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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.
I want to share an article discussing new guidelines for bikeways released in the US.
Andersen, M. (2017) “Which Bike Lanes Should Be Protected? New Guide Offers Specifics,” Streets Blog USA, https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/11/01/which-bike-lanes-should-be-protected-new-guide-offers-specifics/ (Last accessed 11/16/2017)
This is useful not only for practitioners or planners but also for academic purposes such as in transportation planning or engineering courses where future planners and engineers are molded.
You see a lot of people these days who are always on their smart phones. Many are walking while doing something with their phones whether making a call, typing away, listening to music or perhaps attending to social media. Many are not aware of what are happening around them and this puts them in a situation where that increases their vulnerability. There are those who cross streets without checking for oncoming traffic. There are those walking along the roadside who are not mindful of the likelihood of being sideswiped by vehicles. As such, there is a need to address this behavioral concern to reduce the occurrence of incidents that could lead to deaths if not injuries.
There is a nice article I read recently about an initiative in the Netherlands where they installed pavement traffic lights:
Scott, G.L. (2017) “Dutch City Installs Pavement Traffic Lights to Help ‘Phone Zombies’,” Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/article/38472-dutch-city-installs-pavement-traffic-lights-to-help-phone-zombies?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=culture&utm_campaign=photo, (Last accessed 11/19/2017).
The assessment for this initiative is quite limited – one day as mentioned in the article – but is promising especially from the perspective of innovation. We need such innovative thinking in order to address the issues about safety. This is but one example of many aimed at curbing road crashes that lead to injuries and deaths particularly with respect to the most vulnerable among us.
There is another recent article on non-motorized transport (NMT). This is a good read and something that I think should be required for those who are little too serious or staunch about their advocacies.
Doyon, S. (2017) “Building support for walking and bicycling infrastructure” Public Square, A CNU Journal, https://www.cnu.org/publicsquare/2017/11/11/building-support-walking-and-bicycling-infrastructure (Last accessed 11/11/2017)
I believe that if you want to convince people to appreciate and support your cause, you should not take the hardline. Instead, there should be a more persuasive process for wooing people. This is especially true in transportation and the advocacies for walking and cycling. You will not get a lot of support, for example, by condemning car users and telling everyone they should bike instead.
I wrote earlier this year about a beloved aunt who was involved in a road crash. She was hit by a jeepney driven recklessly as she was walking; on her way to church one early morning. She was in the hospital for weeks before she finally passed away. It was painful to see her in her hospital bed, unconscious but fighting for her life.
No, I don’t feel anger anymore whenever I recall the incident and note that if the driver were just careful then she would still have been alive today. I feel sad. I feel sad and frustrated that despite all the efforts a lot of people have put into road safety programs and projects, there seems to be little in terms of the reduction of recklessness on the roads. The recent weeks, for example, are full of reports of crashes that claimed the lives of many and injured more. These often involved trucks that mowed down everyone in their paths. Then, you see a lot of motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic, many ride like stuntmen and without regard for life, limb or property as long as they can get away with it.
Additional laws in the form of local ordinances or Republic Acts will not be effective in reducing road crashes and the death toll it has brought upon us. It is the enforcement, the implementation of these rules and regulations. Rules and regulations are just words that, if not acted upon, do not have any effectiveness. And so we get to the root of the problem and that is enforcement; the lacking if not missing ingredient in the road safety broth that is necessary to save lives and create a safer environment for all. Does it deserve more attention and resources from our national government and local authorities who are in-charge of most of the enforce aspects of road safety? I do think so. Statistics on traffic-related deaths, injuries and damage to property compare strongly with if not exceed those attributed to drug abuse. When you purposely drive recklessly and crash into another vehicle or person, one is practically murderous. You also destroy the lives of people related to the person you kill or injure (e.g., that person could be the sole breadwinner of a family). The comparisons and examples are plenty and I am sure a lot of people have their own personal experiences about this as well as their opinions. For now though, let us reflect on those who perished from road crashes and perhaps think not about “what could have been” but instead of “what can be done.”
We conclude the month of October with the following recommended readings:
- Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach, An ITE Recommended Practice, 2010
- Model Design Manual for Living Streets, 2011
- Smart Transportation Guidebook, Planning and Designing Highways and Streets that Support Sustainable and Livable Communities, 2008
While these are guidelines and manuals developed and published in the United States, the principles and much of the content and context are very much applicable here.
As an additional reference, here is the latest version of functional classifications for streets that is supposed to be context-sensitive:
- Stamatiadis, N., A. Kirk, D. Hartman, J. Jasper, S. Wright, M. King, and R. Chellman. 2017. An Expanded Functional Classification System for Highways and Streets. Pre- publication draft of NCHRP Research Report 855. Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C.
Here’s are some photos of the pedestrian overpass structure at the intersection of Marcos Highway, F. Felix Avenue (formerly Imelda Avenue) and Gil Fernando Avenue (formerly A. Tuazon Avenue).
Here’s a view of Marcos Highway and the elevated Line 2 Extension from the structure crossing Felix Avenue between Soliven/Tropical and Sta. Lucia. Also shown is the overpass crossing Marcos Highway.
View towards Sta. Lucia and Robinsons Metro East
Stairs to Sta. Lucia – notice the gap in the railings along the elevated Line 2 superstructure? That is where the Emerald Station will be constructed.