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Suffering and salvation for transport and traffic

I shared the following photo on social media with the label “Kalbaryo at Kaligtasan”:

Cyclist pedaling ahead of cars queueing along the C5 ramp towards BGC

The label or title has double meaning. Conspicuous in the photo is the image of the Crucifixion atop what is a small shrine along Circumferential Road 5 across and facing SM Aura. The image appears to be a reminder or symbol of suffering but with the superimposed image of traffic congestion, alludes to the suffering endured by motorists on a daily basis. The “kaligtasan” or salvation part of the photo is in the form of the cyclist or the bicycle (I really have to explain that, right?) that offers an alternative or even hope for those who seek it. One thing the pandemic has taught us is that active transport in the form of walking or cycling is part of the solution to the transport problems we are experiencing. Public transport, of course, is touted as an ultimate solution but the reforms and infrastructure required are and will take time to implement, and these are already encountering problems leading to further delays or ineffectiveness.

On the right to a walkable life

Here is an article from a perspective that’s very relevant today everywhere. We need to examine our daily routines particularly when it comes to commuting or moving about. Do we live in walkable communities? Is walking to certain places like school, the market, or the office an option to many of us? Or do we automatically choose to ride a car, a tricycle or motorcycle to get to these places?

Malchik, A. (May 13, 2022) “Driving is killing us,”  Medium.com, https://antoniamalchik.medium.com/driving-is-killing-us-6a1b35158458 [Last accessed: 5/28/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Ask yourself this question: if you stepped foot outside your door, would you be able to walk anywhere you needed or wanted to go? Can you walk to a store, a library, school, or work? If your answer is “no,” what’s stopping you? Distance, highways, private property, broken or absent or inaccessible sidewalks? …

The loss of walking as an individual and a community act has the potential to destroy our deepest spiritual connections, our democratic societies, our neighborhoods, our freedom, our health, and our lives. But we can reclaim it. We can start to make a world that welcomes the walker, the pedestrian, rather than paving over that incredible human inheritance.”

I myself have enjoyed the benefits of walking when I was a college student in UP, when I was studying abroad in Japan, when we lived in Singapore and now in our community in the midst of the pandemic. I always think about opportunities and even schedule times for walking. Nowadays I am even conscious of my daily step count, which I equate with being active.

On phasing out cars in cities

I’m sharing another article on reducing car dependence. The article was referred to by the previous series that I shared recently.

Nicholas, K. (April 14, 2022) “12 best ways to get cars out of cities – ranked by new research,” The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/12-best-ways-to-get-cars-out-of-cities-ranked-by-new-research-180642 [Last accessed: 5/20/2022]

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

“Question: what do the following statistics have in common?

The second-largest (and growing) source of climate pollution in Europe.
The leading killer of children in both the US and Europe.
A principal cause of stress-inducing noise pollution and life-shortening air pollution in European cities.
A leading driver of the widening gap between rich and poor urban residents.

Answer: the vehicles on our streets, primarily the not-so-humble passenger car.”

also this:

“The research is clear: to improve health outcomes, meet climate targets and create more liveable cities, reducing car use should be an urgent priority.”

and this:

“To meet the planet’s health and climate goals, city governments need to make the necessary transitions for sustainable mobility by, first, avoiding the need for mobility (see Paris’s 15-minute city); second, shifting remaining mobility needs from cars to active and public transport wherever possible; and finally, improving the cars that remain to be zero-emission.”

You can also listen instead of reading it as it is a narrated article.

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.

On bicycle economics in the Philippines

I am sharing this link to a newly minted reference that should be useful to policy or decision-makers (yes, that includes politicians) in justifying bicycle facilities including bike lanes around the country.

https://www.freiheit.org/philippines/bikenomics-assessing-value-cycling-philippines

There’s been a dearth in local references and this should suffice for now pending more in-depth studies on the benefits of cycling and related-facilities and programs in the Philippines. Note that while the reference mentions certain calculations and unit costs, it would be better to have the actual numbers from the various LGUs that have constructed bike lanes and facilities, and implementing bike programs and projects. Quezon City and Mandaue City, for example, should have the numbers that can serve as initial data for compiling and eventual publication of unit costs per type or design of bike lanes or bikeways. LGUs and national government should gather, process and make use of such data in aid of bike facilities and infrastructure development that will attract people away from private motor vehicle use while reinforcing both active and public transport mode shares.

