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Walking in downtown Cebu City

Last month when we were in Cebu to coordinate with our counterparts at the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJR), I took some quick photos of the sidewalk scenes near the university. We stayed at a nearby hotel so that meant we only needed to walk to/from USJR for our meetings. Here are some of those photos.

Many buildings in the downtown area have designs where sidewalks are practically covered, protecting pedestrians vs. the elements. This alludes to arcade design architecture you find in many old cities’ downtowns including Manila, Iloilo and Bacolod.

There are many shops and stores at ground level. Depending on the area, there will be hardware stores, electronic stores, school supplies and others.

Along some streets, one will find makeshift stalls occupying the road itself. I assume these are allowed by the city along certain streets.

Typical street vendor with his mobile store. Fruits, local delicacies and snacks, and refreshments are popular.

I believe these scenes reflect on the character of the city and gives the visitor a view of life in the downtown area of the city, which in this case is Cebu, the oldest city in the country. I will be back in Cebu soon and will be taking more photos around downtown. I’ll be posting these, too.

Shoes made in Marikina

This seems to be an odd topic for this blog at first but then shoes are very much related to transportation. You have to have a good pair of shoes on you for walking, jogging or running. There are even driving shoes and boat shoes (i.e., those docksides and topsiders were originally made for boating or walking along the seaside). And so I write this short article about shoes; particularly those made in Marikina.

Marikina is well-known for its shoemaking industry. It used to be a major industry that manufactured shoes that were popular throughout the country as well as being exported for sale abroad. These were mainly handmade using techniques and skills passed on from one generation to the next. It was not uncommon for families to be involved in shoemaking and the brands of many shoes carry the names (or combinations) of families involved in the business. There was even a Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao where I recall we had bought many pairs of shoes for school and casual days. Among the brands I remember were Chancellor, Valentino and Cardams. There is also a Shoe Avenue in the city along which many shops are located. In many cases, these are also the factories themselves.

The industry suffered due to a combination of automation (i.e., mass production) and the influx of cheap shoes from China. Without government support for the industry, many, regardless of whether they were small or big, eventually seized shoemaking. Those who survived and those who were revived are the ones you still see. And then there are upstarts who have been encouraged by the support now being provided by the city government. One venue for this support is through a “Sapatos Festival” that the city organises to promote shoes and other footwear made in Marikina.

The Sapatos Festival was held right across from the Marikina City Hall.

One could find a variety of footwear using various materials including genuine leather, rubber, faux leather, etc. This photo shows men’s shoes being sold at one of the shops there.

I tried on a pair I fancied and after the typical examination of workmanship and quality, I decided to buy this pair for 900 pesos (about 9 US dollars!).

Marikina-made footwear and bags are also sold at the Riverbanks mall that used to be a textile factory complex. These are inexpensive yet very good quality products that I think we should re-discover and support. Perhaps we should also provide constructive comments or suggestions on how the makers can further improve their products in order for them to be able to compete with the mass-produced variety. There is definitely a market for well-made footwear whether you walk, take public transport or drive.

On school trip generation

I chanced upon the changing of the shifts for a national high school. This was the time of day when the morning shift students were dismissed (i.e., coming out of school) and the afternoon shift students were coming in.

Students come out of the school to mainly either walk or take public transport (mostly tricycles) to their homes.

Most vehicles give way to people, especially students, crossing the busy street. There are usually traffic aides in the area who help manage traffic and to ensure pedestrians may safely cross or move about.

There are no severe traffic congestion here unlike those generated by many exclusive or private schools. There is actually a private school just beside this public high school that also generates significant private vehicle traffic but somehow manages not to congest this major road that’s part of the L. Sumulong Memorial Circle the way another private school congests Sumulong Highway in the mornings.

Is this simply because of the school being a public school as compared with private schools? Perhaps it is, given the perceived disparity in income classes concerning those going to typical public schools and those going to typical exclusive schools. But income disparity aside, wouldn’t it be possible for most students to just walk or take public transport to school? I actually envy the public school students in the photos above as they can walk to school. And that is because they likely live near the school, which is something that is a desirable situation if public schools are at least at par in quality with the more established private schools (especially the sectarian ones where many parents likely prefer their children to go to). This disparity in quality leads to people residing in relatively long distances away for the preferred schools to travel (often with their private vehicles) to and from the exclusive schools. The point here is that it really is more complicated than what it seems in terms of trip generation.

