Caught (up) in traffic

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How my students see transport and traffic

With social media and the ascendance or popularity of influencers and the like, we have often encountered assessments or opinions about transportation and traffic. While there are those that make sense, there are more that are of the rant variety. The latter include the self-righteous who seem to relish bashing professionals and government officials while not being able to present much in terms of their own accomplishments. I am aware of my students (including research advisees) being aware of these people and I often see them posting their comments on topics, articles and opinions being shared on social media. For most, their comments and posts on social media show they’re being more informed than most, especially about the state of transportation in the country.

Here are some observations and comments from my students:

  1. One of my students asked me about my take on the public transport situation. I replied that it is unfortunate that public transportation has deteriorated the way it has for the past decades. The current state is not due to recent policies or regulations but a product of various policies, regulations and even trends over so many years. My student countered that perhaps the current officials must not make an excuse of the past in failing to act in the present.
  2. I always read about posts that anchor their arguments on the supposed low car ownership in Metro Manila. These are usually followed by calls for taking lanes away from car use for public transport and cycling. While I agree with the latter, I don’t with the former arguments. A student was curious about my statement in one lecture that we need to validate the numbers because what we see on the streets appears to be inconsistent with the notion of low car ownership. There are other ways, she said, to determine vehicle ownership other than the conventional HIS data. We could probably use the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) that is regularly conducted by the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA). This will show if people own motor vehicles as well as how much they spend for transportation.
  3. I asked my students to critique the plans and implementation of airports in the Greater Capital Region (GCR) also known as Mega Manila, and which is larger than the NCR Plus used to refer to Metro Manila plus Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite. I was not surprised about their assessments as all of them did their homework in the sense that they researched on information and data they could use for their critiques. Most were in favor of developing a new capital airport in Bulacan rather than in Cavite. And many favored the continued operation of NAIA but with reduced air traffic and a different role.

More on these opinions, observations and comments as I try to recall the more remarkable or notable ones.

Have a nice Sunday!

On the impacts of bicycle use

I’ve probably read a lot of posts on social media advocating for bicycle use. Here is another article that provides us with evidence about the impacts of cycling on travel, emissions and health:

Timmer, J. (August 20, 2022) “Here’s What Happens When Countries Use Bikes to Fight Emissions,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/bike-more-curb-global-emissions/ [Last accessed: 8/24/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Globally, adopting a Danish level of bicycle use would reduce annual emissions of CO2 by 414 million metric tons, approximately equivalent to the UK’s emissions in 2015. Boosting that to a Dutch level would eliminate nearly 700 million metric tons, or most of the emissions from Germany in that year.

The researchers also noted that countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have much lower rates of obesity than their peer countries. Based on the known health risks there, they estimate that, globally, we’re already avoiding 170,000 deaths annually due to cycling. Expanding this globally, they found that Denmark-equivalent bicycle use would prevent 430,000 deaths per year. Dutch levels of cycling would prevent 780,000 deaths.

That said, the vulnerability of cyclists to cars poses its own lethal risks. But these aren’t anywhere close to outweighing the benefits from exercise and lower obesity. (They’d add about 90,000 and 160,000 additional deaths per year for the two levels of use.) And if fewer drivers are using cars, there’s a chance that those numbers would come in even lower.

It’s worth noting that these numbers almost certainly underestimate the benefits of shifting to bikes. Bicycles use far fewer resources to produce, and they last longer than most cars. Maintenance is likely to be far less resource-intensive as well. So simply focusing on the use of the bike omits a lot of things that would show up in a detailed life-cycle analysis.

The researchers are certainly correct that there are a lot of locations where weather makes cycling a less-than-ideal option—and the range of places where heat makes it a positively dangerous option is expanding in our changing climate.

But some of the other issues are less severe than they might appear at first. For example, the advent of bicycles with electric assist means that hilly locales aren’t necessarily the barrier they might have been a decade ago. And while a number of countries have large open spaces where cars will remain a necessity, the trend toward urbanization means that most people in those countries will live in places where cycling can be made an option.

So, the biggest barrier is likely to remain the social will to rethink transportation.”