Article on how cities can rapidly expand bike networks

With the increasing popularity of bicycles for utilitarian use (e.g., bike to work, bike to school, etc.), the need for strategies, programs and projects to support cycling has become more urgent. This is mainly to sustain the increase of bicycle use and partly to enhance the safety of cyclists. Here is an article that discusses how cities can rapidly expand bike networks:

https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/how-can-cities-rapidly-expand-access-cycling-infrastructure

To quote from the article:

“Our research points to several key recommendations for other cities hoping to expand their cycling infrastructure and encourage a more rapid shift toward biking and away from cars.
– Local governments can lead the implementation of a large-scale expansion of cycling infrastructure if local leaders can commit to ambitious, quantified mileage goals that will help structure how capital dollars are spent.
– Local implementation goals should include metrics related to increasing equity, particularly for people of color and those with low incomes. Although the Final Mile program increased the number of miles of cycling infrastructure, it did not directly prioritize the people who could benefit most from improvements.
– Philanthropic funders interested in supporting climate-friendly infrastructure should ensure their funds help hold local policymakers accountable to achieving their commitments instead of funding infrastructure projects directly. They can also encourage collaboration between cities and nonprofit advocates while working to fill local capacity gaps, such as through engineering consultants.”

Bike lane at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Metro Manila

Article on evaluating transport equity

Here is another quick share of an article on transportation equity:

Litman, T. (February 2, 2022) “Evaluating Transportation Equity: ITE Quickbite,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/news/2022/02/116058-evaluating-transportation-equity-ite-quickbite [Last accessed: 2/4/2022]

Transportation equity is a very relevant, very timely topic as people in the Philippines are just beginning to understand and weigh the advantages of having more efficient transport in the forms of active and public transport over private vehicles.

The case for bike lanes

There is a strong push for more bike lanes to be developed along both major and minor roads. Many pop-up bike lanes that were implemented and permanent bike lanes constructed in 2020, mostly during the lockdowns, to address the needs of ‘frontliners’ who opted to bike to work have been retained and even upgraded to adhere to guidelines issued by the DPWH. While these bike lanes are not yet as comprehensive as desired and most are not the protected types, recent developments have threatened their existence and consequently the safety of cyclists (especially bike-to-work) and the promotion of cycling as a primary mode of transport.

Biker with a passenger – angkas is not just for motorcycles but can also apply to bicycles as well

We need to transform our streets where it is possible in order to take advantage of the increasing popularity of cycling that has convinced some people to select cycling at least for their last mile trips and hopefully for the most part(s) of their commute. From a transport planning perspective, we should also determine if these mode shifts can be sustained and perhaps increased with proper integration of public transport and active transport thrusts.

The recent removal of protected bike lanes or barriers that serve to protect cyclists using the lanes in some cities are examples of regression rather than progression. These come as a surprise as these cities have made leaps and bounds so to speak in developing their bike lane networks. Where did the orders to do so originate and are staffs of these cities communicating, discussing and coordinating these actions? Apparently, there are internal conflicts and perhaps, I dare say here, politics involved. It is also possible that within LGUs, the concepts, visions and plans for transportation are not harmonized or understood making one project by one clique unacceptable to another or others. I know from personal experiences that LGU traffic engineering & management and operations staff are often not in synch with their planning counterparts. This is not and should not be a given since both need to collaborate in order to address transport and traffic issues that need more comprehensive and progressive approaches compared to what have been practiced before.

LGUs cannot rely on strategies and tactics that are along the lines of “ganito na ginagawa noon pa” or “ganito na inabutan ko”, which only proves these were ineffective (i.e., why not try other techniques, methods or strategies instead?). Transformations and paradigm changes to solve transport problems cannot be achieved by denying the change, innovation or new ideas required for emerging as well as persistent issues/problems.

