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On bicycles and first responders
I am sharing this article on the use of bicycles by first responders, particularly the police for their work:
International Police Mountain Bike Association (April 11, 2023) “Why Bicycles are Great for Police and First Responders,” Policemag.com, https://www.policemag.com/patrol/news/15382905/why-bicycles-are-great-for-police-and-first-responders [Last accessed: 4/15/2023]
To quote from the article:
“The advantages of using bicycles in public safety include:
• Bicycles can easily penetrate crowds – in highly congested areas police, EMS, and security personnel on bikes can move around more easily than patrol cars and ambulances.
• Response time in heavy traffic is improved – during their trial period in Orlando, bike medics responded in less than one minute 55% of the time; less than two minutes 83% of the time; and less than three minutes 95% of the time; contrasted with an average of four minutes for motorized rescue units.
• Stealth advantage – bicycles give officers the “stealth advantage” – because they are silent. Cops on bikes can ride right up to the scene of a crime before they are noticed.
• Police, EMS, and security cyclists lead by example – promoting helmet use and bike safety to the community and its children.
• Bicycles are great for public relations – an officer or a medic on a bike is much more approachable than one in a patrol car or ambulance.
• Bicycle use promotes good health – and departments benefit from decreased healthcare costs.
• Bicycles are enjoyable – even occasional bike duty improves morale.
• Bicycles are cost-effective – the average cost per bike is approximately $1200, a fraction of the cost of a cruiser, an ambulance, or any other motorized vehicle – and the annual maintenance costs are low.
• Bicycles are environmentally-friendly – no fossil fuels or emissions, and less parking surface is needed.”
While there are no disadvantages mentioned in the article, the advantages are clear and can be assumed to outweigh the cons of using bicycles. This is especially true in an urban setting where the items mentioned above are applicable and surely gives police and other first responders an advantage. In the Philippines, where the image of a bad or corrupt police officer is one who has bulging tummy, more physically fit and approachable officers on bicycles will surely improve the image of the PNP and other traffic enforcers as well.
Quezon City’s Green Transport Office Bike Patrol
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 2: reasons for a strike
The current transport strike is not about fare hikes or the rising prices of fuel. Those are the most common reasons for jeepney drivers and operators going on strike. It’s quite simple for these reasons: Drivers protest when government refuses to increase fare rates amidst rising costs of operations and maintenance. And they don’t when fares are reduced as fuel prices are going down.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) through its Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is tasked with evaluating operations and maintenance costs of public utility vehicles and prescribe the minimum and incremental fares for these services. Fare hikes (and reductions) are the consequence of fuel price increases (or decreases) but are not set as dynamic or automatic. Fuel prices, as can be observed, can fluctuate and currently change every week. Fares are not automatically adjusted whether fuel prices are increasing or decreasing and are heavily regulated by government in part to supposedly protect the interests of the riding public. As such, fare matrices or the structured fares according to the various routes and the distances covered by public utility vehicles
The reason for the current transport strike is generalized as a jeepney phaseout. The term ‘phaseout’ actually refers to the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP) of the government that seeks to replace all conventional jeepneys with ‘modern’ or ‘modernized’ units. The latter include mini-bus types as well as those that retain the conventional jeepney form but usually larger and with newer engines and interior layout. This is not necessarily a phaseout like the one I described in Part 1 along the LRT Line 1 corridor.
Again, much of the opposition cites the high cost (and therefore unaffordable) of a modern jeepney. The financing schemes currently available as well as the requirement for jeepney operators and drivers to be part of a transport cooperative to avail of these financing schemes are still considered unacceptable by many. And yet, government seems unwilling to extend resources in order for operators and drivers to be able to afford a new vehicle. The old jeepneys would still have some value but definitely not near a substantial down payment needed for low monthly payments. These monthly payments cannot be covered by the typical boundary (basically rent) for operators or the daily income for drivers.*
What is the cost of replacing conventional jeepneys with new, ‘modernized’ vehicles? Well, let’s assume that a new vehicle costs 2.4M pesos. Also, perhaps cover only the ones operating in the urban setting (i.e., exclude for now those serving provincial routes especially those used also for freight (e.g., top loads)), say 50% of the estimated 250,000 units need to be replaced. That goes up to 300 billion pesos. If we were to replace only Metro Manila jeepneys, that will be 132 billion pesos. These numbers can be compared to the cost of major projects like the Metro Manila Subway (488 billion), the Bataan-Cavite interlink bridge (175 billion) and the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan (735 billion). Would it be worth it (benefits-wise) to invest in new jeepneys?
*Of course, this also indicates a flawed business model for jeepney operations. But that’s another story.
