Caught (up) in traffic

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Bitukang Manok

I woke up from a long nap just before we entered a major zigzag section of the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. That literally translates to “chicken innards or intestines”, which is how many travellers would describe the alignment of this section of the national highway network. We decided to take the “old zigzag road” instead of the “new diversion road” since the latter is known to be already congested especially as trucks and buses take this road instead of the zigzag.

Expectedly, the road offered all kinds of curves and grades throughout. I was glad to see relatively new barriers already installed or constructed along the entire length of Bitukang Manok.

Here is a particularly challenging section combining sharp hairpin curves with steep inclines.

We caught up with this rider along a relatively straight and level segment of the road

There are flagmen strategically deployed along the most difficult parts of the road including this one that might lead inexperienced or erring drivers to drive/ride straight off a cliff.

Here’s another hairpin curve; this time on the way down from the mountain.

The final turn of the road before it merged with the diversion road

Sign at the other end of the road showing travellers the divergence of the national highway into the “old zigzag road” and the “new diversion road”. Notice the platoon of southbound trucks at right. 

I remember Bitukang Manok as a dreaded section among travellers before not just from the safety viewpoint but also because many can get sick (e.g., motion sickness that may result into throwing up) going through the section especially if the driver is not as smooth in manoeuvring the vehicle through the zigzags. There were also long distance bicycle races before where the Bitukang Manok featured as the main challenge to the best cyclists and the winner of that leg of the race was pronounced as “king of the mountain”.

Looking forward to another long road trip

It has been a while since I had a long road trip. The last one was not particularly long as it was only until Lucena City in Quezon. Prior to that was a trip to Baguio City. And so I am looking forward to this trip to Bicol this week and I do hope to take a lot of photos along the way. That includes photos of arches that I have not had the chance of taking that I know I can get a lot of during this trip that will take us through several provinces in Southern Luzon. Those photos and the experiences from the trip will probably dominate the postings this February.

On the unpredictability of EDSA traffic

Much has been written about the traffic along EDSA, which is perhaps Metro Manila’s most famous (some would say infamous) thoroughfare. These include the unpredictability of congestion along this road. While it is hard to believe that traffic congestion is unpredictable for EDSA because very often it is congested, there are times when you just marvel that its free-flowing during the day or shocked that its packed with cars close to midnight. Last week, we experienced both predictability and unpredictability in the sense that we did expect EDSA to be congested near Ortigas (due to the dismissals of schools in the vicinity) but didn’t expect it to be packed during what we thought was “alanganin na oras” that was around 3PM.

 

EDSA northbound traffic taken at Guadalupe last October 1, 2018 at 3:30PM.

Interestingly, there was no congestion after Ortigas Avenue and we quickly made up for the time lost in the congestion we experienced from Gil Puyat Avenue. Is this another case of the phantom congestion where the simple disturbances in the traffic stream can create a ripple effect resulting in congestion? Or is this somewhat like an everyday thing? EDSA is not part of my daily commute so I am not so sure about the regularity of this situation but at least the weather didn’t factor in the equation. Heavy rains usually lead to flash floods along this thoroughfare, and these floods will definitely lead intense congestion.

More on ads masquerading as signs

I recently wrote about what I thought were ads masquerading as signs. It turns out a friend also took notice of similar signs along Katipunan and decided to make this a topic of his vlog. I learned that he has corresponded with the MMDA regarding this matter and even contacted the company behind these ads (I would prefer to call them what they really are.) to get their take on the matter. It turns out that the company is quite aware that what they are doing are basically not according to DPWH guidelines pertaining to signage. I wouldn’t and couldn’t say it is illegal since the MMDA and LGUs gave their approvals for these ads to be installed.

 

Approaching Cainta Junction from Antipolo, there is a sign that advertises Cherry Antipolo, which is all the way back and past Masinag Junction along Marcos Highway.

Less than a kilometre away from Masinag Junction along Sumulong Highway, there’s another ad posing as a road sign and from a certain angle it covers a more important traffic advisory concerning the construction of the Line 2 Extension.

This ad doesn’t even pretend anymore since all directions point to an Ayala Mall!