Indeed, social will (as well as political will) is perhaps the biggest barrier in our country. Many people may not agree but the evidence for this is so clear and obvious  that one has to be naive or oblivious to not see it. How else will one explain people sticking to their cars and more readily shifting to motorcycles rather than the bicycle. Of course, there are other factors to be considered and the article actually cites wealth and geography as strong prerequisites in developing a cycling culture. We need to do much more to determine where interventions are needed including land use planning and land development as well as the provision of affordable housing closer to workplaces, schools, shops and other places of interest (Hello 10- or 15-minute cities!).

 

Bike lanes at the UP Diliman campus – Part 2

The bike lanes in UP Diliman are not limited to the Academic Oval. There are now also bike lanes along other major roads including Magsaysay Avenue, which is road immediately after the portal at the Asian Center and allowing direct entrance and exit via Katipunan Avenue (C-5). The bike lanes are along either side of Magsaysay Avenue and are of Class II – Type B (separated bike lanes) but there are no  LED markers that are ideally placed along the delineation for the bike lanes.

Painted bike lanes along Magsaysay Avenue, which is the road behind Malcolm and Melchor Halls. To the left is the Department of Mechanical Engineering Building and the Computer Center. To the right is the Resilience Institute.

To the right is what used to be the Chemical Engineering Lab behind Melchor Hall. To the right is the Ipil and Yakal Dormitories.

On the benefits of developing and investing in active and public transportation

Here is another quick share of an article with a very relevant and timely topic – the business case for multimodal transport planning:

Litman, T. (July 2022) “The Business Case for Multimodal Transportation Planning,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/117697-business-case-multimodal-transportation-planning?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-07142022&mc_cid=03c159ebcf&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 7/15/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Conventional planning tends to undervalue non-auto mode improvements by assuming that each additional mile of their travel can reduce, at best, one vehicle mile traveled. In fact, in many situations they can leverage much larger reductions in vehicle travel, meaning that each additional mile of walking, bicycling, or public transit can reduce more than one vehicle mile … As a result, walking, bicycling and public transit improvements can provide much larger vehicle travel reductions and benefits than is commonly recognized.”

There is a box referred to in the preceding quote. I will not reproduce it here so I leave it up to the reader to go to the original article by Litman to find out how active and public transport can leverage additional travel reductions. Understanding these and the extend by which we can be independent of car-use (referring to non-car travel demand) will allow for a better appreciation, travel-wise and economics or business-wise, of the advantages of developing and investing in active and public transportation infrastructure and services.

Bike lanes at the UP Diliman campus – Part 1

I had first read about the enhanced bike lanes at the UP Diliman Academic Oval last month from a social media post of a friend. She was present as the delineations of the jogging and cycling lanes were being painted along with the baybayin marks distinguishing UP’s bike lanes from others like it. UP’s bike lanes predate the current ones around Metro Manila that mostly popped-up during the pandemic.

The Academic Oval road original had two-way traffic along its wide carriageway, that could easily fit 4 lanes. Since it became a one-way, counterclockwise road, the lanes had been divided into 3 wide lanes with one lane initially committed to bicycles.

Here are the two lanes designated for joggers/walkers (curbside) and cyclists (median). The pedestrian sidewalk was originally planned to be widened in time for UP’s Centennial celebration back in 2008. That did not materialize. The Academic Oval could have had wider sidewalks for those who are not walking for exercise.

The section in front of Melchor Hall features the words bicycles or bike lane and pedestrian in baybayin. Its certainly a novelty for now and something probably apt for the campus roads but not necessarily for others.

A closer look at the baybayin script along the jogging/walking and bike lanes.

Here’s the bigger picture on the pavement markings.

Approach to an intersection 

The UP colors inform riders about the intersection ahead. These are more visual as they are flat and not rumble strips. The older pavement markings advising riders of the speed limit should be seen in the context of utilitarian cycling (e.g., bike to work, bike to school) rather than cycling for fitness or recreation, which obviously may involve higher speeds and is frowned upon along the oval.

The intersection approach from another angle.

The Academic Oval bike lane is one of the original recommendations of a transport study conducted for the campus about 17 years ago. The study was the basis for the campus being declared as a road safety zone, which among others included a provision for its roads to have a 30-kph speed limit. The one-way counter-clockwise traffic circulation and the jogging and bike lanes, however, are officially a part of what has become a long-term experiment on campus. There are many who oppose the one-way scheme and are vehement against the ultimate plan to have the Academic Oval car-free or car-less (it is mostly car-less during Sundays – part of the “experiment”).

The other new bike lanes on campus in Part 2 of this series.

