Caught (up) in traffic

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“Sharing the road” – bandwagons and fads? Let’s hope not!

There seems to be a lot of talk about “sharing the road” and the initiatives to have more bikeways. I hope I am proven wrong but it seems to me as if these current programs and projects are more of a fad. A lot of people (and local governments) join the bandwagon with little understanding of what needs to be done. It’s usually because of the good PR they get out of these that they agree to coming up with the token carless street or the haphazardly implemented bicycle lanes. More than PR, some cities are aware of the opportunities that come with such initiatives as international agencies and groups are willing to spend money to support such programs and projects. The question really is on sustainability and doing the right thing not only on initiating things or coming up with programs but on the substance itself. And by substance I mean that programs should also go into the details of designs. Too often, the “pwede na yan” approach is taken and this just won’t do.

2014-02-28 08.31.21The MMDA painted the sidewalks in White Plains and designated them as bikeways, in a way alienating pedestrians.

A vision for what people want to have is there but it is ultimately how the achieve the vision that needs a lot of work. For example,¬†bills are being filed in congress to force the creation of bicycle lanes along major highways. (And mind you there are a lot of similar bills filed in congress that upon closer inspection actually have little substance.) The premise here seems to be that if you build them then people will start cycling. That was not the experience in Marikina, which boasts of the country’s only bikeways network that includes many off-street sections. These bikeways were built at a time when the perception and analysis pointed to a critical mass of cyclists in that city that was thought to be surely the tipping point in terms of non-motorised transport. Nowadays, the same bikeways are used by motorcycles and tricycles and most cyclists we see are not commuters (e.g., cycling between home and work/school) but recreational cyclists. It would take Marikina some effort to promote commuting by bicycles and much effort in enforcement to correct the misuse of the bikeways. The “new” bikeways in Quezon City appear to be poorly conceptualised as the MMDA decided to paint the sidewalks along EDSA northbound without addressing the obstacles like electric posts. Still, it is an effort to put NMT in the consciousness or awareness of the general public (thanks in part to media’s making these news worthy items).

Cities like Pasig and Taguig like to show-off Ortigas Center and Bonifacio Global City, respectively, as their faces when in fact the cities have not done much in their original cores. The running joke is that the real Taguig is not the areas to the west of C-5 but the old Taguig, which is to the east. This Taguig is the one plagued by narrow streets and the proliferation of tricycles. It was not so long ago that a former mayor imposed e-tricycles on BGC (where they were not suitable) while not doing much to lift a finger in the mayhem of tricycles in old Taguig (e.g., along Gen. Luna). As for Pasig, you just have go along the Pasig River and the Manggahan Floodway to see what it has accomplished so far in those areas.

There are no quick fixes to the transport and traffic problems our cities are facing. In the case of Metro Manila, much is at stake for the long-delayed mass transit projects. And the DOTC’s announcements of projects being formulated or proposed are no longer taken seriously as they have not delivered on any of these despite 4 years of this current administration. For other cities, it is important to learn the hard lessons from the experience of Metro Manila. There is also a need for a drastic change in transport and traffic policies in our cities. Iloilo, for example, has built an expensive bike lane along Ninoy Aquino Avenue (Diversion Road) and has marketed its Esplanade as a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. Yet the city has not acted on the clamour to revisit the overpasses along Gen. Luna (Infante and Jalandoni flyovers). The latest information I got from the city is that there are issues in the design of the bikeway along the Diversion Road as the surface (they used pavers) is not suitable for cycling. It seems, also, that the city and cyclists were not consulted by the DPWH when the bikeway was designed and constructed resulting in many cyclists using the Diversion Road itself for traveling. This last example is a lesson for our local governments¬†and national agencies that they need to cooperate with each other and turfing has no place in transport and traffic if we are really serious about bringing solutions to problems we encounter everyday.

About me?

Looking at the data on which articles on this blog have been read lately, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of hits on the “About” feature of the blog. I don’t have my name there and there are only subtle hints as to who I am so I guess researchers like students are disappointed to find that they cannot quote a name of some person writing about transportation and traffic in the Philippines. I like to keep it that way so I remain somewhat anonymous while I continue to write about issues we have faced, are facing and will be facing for the foreseeable future. At times, I catch my material being used by our students at the university and others. I am flattered when I hear people talking to me about someone writing on a blog about transport problems and offering solutions and then learn that they were referring to my blog.