On healthier cities and encouraging walking

It’s a Sunday and the sun is up after days of rain so it would be a good time to be outdoors. Here is a nice article for the fitness buffs out there. Many of us have sedentary lifestyles and this has come as no surprise with the how we work and study as well as the influence of tech in our everyday activities. Even as I write this, I am sitting in front of my desk and have only my fingers and hands working. The rest of me is inactive except perhaps my senses and my brain. 🙂

Merle, A. (2018) “The Healthiest People in the World Don’t Go to the Gym,” medium.com, https://medium.com/s/story/the-healthiest-people-in-the-world-dont-go-to-the-gym-d3eb6bb1e7d0 [Last accessed: 8/1/2018].

I miss the times when I was living in Japan and when we were living in Singapore mainly because I was able to have a more active lifestyle in the cities where I lived. I walked and biked a lot when I was in Yokohama, Tokyo and Saitama, and later walked a lot around Singapore. I/we didn’t need a car as the public transportation was excellent and so were the pedestrian infrastructure. I recall walking between our laboratory at Yokohama National University and the dormitory, and later the Sotetsu Line Kami-Hoshikawa Station almost everyday. And then climbing up and down the hills of Yamate on Sundays. I can walk around Tokyo on my own and finding my way through shopping streets especially in Akihabara and Ueno. Of course, my favourite places would always include Kamakura, which can be reached via a train ride from Yokohama Station. The wife and I loved walking around Singapore and exploring places on foot. Indeed, you can be healthy and have a workout everyday without being too conscious about it!

Safe and healthy journeys to school

I recently attended a workshop organised by UNICEF in cooperation with UN Environment and the WHO. The main topic was about road safety, particularly for children and focusing on their journeys between homes and schools. This is definitely a big issue and the concern is not without basis. Take the example shown in the photo below where two motorcycles are carrying more passengers than what they are designed for.

Children on-board motorcycles bound for a school in Zamboanga City

The passengers are children being taken by what looks like a parent or parents driving the motorcycles. Such are common scenes in Philippine roads and in many cases, the children are at risk of being involved in a crash. Most will have no protection and will likely be seriously injured or be killed in case of a crash. Then there are the cases of children walking between their homes and schools and are exposed to the dangers brought about mainly by motor vehicle traffic along the roads they travel on. It is a wonder how there are few crashes occurring despite these conditions (or is it because few are reported and recorded?)!

I will be pursuing research topics related to safe journeys to schools more than other road safety topics that the staff and students I supervise are usually taking on. Hopefully, too, my new advisees this coming semester will be interested in related topics particularly graduate students who work for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Park and ride near the Line 2 Santolan Station?

These days when there are heavy rains and the threat of flooding, the Marikina river and its riverbanks come to mind. In the Santolan area, where a former Mayor of Marikina has invested a lot in developing a bus terminal, he seems to be stretching it in terms of trying to make the area a major intermodal terminal and maximising utility of the land. The latest venture is described by the sign below:

“Park and ride” sign along the Marcos Highway Bridge crossing the Marikina River

A closer look at the sign shows what’s written at the lower part. That is, that the parking spaces are “walking distance” from the Line 2 Santolan Station. I’m not sure if they measured the actual walking distance and what it would take to walk that distance between this parking area for the “park and ride” and the Line 2 Santolan Station. A quick measurement using Google Maps indicate that the distance between these two are more than 400m, and this is not an ‘easy’ walk considering that you would have to ascend from or descend to the riverbanks level and there is no shelter from the elements for what would be regular walks if one is to commit to this “park and ride” arrangement. If I were to walk such a distance, then I would likely choose to park at the mall and use the long footbridge connecting it to the station.

I still maintain that the best location for a “park and ride” would be one near the station similar to the Trinoma mall parking lot being practically adjacent to the Line 3 North EDSA station. And that is what LGUs, the railway authorities or the private sector should look into for projects like the Line 2 Extension and Line 7. The area around the future Line 2 Masinag Station presents a lot of possibilities in terms of parking facilities including perhaps a redevelopment of the existing SM City Masinag to be integrated with the station. As for Line 7, the areas around another SM City (Fairview) also presents opportunities for “park and ride” facilities.

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.