling.com, https://www.bicycling.com/news/a42124210/bike-boxes-intersections/ [Last accessed: 12/3/2022]

To quote from the article:

“A bike box, on the other hand, seems to be the ideal middle ground and the option of the three that these researchers recommend. Cyclists feel more comfortable when compared to the free-for-all of a mixing zone because they have a designated area to be and they’re out ahead of vehicles, but according to the eye movement analysis, they remain alert and watchful for vehicles.”

Here are a couple of drawings showing bike boxes at intersections from the recent Bike Lanes Master Plan for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao that was developed by DOTr with assistance from the UNDP:

Bike boxes on a typical three-leg intersection (DOTr and UNDP, 2022)

Bike boxes on a typical four-leg intersection (DOTr and UNDP, 2022)

The preceding drawings adhere to the DPWH design guidelines that mainly follow AASHTO Guidelines. Of course, there are other design references such as NACTO and the manuals of other countries (e.g., Netherlands, Australia, Singapore, etc.) were the best practice designs can be adopted for local applications.

Who can design bikeways?

I have read many comments about how bike lanes and other bike facilities are sub-standard or unacceptable because they were designed by non-cyclists. From an academic perspective and perhaps also from a point of view of someone who values empathy, the planning and design of bicycle facilities should not be so limited. The objective of education, and particularly for schools whose graduates become professionals like engineers, architects and planners, should be to have the latter be able to plan and design the most suitable infrastructure and facilities for all users. Suitability here should include equity considering the many elements involved for people of different gender, physical ability or disability, age, health conditions, etc. That said, it is the responsibility of agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to revise and update their design manuals and guidelines to ensure that these are according to International standards and mindful of the best practices in various cities and countries that are now very well documented.

Bike lane in BGC,Taguig City

Bike lane and jogging/walking lane in UP Diliman

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, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/woonerf?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-10062022&mc_cid=9d60b3d668&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [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.

On addressing global warming

Here is another quick share of an article; this time on “warming”. The evidence for global warming is strong and we need to address this pressing issue if future generations are to survive a planet that is heating up fast.

Litman, T. (August 31, 2022) “Cool Planning for a Hotter Future,” Planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/118535-cool-planning-hotter-future?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-09012022&mc_cid=ead7ee914a&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 9/5/2022]

To quote:

“Many of these strategies provide significant co-benefits. For example, reducing road and parking supply with more efficient traffic and parking management helps reduce infrastructure costs and traffic problems, and by reducing impervious surface area it reduces stormwater management costs. Planting more urban shade trees helps create more attractive neighborhoods and increase wildlife habitat. Improving natural ventilation creates more comfortable and healthier buildings, as summarized below.”

I recall people calling for more trees to be planted along roads and how our city streets can become something like Orchard Road in Singapore. I agree with having more trees and other plants, landscaping, along our roads. I also lament the times (and it continues) when the DPWH chopped so many old trees along national roads for road widening projects that didn’t need to destroy so many that gave those roads shade as well as character. We need more change in mindsets particularly when we design highways and streets towards sustainability and yes- reducing heat.

The wide Roman Highway, Bataan

As it is National Heroes Day today, I thought it would be nice to feature a road in an area that witnessed the experiences and sacrifices of many heroes. I traveled to Bataan last July and took some photos of the roads there including the Roman Highway, which is the main corridor connecting many of the province’s major towns. Also called the Roman Superhighway, the highway originally had 2 lanes (bi-directional and undivided) with shoulders along both side of the road. Eventually, it was widened and extended to 4 lanes (2 per direction) with wide shoulders. The current Roman Highway has been expanded to 6 lanes with shoulders but for most parts appear to effectively have only 4 lanes and paved shoulders.

The wide Roman Highway does not carry much vehicular traffic

The road widening is not complete as most bridges have not been widened. These produce bottlenecks like the one in the photo where the additional lane is effectively relegated to a shoulder.

The highway is practically straight but presents many examples of sags and crests. For those into highway engineering, images like the ones I share in this post are textbook examples for sight distance topics.

Another sag vertical curve with a bridge near or at the lowest point in the sag. Again, notice that the additional lanes are currently discontinuous at the bridge and there’s a barrier (orange) to warn motorists and guide them back to the original carriageway.

The highway is used by many trucks as there are industrial centers located along the highway including the PNOC in Limay and what used to be called the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZ now the Bataan Freeport) at the end of the highway in Mariveles.