I know that one implication of this preference of mine is that my opinions will remain mine and unattributed except perhaps to the few who know who is really writing these articles. That’s okay with me and I am comfortable about my somewhat anonymous identity online. That way, I can write more freely though I am aware of my responsibilities as a writer. I try my best to be fair while being firm in my opinions in my writings. I’ve known many persons who have served and continue to serve in government and to be honest, everyone did good in one way or the other so credit should be given where and to whom its due. Problem is that we continue to suffer a lot from decisions, policies and actions made over a long period and not the past few years and sadly many of those people responsible for such are very much around in government or in the private sector. Even worse, nadadagdagan pa as we have seen in more recent times.

I know that there are many others who are more experienced and can write better than me. Unfortunately, many of them don’t use this medium for getting information and factual opinions out there. Many prefer to publish in technical journals or present in academic venues like conferences and symposia, and would likely only make an occasional comment on Facebook (if they’re on FB) about transport/traffic-related articles posted there. Then there are those who feel like its their responsibility to reply or comment on whatever is written by others that they don’t quite agree with. One such person even wrote a multiple-part article in reply to an opinion article that he didn’t agree with. Now that’s what I call overkill!

It is unfortunate and frustrating for me that if I were to look back at some of the stuff I’ve written, I could just copy and paste the entire article today and it won’t matter because we haven’t gone anywhere near a solution to certain problems that have been lingering for quite some time now. Yes, that’s how serious our problems are in this country! And that’s what makes me keep on writing in my own way and writing about transport and traffic, not about me.

Still know nothing about me

Enjoying the performances at the Sting concert the other night, I couldn’t help but remember the couple of pingbacks this blog recently received from some hecklers (or trolls?) who obviously didn’t understand what I wrote about the AGT currently being tested at the UP Diliman campus. Calling me a “so-called” expert in transport gets my attention but then I’m not the sort of person who’s insecure about my experiences, talents and skills so I’d rather dedicate a song to these fellows. Just a tip… try to read the other articles in the blog to better understand how and why I write about topics on transport and traffic before you make your conclusions about what’s been written.

Advisory

The photos featured in this blog are free and will continue to be free since I do not have any intentions to gain profit from this hobby of mine. All the photos do not have watermarks that could obscure features of interest in the photos. Most if not all the photos are originals taken by me or my staff when we are out in the field or simply traveling from one place to another. And so I cannot assure the quality of many photos.

For those doing research on the internet and especially for school projects or papers, I would urge you to do the right thing and properly acknowledge where you got the photos. I am very aware of a lot of people taking images from the internet and passing them off as if it were their own. While there is little I can do to prevent that, I think it is my responsibility as a member of the academe to make this advisory on such matters of intellectual property and integrity.

Thank you for your attention and read on!

New Year’s Message

I got a New Year’s greeting from a friend who states in his text: “Please take care of yourselves this coming New Year. A recent joint study conducted by both the DOH and LTO indicates that 23% of traffic accidents are alcohol-related. This means that the remaining 77% are caused by assholes, who just drink coffee, carbonated drinks, juices, milk, water and stuff like that. Therefore, beware of those who do not drink alcohol. They cause three times more accidents!”

It is a message to humor us in this holiday season when many road crashes are indeed alcohol-related. It is an alarming trend and we see reports on TV of motorcycle riders losing their balance and cars plowing into sidewalks and medians hurting if not killing people in the process. The truth is that there are so much more crashes that could have been prevented if we drove safely (even without the influence of alcohol or drugs) rather than aggressively as we see on the roads everyday in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines.

We look forward to further promoting road traffic safety in 2011 especially as we join other countries in ushering in a Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020). We hope to drastically curb the incidence of crashes for we are all vulnerable road users and there are lives at stake.

A Happy New Year to all and may we have a safe 2011 as we travel in this journey we call life.

Hello World!

Hello World! I still remember my first computer program, the first one I made myself, back when I was a college junior at UP Diliman. It is only fitting that I begin my new blog with these words and more!

I opened this blog to have a separate platform for writing about transport and traffic – topics which are quite obviously close to my heart. My other blog, the more personal one, will from now be devoted to memories…to reminiscing and documenting times past, reflecting on the present and maybe even speculating about the future. I guess it is only right to have that blog become exclusive to such topics and I do have an incredible amount of material for my realm.

Here, I will be writing about everything under the sun – but focusing on what’s on our roads, rails, seas and even the air. Read on!