A Bike Master Plan for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao

Before Active Transport Week concludes this weekend, I would just like to share this collage from one of our staff at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is about the Master Plan developed for the three metropolitan areas in the country – Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.  I will share more details about this soon including a link or links to where you can download a copy of the plan.

The project concluded recently with the submission of the Final Report but most important is the Master Plan document that can serve as a reference for further development of bike lanes in the metropolises. I’ve seen the Master Plan and many of its provisions and recommendations can easily be adopted or is replicable in other cities and municipalities in the country. Perhaps, there should be a National Master Plan?

Bike lanes at Bonifacio Global City

After settling down at our new ‘tambayan’ at BGC, I decided to take my regular morning walk around the area to familiarize myself with the environs and to establish a route that I and the wife would likely be taking for our constitutionals whenever we are staying at BGC. I took the following photos of the bike lanes along 38th Street where most of the locators are international schools.

During Saturday and Sunday mornings, the bollards are moved to the sidewalk as many cyclists use 38th Street for laps. I wonder if the bike lanes will be retained once the schools resume face-to-face classes. That would mean a tremendous number of private vehicles generated by the international schools and colleges here. My opinion is that the bike lanes need to be retained as it is a step in the right direction for transport and encourages people to cycle or take PMDs to work and perhaps to school. These and others like it in Metro Manila and around the country need to be sustained and further developed to be attractive and viable to many seeking another option for mobility and their regular commutes.

Star ratings for bicycles

I just wanted to do a quick share of a new method for evaluating road and bicycling infrastructure – cycleRAP. This was developed by the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), which has established a star rating system as the international standard for road safety assessments. We currently use their Star Ratings for Schools (SR4S) to evaluate the school environment towards ensuring safe journeys for school children. Here’s the link to their website:

https://irap.org/cyclerap/

To quote from the site: “CycleRAP is an easy, affordable and fast method of evaluating road and bicycling infrastructure for safety. It aims to reduce crashes and improve safety specifically for bicyclists and other light mobility users by identifying high risk locations without the need for crash data.”

How can e-scooters become a safer way to travel?

I’ve shared some articles and opinions about electric scooters. Here is another one that delves into the safety about these vehicles that have become quite popular in the US. Here in the Philippines, they still seem to be in infancy in terms of popularity and to some, are seen as more a novelty and touristy rather than a mode of transport for the typical work trips.

Donahue, B (June 11, 2022) “How to Make Electric Scooters Become a Safer Way to Travel,” Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2022-06-11/how-to-make-electric-scooters-safer [Last accessed: 6/18/2022]

To quote from the article:

“Dediu believes that in time micromobility will attain critical mass, as other modes of transit have already done, and that infrastructure will come as the user base grows. “We didn’t build airports and then have airplanes show up,” he’s said. “I’m confident, given the history, that we’ll see things like more safe roadways for micromobility vehicles.” “

Scoot-to-work at BGC, Taguig, Metro Manila

It is not really about the vehicle but the environment in which it is being used. One can say a lot about walking, for example, being dangerous but without touching on the why and the how its become a dangerous or risky mode of travel. It’s the lack of infrastructure or facilities as well as the car-oriented environment (that includes archaic laws and other regulations) that make active mobility and micro mobility modes dangerous or risky. If we can address these basic issues, then perhaps we can entice more people to use these modes more often and for the most trips we make everyday.

And don’t forget that these modes are the most fuel efficient! Saves you from the every increasing prices of fuel!

Micromobility anyone?

I just wanted to share a couple of photos I took en route to BGC last week. Yes, the traffic is already terrible and yes, I drove to BGC (or more accurately, I was driven as we were hauling stuff to our home away from home at BGC). I couldn’t help but take photos of the motorcycles and bicycles passing our vehicles. These were definitely more efficient forms of travel considering they require less space and likely incur less travel times. In addition to these modes (and walking, of course), there seems to be an increasing popularity for other micro mobilities. I wouldn’t define and enumerate these emerging modes but you’ve probably seen some of them along your commutes – electric kick scooters (EKS), gas-powered versions of these scooters, other forms of electric vehicles including trikes, etc. Here are a couple of examples I captured in photos last week.

 Cyclists and micro mobility users slugging it out with motor vehicles 

E-scooter in BGC: comfy clothes-check! backpack-check! helmet-check! Commuting to work should be something like this rather than most people using their cars.