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On walking, running and cycling for exercise during the Covid-19 pandemic

We had been walking in the early mornings prior to the so-called “total lockdown” implemented by our Barangay. There were others like us in our community who walked, jogged or cycled during the same time we took our walks. However, we all practiced physical distancing and used masks while outdoors. We could afford to do this because the village where we resided in had relatively wide streets and there were few houses and residents compared to other residential areas. In our case, we usually walked in areas where there were even fewer houses and people. It is highly unlikely we could get Covid-19 during our morning walks. Afternoons were different as we observed more people going around including those who appear to be joyriding with their motorcycles.

Is there actual evidence that walking, jogging, running or cycling actual aid the spread of Covid-19? So far, there isn’t and what we have are mostly simulations. Yes, simulations like those that appear in articles that are going around the internet; often shared in social media. Here is a more informative and objective article about this topic that articulates more the importance of physical activity (i.e., in the form of walking, jogging, running or cycling) in combatting the virus while also emphasizing the need for social or physical distance and the use of masks:

Niiler, E. (2020) “Are Running or Cycling Actually Risks for Spreading Covid-19?”, Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/are-running-or-cycling-actually-risks-for-spreading-covid-19/?bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&esrc=AUTO_OTHER&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_041420&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=list1_p4 [Last accessed 4/15/2020]

 

I appreciate the efforts of those in our Barangay to make sure no one gets infected (there are zero incidents so far). However, sometimes the overeagerness seem to trump the need to practice common sense in these times. I believe there is a need to make an even bigger effort to ensure people are able to maintain physical and mental wellness through exercise or activity. I believe we are in a community where people are educated, aware and responsible enough to make this work.

Level of Service (LOS) and social distance for pedestrians

I was reviewing materials for my classes now that the latter have been suspended and we are switching to online teaching. I came upon the topic of level of service (LOS) for pedestrians – for walkways and sidewalks to be exact. Following is the LOS table for walkways and sidewalks (platoon-adjusted) with my note, and an illustration of walkway LOS thresholds with my annotations. The recommended minimum social distance is 1 meter. That translates to a space of 3.14159 square meters if we assume a circular area around a person.

Platoon-adjusted means people are moving and grouped according to the speed of a lead person or persons dictating their walking speed.

 

I annotated the illustration to show the minimum pedestrian spacing, the ideal spacing, and situations when the desired social distance is not achieved.

The big question now is if we can achieve the minimum given the mostly inferior pedestrian facilities we have in the country. Do you know of any areas where this can be achieved? BGC? Trinoma? MOA? UP Diliman Campus? Iloilo City’s Esplanade?

National Transport Policy is out!

The National Transport Policy is out and there’s a lot of buzz about the wording of the policy. NEDA released the following infographics on their official Facebook page:

Definition of what the policy is about

Hierarchy of transport modes (note the emphasis on walking and cycling)

Checklist for programs and projects: I am already anticipating what proponents will be writing to justify projects according to this checklist.

I will reserve my commentaries for future blogs. There is really a lot to discuss about this policy and how it will implemented (properly or improperly), There are lots of different ideas, advocacies, interests and agendas on transportation that come into play here. And we can only hope that the policy and its implementing rules and regulations will be clear enough (not vague as to have so many loopholes) for this policy to effect transformation and inclusive and sustainable development.

Transit station connections in Singapore

The connections between transit stations in Singapore show us examples of how to encourage people to walk long distances. The links, mostly underground, are interconnected with branches to common exits to hotels, office and residential buildings. These are basically transit malls lined with cafes, restaurants and shops. There are even gyms (e.g., UFC) and play venues along some connections.

Underground transit mall between a City Hall Station (red line) and Esplanade Station (orange line)

The connection is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops

Singapore’s underground connections reminded me of similar structures in Tokyo and Yokohama. You can just walk underground and come up near your destination. This is especially advantageous and comfortable during the summers when the hot weather becomes a detriment to walking outdoors. Underground transit malls or connections are usually air-conditioned or air is pumped into them for ventilation. As such, temperatures are significantly lower compared to the surface/ground. Will we have similar facilities/developments here in the Philippines and particularly in Metro Manila once the MM Subway is developed?

Walking in Singapore

The recent trip to Singapore was like a sentimental journey for us. We had lived in the Lion City for almost 2 years and consider this a second home (actually a close third for me because I consider Yokohama as a second home having lived there for 3 years). Among the things we truly missed about Singapore aside from friends (many of whom have already moved to other countries) and food were the public transport and the walking. Singapore is a walkable city and the excellent public transport along with the land use planning has allowed healthier commutes for people.

The environment along Orchard Road is inviting and conducive for walks.

Wide sidewalks can accommodate more people and don’t make it feel so crowded even during the peak hours.

 

It was easy to log more than 10,000 steps per day in Singapore. In fact, I was happy to have walked an average of 11,000+ steps per day for the 3 days were there. One could only hope we can have similar infrastructure in the Philippines.

More on walking and public transport in Singapore soon.

Paseo Recoletos

The sidewalks around the University of San Jose Recoletos in Cebu City are named Paseo de Recoletos and Paseo de San Jose. Here are a few photos on Paseo de Recoletos.

Arcade-type walkway along the perimeter of the University of San Jose Recoletos. This part is the Paseo de Recoletos along Magallanes Street and across from the Freedom Park Market. The other is Paseo de San Jose but is not wholly covered. The latter is along P. Lopez Street.

The Paseo leads to the church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which is on the second level from the ground.

View of the Paseo de Recoletos from our vehicle. Note the architectural details on the USJR building.

Another view of the Paseo de Recoletos

The main gate of the USJR is at the corner of Magallanes and P. Lopez Streets. The photo capture the view towards P. Lopez and the side of the university along this street is Paseo de San Jose.

Frontage of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish Church, which is integrated with the main building of the university, which is run by the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR).

Scenes along the Paseo de Recoletos included overloaded jeepneys, motorcycle taxis and various vendors both mobile and those who’ve set up shop across the street.

Vegetable vendor pushing a cart containing his merchandise

Scenes like these are common in many Philippine cities especially the old ones that have narrow streets and have retained much of the commerce in many areas around the city centre. It gives you a glimpse of the marketplace and commerce before the arrival of the large malls. Of course, there are what are already termed as malls around the area but these are more like large department stores than the types of SM City, Ayala Center and Robinsons Place.

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!