Bike lanes at BGC

We were at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) a couple of weeks ago after almost two years of not going there mainly due to the pandemic. We frequented BGC before especially since my wife’s office is there and, if it weren’t for the ‘old normal’ traffic, the place offered a lot in terms of restaurants and shops. When traffic wasn’t as bad, we even had our Saturdays there with our daughter as her Kindermusik sessions were originally there before we transferred to their branch at The Grove. It’s not yet post-pandemic but traffic is back to ‘old normal’ levels.

I was expecting to see the bike lanes along C5 and at BGC when we traveled there. I will post separately about the bike lanes along C5. I just wanted to share here a few photos the wife took of the bike lanes at BGC. It is truly a welcome development not just here but in many places across the country where cycling offers another option for trips of various purposes including commuting between homes and workplaces. The protected lanes along 9th Avenue are wide and can be replicated elsewhere in order to encourage more people to use bicycles. The connectivity of bike lanes, though, leaves much to be desired if one expects people to use bikes for longer trips.

Entering BGC from the C5 ramp, one immediately notices the bike lane at the right along 32nd Street.
The bike lane is clearer at the approach to the intersection. There are no bike boxes (yet) at BGC but they can probably consider this improvement for their intersections.
Here’s what it looks like when cyclists arrive and congregate at the approach to the intersection. The corner island also acts as refuge for pedestrians crossing the road. Note that this is a wide section of 32nd Street, which is one of the major streets at BGC.
Protected bike lane along 9th Avenue with a clear sign vs. motor vehicles using the lane. The width is a full lane (i.e., more than 3m wide) so this can be used for two-way bike traffic.

Safe streets for children

We have been working with UNICEF and several partner organizations on a project on Child Road Traffic Injury Prevention (CRTIP). The Final Reports for the two pilot cities, Valenzuela City and Zamboanga City, have been submitted and represents over 2 years work including during the lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The latter part of project implementation indeed became a challenge as we couldn’t travel and engage face-to-face or conduct field surveys like how we did in the first part of the project. Still, I believe we were able to accomplish much and most of what we initially set out to do. Here are the covers of the Final Reports we submitted to UNICEF and we understand will be officially or formally transmitted to the two cities.

The reports narrate the surveys conducted for 25 schools in Zamboanga and 41 schools in Valenzuela. Each initially had selected 25 schools but Valenzuela pushed for an additional 16 schools midway into the project. The SR4S tool developed by iRAP was used for the assessments of critical areas around the schools. The initial assessments were used to identify interventions to improve safety in these areas and recommendations were submitted for consideration of the cities as well as the DPWH where applicable (i.e., the DPWH has jurisdiction over national roads and improvements proposed along these). While some interventions were implemented, others and many were delayed mainly due to Covid-19.

We also conducted a survey to determine the commuting characteristics of schoolchildren in both cities. Since most schools were public schools, it was no surprise that most children lived near the schools or within the school district (which is basically the catchment area for these schools). Thus, it also came as no surprise that most schoolchildren came by foot (walking), motorcycles (riding with a parent) or motor tricycle. There’s a lot of information and takeaways from the data but unfortunately, we could get the bigger, more complete picture of Valenzuela City because they selected only elementary schools covering students from Grades 1 to 6. Zamboanga had a more robust data set with both elementary and high schools, covering Grades 1 to 12. The information derived from these surveys were also analyzed and related to the SR4S assessments. The commuting survey results and SR4S assessment are subject of two technical papers presented in the recent EASTS 2021 conference hosted by Hiroshima University.

What’s next? We are now drafting a proposal for a Phase 2 of the project. We hope to continue and reinforce and follow-up on the recommended interventions from Phase 1. We also hope to be able to work on the CRTIP data hub that was only partly completed due to the many constraints faced by that part of the project. I will post here from time to time about some of the outcomes from the surveys and assessments.