Following are examples of what may be tolerated and what must be disapproved and therefore removed. Guidelines are important so that the criteria for signs including ads masquerading as such will be clearly spelled out and approval/disapproval will not be

Logical: The photo below shows a sign installed by the DPWH showing the general directions for towns (Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo) or major thoroughfares (EDSA). The smaller sign is actually an ad for a mall but is located near a major junction (Cainta Junction – intersection of Ortigas Avenue Extension and Felix Avenue/A. Bonifacio Avenue) and may perhaps be tolerated as the mall is close by. Such a sign can be justified to assure or validate the direction to be taken by a traveler headed for this mall.

Not logical: The sign below is meters away from Masinag Junction in Antipol but advertises the same mall as the previous sign. It is not logical and should not have been approved since it is far from the destination mall and does not offer a validation or assurance for direction like the previous sign. In fact, the same mall chain has a branch nearby in the Masinag area and another one further on along the Marikina River. This sign should be removed as it adds to the clutter, the visual noise that makes people blind or numb to the actual road signs that require their attention.

 

[Disclaimer: For purposes of transparency, my colleagues and I also have worked as consultants for projects such as malls but never have we recommended for signs like these.]

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.

Cavitex

I had wanted to post about the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) but kept putting it off as I had few photos of the tollway. Formerly known as the Coastal Road, it is now operated by the Metro Pacific group, which also operates the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and the Subic Freeport Expressway (SFX). Here are photos I took last February this year when we went to Bacoor with our Japanese research lead. Most of the photos show sections towards Cavite (southbound).

The tollways has 3 lanes along each direction.

On one side is the bay where reclamation projects are proposed or currently under way.

Lane markings in an attempt to position vehicles towards the toll plaza, which is visible from afar in the photo

Vehicles queuing at the toll plaza – it can get very congested here during the peak periods and seasons.

Cavitex toll plaza

There is basically one toll plaza for the tollway for either direction.

Free-flowing traffic during an off-peak period

Approaching the interchange where vehicles bound for Bacoor, Imus and Las Pinas take the right side of the road to exit via the trumpet ramp shown ahead at right. Other vehicles bound for Kawit and Cavite City go straight.

Climbing the ramp to exit towards Bacoor, Cavite

Off-ramp to Bacoor, Imus and Las Pinas

Where expressway meets the national highway

Overpass towards the tollway

Toll plaza for the northbound (to Manila) direction

On the Pasig HOV lane experiment, again

I recently wrote about some thoughts on Pasig City’s HOV lane experiment along Julia Vargas Avenue. Here are a few more considering the experiment didn’t push through last February 28.

Screen cap (courtesy of ABS CBN) showing the starting date for the HOV lane experiment. I think ‘HOV’ is more appropriate than ‘carpool’ since the requirement is for vehicles using the lane to have 4 or more passengers. Having only 2 passengers still qualify as a carpool.

I learned recently that the experiment has been put off to March 26, 2018:

[Photo courtesy of Dulce Justiniani]

 

The current set-up has 2 lanes for motorised vehicles including a wide lane for HOV’s (including public utility vehicles like buses and vans). HOV’s here also include cars but those with at least 4 occupants. Here are a couple of photos showing us what could possibly happen should enforcement be weak given the configuration of the lanes along Julia Vargas:

Private van running along the lane designated for HOV’s alongside a solitary cyclist on the bike lane.

An SUV overtaking the van via the bike lane and the extra space of the HOV lane.

Wide lanes generally encourage higher speeds. I believe the way to go would be to have narrower lanes. And should these be considered, it would be possible to have 3 lanes for motorised traffic with one assigned for HOV’s and another for motorcycles. These are aside from the bicycle lane that I think should also be a protected lane. Protection here may be through the provision of “forgiving” physical dividers in the form of, say, rubber bollards.

Here’s how the Julia Vargas carriageway could be laid out:

Again, these are just suggestions for whoever are in-charge of the experiment-to-be along Julia Vargas Avenue. I hope that they are able to make some assessments even prior to the experiment. Such can be done using simulation software in order to have a handle on traffic related issues that may crop up during the implementation. Still, a big factor would be the enforcement aspects of the proposed policy for motor vehicles. Strict, firm and sustained enforcement would be necessary in order for this to succeed.