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On the benefits of shared roads during the pandemic

There is evidence, and they are increasing, for the benefits of shared roads. Here is another quick share of an article supporting that:

Brown, M (2020) “Shared-use roads improve physical distancing, research shows,” Medical Xpress, accessed: 7/30/2020]

With the situation in the Philippines and particularly in Metro Manila appearing to be worsening rather than improving, national and local governments should take heed of the evidence for shared-use roads and the importance of active transport to ensure people’s mobility will not be hampered. This is particularly important for our frontliners and other essential workers if we are to survive this pandemic.

On designing street for bicycles

There have been a lot of discussion both online and offline about coming up with bike lanes for Metro Manila. Already, there are examples of pop-up bike lanes in some cities while others have had bike lanes and bikeways constructed years ago (e.g., Marikina and Iloilo). While agencies like the DPWH and MMDA have formed technical working groups (TWG) for bike facilities, the perception is that these are moving too slowly (dragging?) and have not produced any gains in so far as design recommendations or guidelines are concerned. Just how important are such guidelines and perhaps at the beginning, context setting, to come up with suitable designs incorporating cycling (and walking) rather than the usual car-centric set-ups? Here’s another article I am sharing that argues for these street designs:

Jaffe, E. (2020) “The most important bike technology is…street design”,, [Last accessed: 7/26/2020]

People biking to work along the Marcos Highway bridge’s painted bike lane

Reference on bike-focused street transformations

There’s an update to the “Rethinking Streets” guide with one that is focused on street transformation for bicycles. Here is the link to their site where they now have 2 guidebooks:

You will have to click one of the guides to register (if you haven’t done so before) and download them.

The Ortigas Center bike lanes, complete streets and road diets

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:

What are 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.

On the need for more facilities for cycling and ensuring they will be used for cycling

I read and hear a lot of comments about two particular items: pedestrian overpasses and bike lanes. Most of the comments call for pedestrians and cyclists to have priority over cars and for the latter to give way to pedestrians and cyclists every time. The hardline stance for some is for the pedestrians to be allowed to cross anywhere and for cyclists to be able to bike on any lane they choose to. Of course, the concerns about these are quite obvious and safety still calls for people, no matter what mode they choose, to use the appropriate spaces. What few actually discuss and delve into are design solutions to these problems. Many cite good practices elsewhere but stop at sharing these and not really going into in-depth and constructive discussions on how to implement these good designs here. Most of the time its just “the government must do this” and “the government must do like what (insert city or country) is doing”. Worse are those who tend to simplify it as an “architect vs. civil engineer vs. planner” kind of conflict. Playing the blame game doesn’t get us anywhere if we wanted the planning and design of transportation infrastructure improved.

Cyclists use the overpasses to cross the wide Marcos Highway between Pasig and Marikina. There are only 2 ramps, one each on either side of the highway and it partly occupies the sidewalk beneath. Could there be a better design for such overpasses?

Motorcycles using the bike lanes along Ortigas Avenue. How do we make sure that spaces are utilised according to their intended users? How do we design these spaces to include elements that will deter such incursions?

There are many references out there showing us what good design should be from the technical and social perspectives. Surely these can be taken up not only at the workplace for architects, engineers and planners but in schools where such principles are supposed to be learned and inculcated into the minds of future architects, engineers and planners.

On the opposition to “complete streets”

I recently read an article about the opposition to road diets in California, USA:

Tinoco, M. (2018) “How to Kill a Bike Lane”,, [Last accessed: 5/20/2018]

So far, we know that at least three cities are progressive enough to implement road diets including Marikina City, Pasig City and Quezon City. Iloilo doesn’t count yet since their bike lane was constructed along the very wide Diversion Road. Our recommendations for Tacloban, if implemented by the city, will probably result in the second most comprehensive application of road diets/complete streets in the Philippines after Marikina, which implemented their bikeways network almost 2 decades ago. There are sure to be many who would be opposed to such schemes as many still have the view that streets are for motor vehicles. This car-oriented thinking is something that will be a challenge to advocates of people-oriented transportation systems. Hopefully, many can learn from experiences here and abroad on how to reclaim space for people leading to safer and more inclusive transport for all.

