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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.”

Kalayaan Bridge (BGC – Ortigas Center Link)

The Kalayaan Bridge, also known as the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) – Ortigas Center Link opened about a year ago and was supposed to ease traffic along the usual routes along EDSA and C5 that crossed the Pasig River. The new bridge is located between the EDSA and C5 bridges and is a more direct route to and from BGC if you reside in Pasig and choose the route to/from BGC via Pasig/Shaw Boulevard.

The approach ramp to the bridge from the BGC side is in the vicinity of the Uptown part of BGC. The bridge goes over Kalayaan Avenue, which is one of the major access roads to BGC from C5 or EDSA, and J.P. Rizal Avenue Extension but there is access and egress to Kalayaan Avenue. 

The ramp is practically a single lane with painted bike lanes on either side of the bridge. There is noticeably no space for pedestrians on this bridge. That is only a curb on the right side. This lack of pedestrian provisions is a major flaw of this bridge.

A lone cyclist traversing the bridge – the merge for traffic from BGC and vehicles from Kalayaan Avenue is seen downstream.

Approaching the merging section (from this perspective; its diverging on the other side) of the bridge.

A motorcycle merges with the traffic from BGC. Notice the chevron markings separating merging flows as well as the yield marking for vehicles coming from Kalayaan (i.e., priority is for vehicles coming from BGC). The bridge from this section becomes two lanes per direction. There is, however, a risky part for cyclists who will cross paths with vehicles coming from Kalayaan. Cyclists from BGC will have to cross a lane to get to the bike lane on the outer side of the bridge. There is no space for pedestrians along this bridge.

There is only this part of the bridge where there appears to be a sidewalk. Was this really the design for this bridge? It is very obvious that many people failed in both design and implementation of this project.

The view towards the Pasig side of the bridge. There are two lanes per direction and narrow bike lanes along the curbsides.

There is an intersection at the end of the bridge but the road immediately at the right is closed to  incoming traffic so right turns are currently prohibited despite the pavement markings that indicate they were allowed at one time.

The road leads to this intersection which is in area generally referred to before as ‘Pioneer’. The area hosts many warehouses or storage buildings and I remember going here many years ago to check out the imported wood furniture and office surplus items. Turning right leads one to the area generally known as ‘Unilab’ because that was where United Laboratories had their plant and offices. It retained the property where now stands an events venue. Further on leads you to Kapitolyo and the Estancia Mall.

 

On asphalt overlays and opportunities to rationalize pavement markings

Entire road sections along my commuting routes have had recent asphalt overlays or are being prepared for it. This is part of the national government’s regular maintenance program for roads implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Newly asphalted pavement along the eastbound section of Ortigas Avenue Extension – can you guess how many lanes will fit here?

The previous photo was taken one week ago. This is what the section looks like after the contractor restored the pavement markings. I say restore because these are practically the same 3 lanes prior to the asphalt overlay to the rigid pavement structure.

Pavement marking delineating the traffic lanes, median and gutter

I wonder if the DPWH included bike lanes when they contacted the asphalt overlay and pavement markings for this road. There was none before and the new overlay presented a blank slate to which Class III bike lanes could at least have been provided. There is already an increasing number of bike-to-work traffic along Ortigas Ave. Ext. and the Manila East Road, which connects the large towns of Rizal and serves as one of the major arterials connecting the Province of Rizal to Metro Manila (the other being Marcos Highway).

Asphalt overlays like this provide opportunities to rationalize road space through adjustments to the pavement markings. Granted that there’s significant bus and truck traffic along this road, it is still possible to allocate or at least delineate 1.5m to 2m for cyclists. That should also help in making motorists aware of bike traffic and in the long run influence behavior towards safer travels for all road users.

Article on how cities can rapidly expand bike networks

With the increasing popularity of bicycles for utilitarian use (e.g., bike to work, bike to school, etc.), the need for strategies, programs and projects to support cycling has become more urgent. This is mainly to sustain the increase of bicycle use and partly to enhance the safety of cyclists. Here is an article that discusses how cities can rapidly expand bike networks:

https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/how-can-cities-rapidly-expand-access-cycling-infrastructure

To quote from the article:

“Our research points to several key recommendations for other cities hoping to expand their cycling infrastructure and encourage a more rapid shift toward biking and away from cars.
– Local governments can lead the implementation of a large-scale expansion of cycling infrastructure if local leaders can commit to ambitious, quantified mileage goals that will help structure how capital dollars are spent.
– Local implementation goals should include metrics related to increasing equity, particularly for people of color and those with low incomes. Although the Final Mile program increased the number of miles of cycling infrastructure, it did not directly prioritize the people who could benefit most from improvements.
– Philanthropic funders interested in supporting climate-friendly infrastructure should ensure their funds help hold local policymakers accountable to achieving their commitments instead of funding infrastructure projects directly. They can also encourage collaboration between cities and nonprofit advocates while working to fill local capacity gaps, such as through engineering consultants.”

