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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.
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.
I want to share an article discussing new guidelines for bikeways released in the US.
Andersen, M. (2017) “Which Bike Lanes Should Be Protected? New Guide Offers Specifics,” Streets Blog USA, https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/11/01/which-bike-lanes-should-be-protected-new-guide-offers-specifics/ (Last accessed 11/16/2017)
This is useful not only for practitioners or planners but also for academic purposes such as in transportation planning or engineering courses where future planners and engineers are molded.
Fatal crashes involving cyclists have been posted in social media including a recent one involving a mother of two who was run over by a garbage truck that encroached on the on-street/painted bike lane in, of all places, Marikina City. Emphasis on Marikina is made here because it is a city well-known for its comprehensive bikeways network. The network is comprised of segregated and on-street bikeways.
Following are some photos showing examples of good and bad practices pertaining to bikeways design in the Philippines:
Example of segregated bikeway at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus. Cyclists actually share the carriageway lane allocated from the Academic Oval with pedestrians and joggers. They are not physically protected from motor vehicles that can encroach on the bike lane.
Example of segregated and protected bikeway along Marcos Highway in Pasig City (similar design for the sections in Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo) – bikeway is on the sidewalk and cyclists essentially share space with pedestrians despite delineations.
Example of segregated and protected bikeway/walkway along EDSA in Makati City – note that space to be shared by pedestrians and cyclists is very constricted.
Example of poor design along White Plain Avenue – the MMDA seems to have designated the entire sidewalk space for cyclists.
Three examples from Marikina’s bikeways are shown below:
Painted, segregated bikeways on the carriageway on either side of a two-way road [Note: This is basically the design along the street where the crash in Marikina occurred.]
Painted, segregated bikeways on the carriageway along a one way road
Segregated and protected bikeway off the carriageway along Sumulong Highway
Granted that the ideal set-up would have segregated or protected bikeways that are designed properly, we take a look at two other very important elements that are not at all as technical as design and planning of bikeways – respect and education.
Education is an important aspect of driving. Many Filipino drivers are poorly educated in terms of traffic rules and regulations, road design as well as local policies pertaining to transport and traffic. As such, there is a tendency for many drivers to disregard rules and drive/ride aggressively and recklessly. This must change and it starts with reforms in the way licenses are issued to all types of drivers including perhaps stricter certification systems for truck drivers and public utility vehicle drivers. Traffic education should also be integrated into the academic curricula of schools starting at a very young age. Road safety parks are one way to promote traffic education for kids.
Respect is partly derived from education but is also related to attitude. No matter how much driver or road user education or skill you get if you have a bad attitude, you will still have the tendency to be reckless or irresponsible with your actions on the road. One way to curb bad attitudes on the road and to educate road users (particularly errant drivers and riders) is strict traffic enforcement. Many cities already have CCTVs installed at major intersections that allow law enforcement units to be able to monitor traffic behavior and perhaps zoom in to determine driver and vehicle information including license plate numbers.
The crash that killed the single parent in Marikina is not so much as an issue one whether we need segregated and protected bikeways but is more an urgent need to assess the state of traffic education and enforcement in this country.
Articles on the crash and calls for reforms may be found in this link.
Much has been written and said about Iloilo’s bikeways and particularly about the grander one built along the main highway that is Ninoy Aquino Avenue. This bikeway is already usable but is being extended along with the road widening works for the national road that connects major towns in central Iloilo province including Sta. Barbara and Cabatuan, which host the international airport. Here are some photos and commentaries on the bikeway.
Iloilo City’s wide bikeway along Ninoy Aquino Ave (formerly the Iloilo Diversion Road) – the building on the left is SM City’s recently opened expansion. The photos were taken from the pedestrian overpass across the diversion road.
A closer look of the traffic conflicts at the intersection with Jalandoni Street – the 3-leg intersection is not as simple as it initially looks because of traffic coming from/going to the service road on the right. It is quite obvious in the photo that the alignment of the service road changes abruptly, affecting the trajectory of flow along the road.
The photos were taken around 9:30 AM and there was practically no bicycle traffic to be seen. To be fair, perhaps there is significant bicycle traffic, particularly the commuting kind, earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. Bicycle volumes need to be measured and monitored to determine if the bikeways indeed have encouraged more people to take up cycling as a mode for their regular commutes. That’s the Plazuela in the background on the right.
Another look at the bikeway shows it emanating from Iloilo City proper where it ultimately connects to the bikeways at the Promenade along Iloilo River. There are no bikeways within Iloilo’s CBD itself.
There seems to be a belief among the more zealous advocates of sustainable transport that if “you build it, they will come.” It seems cliche but this saying is not necessarily applicable to many things especially when referring to transport infrastructure. There are examples of roads, terminals and other transport facilities that have been built but sadly are underutilized mainly due to the demand just not being there and taking much time to attain. The last is usually due to the fact that certain conditions or prerequisites have not been satisfied. One such example of this is the case of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), whose payment for the loan that covered the construction costs was premised on a very high traffic demand forecast. It took some time for more people to use the expressway as the traffic from the major developments (Clark, Subic, Tarlac and Bataan industrial and commercial developments) just didn’t happen as immediately as assumed in the forecast. Still, there is a strategic value to such major infrastructure considering it as an investment and something that will cost a lot more in the future if not built today.
In Metro Manila, the MMDA has allocated or designated lanes for cycling along several major roads. These included the lanes they created out of painting existing pedestrian sidewalks and marking these as bikeways. One section is between Magallanes and Ayala while another is from Ortigas to White Plains. These are poorly designed, “pwede na yan” types of bikeways that people on bicycles would find very difficult to use because the course is full of obstacles. And how about the plight of pedestrians who would have to share these narrow paths with cyclists? Such mixed signals on providing for the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are not necessary unless of course the main objective of this exercise is just to get the attention of a wider audience that is the general public, which I would strongly agree is needed to advocate for sustainable transport. Focus on the ultimate goal, however, should not be lost for what appears as small victories. Perhaps an even stronger initiative should be towards having the DPWH revise road design guidelines to incorporate walking and cycling requirement especially for national roads.
Bicycle lane along Julia Vargas Ave. in Pasig City
Cebu City enacted an ordinance essentially promoting cycling through the planning and implementation of bikeways, bike lanes or shared lanes. However, initial efforts seem to be following the MMDA’s “pwede na yan” approach. I think Cebu could do better and come up with a better plan for integrating and mainstreaming bikeways into the transport network. But of course, a lot still needs to be done for pedestrian facilities.
In conclusion, building transport infrastructure is not an assurance that it will generate its intended benefits at once. However, some infrastructure are more strategic than others as perhaps they form part of a network. Expressways in Luzon are among these strategic investments. High standard highways in Mindanao are also essential. Rail rehab and building in Luzon is strategic. The same in Mindanao perhaps is not. Mass transit systems in highly urbanized cities are required but perhaps many should start with buses rather than rail. Bridges across islands are not urgent. International-standard airports in major cities are necessary but not all provinces require such airports. Its not a simple task to determine what will work and what wouldn’t. While it is easy to attribute so many benefits in order to justify a project, such practice would usually result in white elephants that few people benefit from.