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I had to navigate through Marikina’s streets in order to reach the Feliz Mall from the city’s downtown. Normally, I would have taken the more straightforward route that would have involved traveling along Marcos Highway. However, I couldn’t because it was my number coding day and the U-turn slots in the area are usually “swarming” with MMDA and Pasig City traffic enforcers. Marikina’s streets though were not part of the coding scheme and you only need to be familiar with their road network including which streets are one-way in order to navigate the streets properly.
The bike lane is on the left side of the one-way road and to the right of the on-street parking spaces. The parking lane is the left-most and curb-side.
This actually qualifies as an example of a road diet application. These could have easily been 2-way streets before but effectively 2 lanes have been allocated for traffic flow while the others are for parking and cycling. [Of course, hard-core cyclist will say only one lane was taken away from motor vehicles.]
These bike and parking lanes were implemented in connection with the Marikina Bikeways project that was initiated during the time of then Marikina Mayor Bayani Fernando in the late 1990s. The project was continued and maintained by succeeding administrations of the city and contribute to the city’s being more liveable compared to other LGUs. The reconfiguration of the streets make them safer and saner in terms of traffic flow where “traffic” is referred to as inclusive of all users.
The MMDA recently stated they were planning to apply the road diet concept to EDSA by narrowing the current lane widths in order to add one lane per direction. While the idea seems to of good intention, the mention and application of road diet is flawed. I have previously shared an article on social media showing the definition and examples of complete streets:
Clearly, complete streets are for the benefit of everyone (i.e., inclusive) and not biased for motor vehicles. Here is a photo of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City showing the correct application of the Complete Streets and Road Diet concepts to an urban street. Note the elements for cycling and walking that are very prominent in the re-design of the street.
Protected bike lanes at either side of F. Ortigas Ave. at the Ortigas Center
We hope to see more of these re-designs in many other cities and towns in the Philippines. It is not a really difficult concept to apply or adopt as technically these are not complicated. However, there needs to be a change in the mindset of planners and engineers when they do these exercises considering how car-oriented our designs are. It is easy to say we want more people-oriented transportation facilities until it dawns on us how dependent we are on cars and resist the efforts to realise more sustainable designs.
Here are photos of the bike lanes along Katipunan Avenue (Circumferential Road 5). The lanes are basically just marked with a solid green line but without any signs or pavement markings reinforcing this designation. The lanes are not protected ones like the example along the eastbound bike lane along Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City. And so, as expected, there are many motor vehicles encroaching upon the Katipunan bike lane including parked or standing vehicles as shown in one of the photos below.
The bike lane is derived from the outermost lane of Katipunan
Here is the bike lane along the southbound side of Katipunan at the approach to Tuazon Avenue. That’s a pedicab on the bike lane so one can easily appreciate the dimensions particularly the width of the lane.
Bike lane along the northbound side of Katipunan approaching Ateneo’s Gate 2
The bike lane along with the designated truck lane and motorcycle lane.
Here are cyclists using the lane past Ateneo’s Gate 3 and approaching the main gate of Miriam College
I’ll try to sketch a few recommendations into the photos as I have done in a past article:
This can also be used for exercises I assign to my graduate and undergraduate classes when we’re on the topic of complete streets.
I have been inserting topics on complete streets in the undergraduate and graduate courses I teach at university. Some students have also been researching on best practices and designs that they are supposed to apply to real world situations in Philippine cities. The results are still generally mixed but I like how my undergraduate students are able to grasp the concepts and apply them in the short time they have been ‘exposed’ to the concept. I thought my graduate students, most of them practicing engineers, found it more challenging to unlearn many of the things about street design they have learned from their schools including UP and DLSU, which I thought would have the more progressive programs in Civil Engineering.
Here are a couple of helpful articles that explain the business (economic) case for bike lanes. After all, the most persuasive arguments to convince LGUs to take on bike lanes will always be economics or business. That’s also how you can probably convince the business sector to pitch in and lobby for more active transport facilities especially in the downtown areas.