Bike lane at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Metro Manila

An opinion on sharrows

We conclude November 2021 with an article about shared lanes or shared right-of-way (thus, the term ‘sharrow’). These are lanes designated for use of both motorized vehicles and bicycles. I share many of the sentiments of the writer and there are many ways to go about to have legitimate, separate and maybe protected bike lanes for multi-lane roads (yes, the kind DPWH has been so keen in having along many national roads) should be the rule. For local roads/streets, however, there might be a need to compromise.

Flax, P. (November 7, 2021) “Why Sharrows are Bullshit,” Medium, https://medium.com/@peterflax/why-sharrows-are-bullshit-b01fea1fea6f [Last accessed: 11/30/2021]

I think the issue at the local level in the Philippines is that many roads are already quite narrow and cannot really accommodate bike lanes unless you ban motorized vehicles from using them (e.g., pedestrianization of certain roads/streets). While you cannot really close off so many roads, careful study by local governments should identify which streets can be pedestrianized over a certain period (i.e., phases) while others have shared lanes to accommodate the needs of residents and commercial establishments.

Image of Ruhale Street in Taguig City, Metro Manila (Base map: Google Street View, 2021)
Rough sketches for the section’s transformation (Base map: Google Street View)

The above is just an example and should be subject to scientific or evidence-based assessments if such is indeed feasible. This can also provide an opportunity for education as people (i.e., road users) generally don’t understand the need for active transport facilities including what we assume to be common knowledge about the need for sidewalks, for example. Of course, other interventions may be implemented in order to “calm” traffic. Streets that are predominantly residential should have 20 kph tops as the speed limit. If such speed limits can be achieved and enforced then perhaps we can have safer streets, too, not just for cyclists but pedestrians as well.

On priority lanes for public transport

I am currently part of an International Research Group (IRG) involved in studies on bus priority. Yesterday, we had a meeting where one professor mentioned the importance of being able to clearly explain the advantages of having priority lanes for buses in order to improve their performance (i.e., number of passengers transported and improved travel times). There was a lively discussion about how the perception is for bike lanes while transit lanes have also been implemented for a long time now though with mixed results.

There are very familiar arguments vs. taking lanes away from cars or private motor vehicles and allocating them for exclusive use of public transport and bicycles. It may sound cliche but ‘moving people and not just cars’ is perhaps the simplest argument for priority lanes.

EDSA carousel buses lining up towards a station

Bike lane along Katipunan Avenue – is this a temporary thing? a fad because traffic is really not back to the old normal? Katipunan is infamous for being congested with cars generated by major trip generators in the area such as schools/universities and commercial establishments.

The bike lane along Commonwealth Avenue proves there’s just too much space for private motor vehicles. And with the Line 7 in the horizon, perhaps more lanes can be taken and made exclusive to road public transport. [Photo credit: Cenon Esguerra]

On riders’ perception of safety

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the US Department of Transportation released some infographics recently to highlight road safety. One very timely and relevant graphic image asks about which facilities make bicycle riders feel safer:

There were some initial reactions when I shared this on social media with one immediately criticizing share-use paths and citing the one along Marcos Highway (stretch under Pasig, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo) as an example. I quickly explained that the graphic assumes good designs instead of the flawed one along Marcos Highway. In fact, the shared use path is also quite popular in Europe and particularly in the Netherlands where they have many examples of these paths stretching for kilometers that are exclusive to active transport (pedestrians and cyclists). The good designs need to be shared and circulated so people will know about what they look like and learn about their features. These can be adopted and adapted to local situations.

Did you notice the images of cyclists/riders at the top of the graphic? These are important, too, because they provide context in terms of the type of riders who are the targets for infrastructure and campaigns that support and promote cycling across different types of people. Cycling shouldn’t just be for the most fit or the weekend warriors but rather for everyone who could take it up and not just for recreation but for everyday, utilitarian use (e.g., commuting, shopping, etc.).

Guidelines pertaining to bike lanes in the Philippines

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the agencies under it are now promoting bicycle use. Part of the campaign is to improve the safety of cyclists, most especially those using bikes for commuting (e.g., bike to work). Recently, the agencies have posted infographics showing the guidelines for bicycle lanes. Here is one from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which is in-charge of vehicle registration and the issuance of driver’s licenses:

These are still basically guidelines that apparently do not carry a lot of weight (i.e., no penalties mentioned) in as far as enforcement is concerned. As they say, these appear to be merely suggestions rather than rules that need to be followed or complied with. Perhaps local government units can step in and formulate, pass and implement ordinances penalizing people violating these guidelines? These penalties are important if behavior change among motorists is to be achieved.