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The case for bike lanes

There is a strong push for more bike lanes to be developed along both major and minor roads. Many pop-up bike lanes that were implemented and permanent bike lanes constructed in 2020, mostly during the lockdowns, to address the needs of ‘frontliners’ who opted to bike to work have been retained and even upgraded to adhere to guidelines issued by the DPWH. While these bike lanes are not yet as comprehensive as desired and most are not the protected types, recent developments have threatened their existence and consequently the safety of cyclists (especially bike-to-work) and the promotion of cycling as a primary mode of transport.

Biker with a passenger – angkas is not just for motorcycles but can also apply to bicycles as well

We need to transform our streets where it is possible in order to take advantage of the increasing popularity of cycling that has convinced some people to select cycling at least for their last mile trips and hopefully for the most part(s) of their commute. From a transport planning perspective, we should also determine if these mode shifts can be sustained and perhaps increased with proper integration of public transport and active transport thrusts.

The recent removal of protected bike lanes or barriers that serve to protect cyclists using the lanes in some cities are examples of regression rather than progression. These come as a surprise as these cities have made leaps and bounds so to speak in developing their bike lane networks. Where did the orders to do so originate and are staffs of these cities communicating, discussing and coordinating these actions? Apparently, there are internal conflicts and perhaps, I dare say here, politics involved. It is also possible that within LGUs, the concepts, visions and plans for transportation are not harmonized or understood making one project by one clique unacceptable to another or others. I know from personal experiences that LGU traffic engineering & management and operations staff are often not in synch with their planning counterparts. This is not and should not be a given since both need to collaborate in order to address transport and traffic issues that need more comprehensive and progressive approaches compared to what have been practiced before.

LGUs cannot rely on strategies and tactics that are along the lines of “ganito na ginagawa noon pa” or “ganito na inabutan ko”, which only proves these were ineffective (i.e., why not try other techniques, methods or strategies instead?). Transformations and paradigm changes to solve transport problems cannot be achieved by denying the change, innovation or new ideas required for emerging as well as persistent issues/problems.

Bike lanes at BGC

We were at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) a couple of weeks ago after almost two years of not going there mainly due to the pandemic. We frequented BGC before especially since my wife’s office is there and, if it weren’t for the ‘old normal’ traffic, the place offered a lot in terms of restaurants and shops. When traffic wasn’t as bad, we even had our Saturdays there with our daughter as her Kindermusik sessions were originally there before we transferred to their branch at The Grove. It’s not yet post-pandemic but traffic is back to ‘old normal’ levels.

I was expecting to see the bike lanes along C5 and at BGC when we traveled there. I will post separately about the bike lanes along C5. I just wanted to share here a few photos the wife took of the bike lanes at BGC. It is truly a welcome development not just here but in many places across the country where cycling offers another option for trips of various purposes including commuting between homes and workplaces. The protected lanes along 9th Avenue are wide and can be replicated elsewhere in order to encourage more people to use bicycles. The connectivity of bike lanes, though, leaves much to be desired if one expects people to use bikes for longer trips.

Entering BGC from the C5 ramp, one immediately notices the bike lane at the right along 32nd Street.
The bike lane is clearer at the approach to the intersection. There are no bike boxes (yet) at BGC but they can probably consider this improvement for their intersections.
Here’s what it looks like when cyclists arrive and congregate at the approach to the intersection. The corner island also acts as refuge for pedestrians crossing the road. Note that this is a wide section of 32nd Street, which is one of the major streets at BGC.
Protected bike lane along 9th Avenue with a clear sign vs. motor vehicles using the lane. The width is a full lane (i.e., more than 3m wide) so this can be used for two-way bike traffic.

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 why people are afraid to bike

There is an interesting graphic shared by a friend on his social media account. I am also sharing it here. The source may be found at the bottom right of the graphic.

I think the graphic speaks for itself. How can we encourage people to bike whether for commuting or other utilitarian purpose if there are nuts behind the wheels of many motor vehicles? All the points raised in the graphic are true for the Philippines and are not limited to drivers of private vehicles. These are also the same for public transport drivers as well. And these cannot be solved or addressed overnight. You have to get to the roots of the problem, which are about the driver and rider education (i.e., training), and the licensing system of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

While there are driving and riding schools that have proliferated, many seem to just go through the motions of driver and rider education. Prospective motor vehicle drivers and riders often just learn enough to pass a flawed examination to get their licenses. Do they really learn about how to behave properly when driving or riding? It certainly does not show with how they deal with cyclists and pedestrians. As for enforcement, well that’s another topic to discuss in a separate post.