The widening of the Roman Highway includes the addition of one lane per direction and a narrow shoulder just before the sidewalks. The shoulder could easily be configured into a bike lane but that third lane can easily be designated for bicycles considering the traffic is usually light at most sections of the highway.

A section where the bridge has already been widened features 3 wide lanes per direction. The shoulders are still there but are not included in the bridge.

LGUs are joining the No-Contact Apprehension bandwagon

Another view of the wide highway

 

More on Bataan roads in a future post. I also took photos of the Gov. J.J. Linao National Road (Pilar – Bagac Road), which is the main access road to the Mt. Samat Shrine.

A Bike Master Plan for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao

Before Active Transport Week concludes this weekend, I would just like to share this collage from one of our staff at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is about the Master Plan developed for the three metropolitan areas in the country – Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.  I will share more details about this soon including a link or links to where you can download a copy of the plan.

The project concluded recently with the submission of the Final Report but most important is the Master Plan document that can serve as a reference for further development of bike lanes in the metropolises. I’ve seen the Master Plan and many of its provisions and recommendations can easily be adopted or is replicable in other cities and municipalities in the country. Perhaps, there should be a National Master Plan?

Star ratings for bicycles

I just wanted to do a quick share of a new method for evaluating road and bicycling infrastructure – cycleRAP. This was developed by the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), which has established a star rating system as the international standard for road safety assessments. We currently use their Star Ratings for Schools (SR4S) to evaluate the school environment towards ensuring safe journeys for school children. Here’s the link to their website:

https://irap.org/cyclerap/

To quote from the site: “CycleRAP is an easy, affordable and fast method of evaluating road and bicycling infrastructure for safety. It aims to reduce crashes and improve safety specifically for bicyclists and other light mobility users by identifying high risk locations without the need for crash data.”

On walkability and walkability scores

I’m sharing a couple of articles on walkability and walkability scores. The first one actually points to the second but provides brief insights about the concept of walkability while the second is a more detailed article on the findings of a study on walkability.

Ionesco, D. (May 4, 2022) “Walkability Scores Don’t Tell the Whole Story,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/news/2022/05/117075-walkability-scores-dont-tell-whole-story?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-05052022&mc_cid=c04e3e4dc0&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 5/7/2022]

To quote from the article:

“if cities truly want to be pedestrian-friendly, they need to think beyond the sidewalk…”

The second article is from late April:

Gwam, P., Noble, E. and Freemark, Y. (April 28, 2022) “Redefining Walkability,” urban.org, https://www.urban.org/features/redefining-walkability [Last accessed: 5/7/2022]

To quote from the article:

“To create a more comfortable walking experience, our research points to a few steps DC planners and policymakers can take to increase racially equitable walkability across the city:

  • expand tree cover in the densest parts of the city,

  • increase nonautomotive modes of transportation in central areas,

  • reduce noise pollution,

  • support more equitable access to key resources, and

  • prioritize road design that limits the need for police traffic enforcement.”

While the article puts emphasis on the topic of racial equity, such concept can easily be adapted and adopted for our purposes. For one, it could be interpreted as being inclusive if one is not comfortable with the term “race”.

Don’t miss downloading the technical appendix of their report. This will be very useful to researchers, practitioners and advocates of active transport.

Where do trucks fit in complete streets?

The complete streets concept usually involve transforming streets to favor active and public transport. The typical discussions and presentations on complete streets are often focused on taking away road space from cars to allocate to pedestrians (e.g., wider sidewalks), cyclists (e.g., bike lanes) and public transport (e.g., transit lanes). Seldom do we read about trucks, deliveries and related items even in guides and manuals and are often just implied to be addressed in street transformation examples.

Evans, T. (March 24, 2022) “”Complete Streets” and Goods Delivery: What are Streets For?” New Jersey Future, https://www.njfuture.org/2022/03/24/complete-streets-and-goods-delivery-what-is-a-street-for/ [Last accessed: 4/5/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Not every final destination for a package needs to be accessible to large trucks. Rather than proposing truck-focused modifications (wider lanes, bigger turning radii, etc.) to local streets in order to accommodate truck deliveries, transportation planners and logistics industry professionals should focus instead on matching the type of delivery vehicle to the environment in which the destination is located.”

I recall the mainly pedestrianized shopping streets (shotengai) in Japan when I try to make sense of how delivery vehicles can be included in the discussion. The Japanese use small trucks or vans for deliveries and mostly these are confined to the side streets. However, during certain times of the day, usually early mornings or after business hours, they are allowed inside the shopping street for quick deliveries or pick-ups. This show what kind of goods vehicles and operations may be permitted.