On the future of city streets

Here is another article, this time on the future of city streets. I had been sharing many of the ideas related in the article in the Transportation Engineering courses that I handle including those pertaining to the Complete Streets concept and road diets. The article is good reading material for my students who need to get out of the box (so to speak) of traditional civil engineering thinking regarding highways and streets. That is, we need to do more people-centred rather than car-centric designs.

Davidson, J. (2018) “What Is a City Street? And What Will It Become?”. New York Magazine. [Last accessed: 2/2/2018].

Here is a photo I took in Iloilo City a couple of years ago showing the bikeway along the Diversion Road. The facility then was underutilized but was supposed to represent, along with the Promenade along the river and the redevelopment of the old airport site in Mandurriao, the revitalisation of the city. Meanwhile, there have been little done for the downtown streets.

Iloilo City provides a good example of the need to have a more holistic transformation rather than have some exhibition or demonstration pieces for inclusive transport here and there.

Some recommended references for sustainable transportation design

We conclude the month of October with the following recommended readings:

While these are guidelines and manuals developed and published in the United States, the principles and much of the content and context are very much applicable here.

As an additional reference, here is the latest version of functional classifications for streets that is supposed to be context-sensitive:

Global Street Design Guide

Here’s another quick post. I just wanted to share this article with a link to a Global Street Design Guide that was developed by the National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO) in the United States (US). It’s a nice guide that’s based on the experiences of many cities in the US including transformations that have made commuting more efficient, enhanced mobility and, most important of all, improved safety. Following is the link to a more direct link to the guide:

NACTO and the Global Designing Cities Initiative Release Global Street Design Guide

This will be a good reference in the Philippines where many cities are in need of transformation to address current and future challenges in transportation. Planners, engineers and students should read this and use it to make our streets safer and more efficient in terms of mobility for all. It would be nice to see fresh ideas on how we can improve our streets not just in Metro Manila but elsewhere across the country. Of course, it would be nice if city planners of local government units (LGUs) can adopt this design guide parallel with efforts to improve public transport services. It should be understood that simply imposing lane allocations and traffic flow policies (one way?), for example, will not solve problems but may create more. The approach should always be integrated, inclusive. In other words, complete.

Some interesting (and required) readings on traffic engineering

Christmas breaks allow me to catch up on a lot of reading. The previous months comprising our university’s semester were spent preparing for lectures though I had to do some readings related to researches I am involved in. Browsing the net and social media, I came across 2 articles shared by an acquaintance. He is a very progressive planner who has extensively studied and written about the most relevant issues in urban planning, focusing on transport. A third article I found while reading one of the two. These were very interesting for me in part because they are thought provoking in as far as traffic engineering is concerned.

The author seems to call out traffic engineers in general but these articles should also be contextualized properly. The situations mentioned in the articles are to be found in cities in the United States and may not be applicable in other cities in other countries. Traffic engineers in Europe, for example, have been working on exactly the solutions being mentioned in the articles that would make streets inclusive and safe especially for pedestrians and cyclists. The same with Asian cities like Singapore and Tokyo.

In the Philippines, however, there is so much that we can learn from the articles. The mere mention of the design guidelines being used in the US betrays the flaws of highway and traffic engineering in the Philippines. The Philippines’ highway planning manual and other guidelines used by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are heavily drawn from US references. Most highway and traffic engineers in the country are educated using curricula that use US textbooks and references. There are even civil engineering programs that use licensure exam review materials as their references! These exam materials are also known to be based on DPWH guidelines and manuals aside from problems “outsourced” or patterned after the Professional Engineer (PE) exams in the US. Few schools have progressive curricula that look to best practices that take into account the complexities of roads especially in the urban setting. Such ‘copying’ of American standards and practices in many cases do not consider Philippine (local) conditions and blind applications to our roads instead of proper adaptation often have lead to unsafe and inequitable roads.