Jaffe, E. (2015) The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes, http://www.citylab.com, https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2RDPGy52R27zmpOAFVbiEWGZtMSjyr1Z3Kf56oPVoPI6LUfdreDWpBM5E [Last accessed: 11/1/2018]
Flusche, D. (2012) Bicycling Means Business, The economic benefits of bicycle infrastructure, http://www.bikeleague.org, https://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/Bicycling_and_the_Economy-Econ_Impact_Studies_web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2RDPGy52R27zmpOAFVbiEWGZtMSjyr1Z3Kf56oPVoPI6LUfdreDWpBM5E [Last accessed: 11/2/2018]
One issue often brought up by opponents of bike lanes is that there are few references for bike lane design and operations in the country. Perhaps the only really comprehensive example is Marikina City though I know for a fact that the last three of their mayors (yes, including the incumbent) is not so keen about their bikeways. In fact, one mayor tried to dissolve the city’s bikeways office only to relent and allow it to exist but under one of its departments. Iloilo City is supposed to have some bike lanes but it is still more like a landscape architecture experiment than a fully functional system (sorry my katilingbans and panggas). And so we look to the more comprehensive experiences abroad for evidences of viability and success. The bottomline here is that I would rather ask how it can succeed here than state why it will not.
Another example of what can be called “pwede na iyan” bike lanes are those found along Kalayaan Avenue in Quezon City. To be fair, the city made an effort to paint the bicycle lane and put up signs for this. However, one will observe that there is poor enforcement in relation to the bike lane as you would find vehicles parked on the lane. There is also the question of bicycle traffic as there doesn’t seem to be many cyclists along Kalayaan, making the space fair game for other vehicles including tricycles and motorcycles. Then there is the matter of connectivity. The Kalayaan bike lane seems to be isolated and does not have a connection to any other bike lane. The lane around the Elliptical Road, for example, is in the inner side of that road. Teacher’s Village does not have bicycle lanes but perhaps it is not (yet) necessary to have exclusive lanes in the still predominantly residential area (note: commercial establishments are still on the rise along major roads in the village).
Vehicles parked on the Kalayaan Avenue bike lane
Free flowing traffic along Kalayaan – notice the vehicles parked on the sidewalk?
One big question comes to mind with regards to such bike lanes: How do we improve the situation in order to encourage more people to bike? There are many answers to this question and the answers branch out to the infrastructure, policy, social and even societal, and other aspects concerning cycling. What we should bear in mind and what Quezon City and perhaps MMDA should work on is a strategy for promoting non-motorised transport (NMT) that includes walking and cycling that can be implemented metro-wide with safety and efficiency (incl. connectivity) as the main objectives rather than have piecemeal projects for show or demonstration.
Here is another interesting article about bike lanes but from the perspective of a non-cyclist. I believe this (support for bike lanes) is a view shared by many but not much articulated. The assumption is usually that car-owners would like to have less of other’s cars on the road so they could benefit from the presumed reduction in congestion should more people take up cycling. But then the same can be said for public transportation and its users as well. That is, car-users would want others to take public transport so as to also reduce road congestion; allowing them faster trips/drives.
Lewyn, M. (2018) “A Non-Cyclist’s Case for Bike Lanes,” planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/97632?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-03152018&mc_cid=0e22636014&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 3/17/2018]
I recently wrote about some thoughts on Pasig City’s HOV lane experiment along Julia Vargas Avenue. Here are a few more considering the experiment didn’t push through last February 28.
Screen cap (courtesy of ABS CBN) showing the starting date for the HOV lane experiment. I think ‘HOV’ is more appropriate than ‘carpool’ since the requirement is for vehicles using the lane to have 4 or more passengers. Having only 2 passengers still qualify as a carpool.
I learned recently that the experiment has been put off to March 26, 2018:
[Photo courtesy of Dulce Justiniani]
The current set-up has 2 lanes for motorised vehicles including a wide lane for HOV’s (including public utility vehicles like buses and vans). HOV’s here also include cars but those with at least 4 occupants. Here are a couple of photos showing us what could possibly happen should enforcement be weak given the configuration of the lanes along Julia Vargas:
Private van running along the lane designated for HOV’s alongside a solitary cyclist on the bike lane.
An SUV overtaking the van via the bike lane and the extra space of the HOV lane.
Wide lanes generally encourage higher speeds. I believe the way to go would be to have narrower lanes. And should these be considered, it would be possible to have 3 lanes for motorised traffic with one assigned for HOV’s and another for motorcycles. These are aside from the bicycle lane that I think should also be a protected lane. Protection here may be through the provision of “forgiving” physical dividers in the form of, say, rubber bollards.
Here’s how the Julia Vargas carriageway could be laid out:
Again, these are just suggestions for whoever are in-charge of the experiment-to-be along Julia Vargas Avenue. I hope that they are able to make some assessments even prior to the experiment. Such can be done using simulation software in order to have a handle on traffic related issues that may crop up during the implementation. Still, a big factor would be the enforcement aspects of the proposed policy for motor vehicles. Strict, firm and sustained enforcement would be necessary in order for this to succeed.