On defining the 15-minute city

I have shared articles and briefly written about the concept of the 15-minute city on this blog. Here is another discussing how a 15-minute city is defined:

(February 8, 2021) “Defining the 15-minute city,” Public Square, https://www.cnu.org/publicsquare/2021/02/08/defining-15-minute-city [Last accessed: 8/10/2021]

Here is an image from the article:

Again, it is important to contextualize these concepts. I share these as references and topics for discussion. Of course, I have my own opinions about this and I have written about those in previous posts. I guess in the Philippine context, we can include the pedicab or non-motorized three-wheelers in the discussion. These are also very popular modes in many cities and municipalities despite their being also prohibited along national roads like their motorized counterparts. It would be nice to have more visuals in the form of maps that show travel times for essential destinations or places like hospitals, markets, grocery stores, workplaces and, of course, homes. I assume there is at least someone, somewhere who perhaps have made multi-layer maps of this sort and attempted to related them along the lines of this concept of a 15-minute city (or perhaps the even older “compact cities”).

On quantifying the benefits of bike share

I’m sharing another article that presents a quantification of Such articles and studies are gaining interest as cycling or biking becomes a popular choice for many seeking an alternative to their usual or former modes of transport. It helps that there are many initiatives promoting active transport in general and cycling/biking in particular.

Wilson, K. (July 23, 2021) “Study: Bike Share Saves the U.S. $36 Million Public Health Dollars Every Year,” StreetsBlog USA, https://usa.streetsblog.org/2021/07/23/study-bike-share-saves-the-u-s-36-million-public-health-dollars-every-year/ [Last accessed: 8/6/2021]

While the article is about bike share, the conclusions can be extended to cycling/biking in general. The article points to at least 3 major areas where benefits can be derived: safety, air pollution (reduction) and physical activity. To quote:

“I think the message to cities is that bike share — and biking in general, though that’s harder to quantify in the way we do in this study — can contribute a lot to their long term goals,… Most cities want to improve quality of life, the economy, the climate, and their public health outcomes. Bike share does all those things.”

Sharing an article on the benefits of cycling exercise

Here is another quick share of an article on the benefits of cycling. The article is more about the health benefits that are highlighted here with a study on diabetics:

Putka, S. (July 26, 2021) “One type of exercise reliably lowers your risk of death, says scientists,” Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/benefits-of-cycling-exercise [Last accessed: 7/28/2021]

The article is clear about the impacts not being limited to diabetics or those with other illnesses. Also, while intensity and duration of exercise are mentioned and appear to have the most significant positive effects, the findings extend to relatively healthy people as well as those into lower intensity, less duration exercise. The key is still to be active. Of course, a healthy diet should also be a constant across these cases.

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.

On building the ideal city from a transportation perspective

There’s a not so old article that popped in my timeline of articles I’ve read the past years. I thought I would make a quick share of it here. It is a good read and something that will never be irrelevant for as long as we have not redeveloped our cities and municipalities for transport equity and sustainability. Here’s a takeaway from the article:

“The ideal city is a place where lots of different kinds of people with lots of different amounts of money can live and work. It has to be easy to get around without a car, even for people whose bodies can’t ride bikes or hop over potholes, and for people who have kids to drop off on the way to work and groceries to buy on the way home, and maybe flowers to buy next door to the dry cleaner’s. These are places where people want to live, because it’s nice there. The fact that those places also adapt to and mitigate climate change instead of causing it is a bonus.”

Here’s the article from last year:

Rogers, A. (April 1, 2020) “Build Cities for Bikes, Buses, and Feet—Not Cars,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/cities-without-cars-san-francisco-jeff-tumlin/?bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&esrc=AUTO_OTHER&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_ENGAGEMENT_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Classics_042921&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=WIR_Daily_TopClickers [Last accessed: 4/30/2021]

On when to use masks when outdoors

Here is a useful graphic from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The graphic described situations for when masks are required. I don’t want to use preferred because it means people may opt out of using masks. It is a useful reference even for those in other countries that do not have enough clear information from their governments about wearing masks and how it helps protect vs. getting infected by Covid-19. It is applicable to people searching for a legit reference to mask-wearing in outdoor situations.

This information becomes more relevant as people start getting vaccinated and at the same time look forward to getting together with family and friends in social events such as eating out or having picnics. Of course, this also applies to exercise as well as commuting via active transport modes (i.e., walking or cycling).