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 1: introduction
A nationwide week-long transport strike by jeepney operators and drivers From a CNN news report yesterday, it was stated that an estimated 4 out of 10 or 40% of jeepney drivers will be going on strike and halting operations for a week. These are supposedly members of the group Manibela, which claims to have over 100,000 members nationwide (Aren’t you curious how many jeepneys there actually are nationwide? There are supposedly more than 250,000 public utility jeepneys operating across the country with about 55,000 in Metro Manila.). The other 40% are certain that they will not be going on strike and these include members of the more established groups like PISTON, ACTO and Pasang Masda as well as those who belong to the many transport cooperatives that were formed the last so many years in part for the purposes of modernization. The remaining ones are undecided and include those also affiliated with those groups and those who claim to not have any affiliations.
If media companies like GMA, the defunct ABS CBN and even government station PTV have archives dating back to the 1970s, they will probably see that similar interviews have been conducted of jeepney drivers. Libraries like the National Library or perhaps those of leading universities like the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University would likely have archives of newspapers from way back. I remember UP Diliman having microfiche facilities but I am unsure to what year they have archives. You will likely read similar reports and interviews about jeepney operations during those times. The idea and initiatives for phasing out the conventional jeepneys is not a new thing or topic. It has been out there for quite some time but in different forms and contexts.
For example, there was a proposal to phase out jeepneys along the corridor of the LRT Line 1 in the Feasibility Study for the railway line as well as in the Metro Manila-wide studies that were conducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jeepneys plying the Monumento-Baclaran and Monumento-Harrison Plaza routes were among those identified for phasing out. Careful reading of the reports though will also show that ‘phase out’ actually meant ‘rationalizing’ or ‘rerouting’ the jeepney services so they will complement the mass transit line. That never happened and the jeepneys still operate today (probably many are still the same jeepneys from the 1970s and 1980s!). Do passengers ride them from Monumento to Harrison (or vice versa)? Probably not as the travel will be too long compared to riding the train. They survive because of the short trips, usually less than 4 kilometers, by passengers who probably should be walking or cycling instead if we were in a Japanese, Korean, Singaporean or European city.
Fast forward today, the call apparently is for a phase-out in favor of the “modern” jeepneys (many are actually mini-buses). Jeepney operators and drivers are also being called to join or form cooperatives under which they can be part of programs that will replace their conventional jeepneys with a ‘modern’ unit. One issue here are the terms for the replacement or the acquisition of a new vehicle. The cost of a new vehicle varies and can be more expensive than a new SUV (e.g., more expensive if not as expensive as a new Montero, Fortuner or Everest) depending on the model and the size of the vehicle. This is apparently the most significant concern among others that is being cited by those opposing or resisting modernization, which they equate to a ‘phase out’.
One of the ‘modern’ jeepney models currently operating in Metro Manila
More in the next article for this series…
Some takeaways from a lecture
I lecture from time to time at the Philippine Public Safety College. This is the counterpart of the National Defense College. In the latter graduates are conferred a Masters in National Security Administration (MNSA) while in the former, graduates are conferred a Masters in Public Safety Administration (MPSA). It is no wonder that many who take these courses are military or police officers seeking graduate degrees that may later be useful for them after their typically early retirement (military and police officers retire at 56 years old instead of the typical 65 years mandatory retirement for other government employees). There are many civilians who take these programs, too. The MNSA degree actually promotes a person to a high rank as a military reservist. I am not sure about the MPSA degree but graduate degrees like these are useful for promotions in their respective offices.
I lectured recently to a class consisting of two batches of their MPSA program. Each batch consists of uniformed (mostly senior police officers with a rank equivalent to at least a Lt. Col.) and non-uniformed personnel (from various offices and professions including public and private universities, private companies, etc.). I get a lot of questions and comments regarding transport and traffic during my lectures. Some can be out of context or perhaps posed in a smart-aleck fashion but most are well-intentioned. After all, who doesn’t want to “solve” traffic? Among the more notable comments during my recent lecture are as follows (not in any order):
- There is a need to have better urban planning for our cities;
- Investments for transportation infrastructure need to be shared by government and the private sector;
- A holistic approach is required and we cannot isolate transportation or traffic;
- There is a need to have a law restricting vehicle ownership (mostly related to parking);
- There is a need to invest or allocate more resources to develop other cities to help decongest the larger cities.
Based on my experience having lectured at the PPSC over 5 years, these two batches had more listeners and were more sensible when they posted their comments and opinions on the chatbox (the lecture was via Zoom). There were only a couple of comments with ideas I did not agree with:
- Transferring the capital to another location – this seems to be a trendy (read: “nakikiuso”) topic and a very tempting one for discussion but it is not a simple task and has had mixed results in other countries that tried it (e.g., Brazil, Pakistan and Malaysia). Is it worth exploring? Probably.
- Cable cars for Metro Manila – I explained that this is still band-aid solution that does not address the roots of the transport problems experienced by Metro Manila. It is not suitable as for one, it will not have the capacity required for regular commutes and, to me at least, it is more a novelty than a solution. Resources would be better allocated elsewhere such as active transport.
Overall, I thought that this most recent lecture generated the best feedback so far from my students. I look forward to more lectures and interactions like this. And perhaps the next one will be face to face.
On getting started on bike commuting
Here is another article on bike commuting. It really is a challenge to get people into bike commuting even if their workplaces or schools are close to their homes. What more for people who have to travel longer distances between their homes and workplaces or schools?
Bassett, E. (December 1, 2022) “The No B.S. Guide to Getting Started Bike Commuting,” Medium, https://erikbassett.medium.com/the-no-b-s-guide-to-getting-started-bike-commuting-5dd0cbb87e5b [Last accessed:
To quote from the article:
“Assume you’re invisible until proven otherwise.
Like every city I’ve lived or ridden in, yours probably paints pictures on the ground and calls them “bicycle infrastructure.” Road designs encourage excess speed; vehicles aren’t meaningfully separated from cyclists and pedestrians; there are conflicting rights-of-way at intersections, driveways, and so forth.
And that is not right. It’s a sad commentary on urban “planning” in most places that anything but car use requires this degree of paranoia. It points to a profound dysfunction that few (with any serious influence) are willing or even interested to change…yet.
But unless or until it improves, the only viable response is to assume you don’t exist in the eyes of whoever’s driving nearby. “If I weren’t here, would they gun it to make a right turn on red?” Well, assume they will. “If I weren’t here, would they merge up there?” You guessed it: assume they will.
This is unquestionably the worst aspect of bike commuting, and if it’s too stressful in your situation, that’s perfectly fine. But in the spirit of a “no-B.S.” guide, I’d be remiss not to drive home a life-saving lesson that all these years of cycling have so deeply ingrained in me.”
The author also states the difference between bike commuting and sports biking including noting the differences in the objectives or goals for each.
Why do we keep widening roads?
I’m just going to share this article here. The article from The NY Times asks a question that has been bugging planners and engineers, particularly those who are in government and perhaps under the agencies like the DPWH, DOTr and NEDA. This also applies to planners, engineers and those from other disciplines involved in transportation infrastructure development and particularly roads or highways.
Another definition of the 15-minute city
We begin 2023 with an informative article defining the “15-minute city”. This is actually an entry in Planetizen’s Planopedia, which contains definitions of fundamental concepts in urban planning:
Ionescu, D. (December 2022) “What is a 15-minute City?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/definition/15-minute-city?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-12292022&mc_cid=ee083e2ee7&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 1/1/2023]
I’ve written and shared articles about this concept before. Here are a couple from 2021 where I offered my opinions about the concept as already applied in the Philippines:
Examples of legislative actions in support of active transport
While the Philippine government and various local government units seem to be reneging on their commitments to support active transport, other countries have been building on their gains during the pandemic. Here are examples of legislations in New York State that will support active transport through funding of complete streets projects and institutional arrangements for representation of transit dependent individual:
The article is about two legislations:
Legislation (S.3897/A.8936-A) Provides Funding for “Complete Streets” Projects Inclusive of a Holistic Approach to Street Design
Legislation (S.3959-B/A.7822-C) Adds Board Seats to NFTA, RGRTA, CDTA, and Central New York Regional Airport Authority Dedicated to a Transit Dependent Individual
We hope to see something like these at least at the local level. Perhaps if LGUs are able to legislate and implement these, there will be more good practice examples that will compel national government to support active transport development. The latter is actually ironic considering that many plans are supposed to spell out the national government’s commitment to active transport. There are still live memorandum orders and department orders supporting and promoting active transport. Are these also being waylaid? That will be tragic for transportation if we didn’t learn or gain anything from the experiences during this pandemic.
On the impacts of bicycle use
I’ve probably read a lot of posts on social media advocating for bicycle use. Here is another article that provides us with evidence about the impacts of cycling on travel, emissions and health:
Timmer, J. (August 20, 2022) “Here’s What Happens When Countries Use Bikes to Fight Emissions,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/bike-more-curb-global-emissions/ [Last accessed: 8/24/2022]
To quote from the article:
“Globally, adopting a Danish level of bicycle use would reduce annual emissions of CO2 by 414 million metric tons, approximately equivalent to the UK’s emissions in 2015. Boosting that to a Dutch level would eliminate nearly 700 million metric tons, or most of the emissions from Germany in that year.
The researchers also noted that countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have much lower rates of obesity than their peer countries. Based on the known health risks there, they estimate that, globally, we’re already avoiding 170,000 deaths annually due to cycling. Expanding this globally, they found that Denmark-equivalent bicycle use would prevent 430,000 deaths per year. Dutch levels of cycling would prevent 780,000 deaths.
That said, the vulnerability of cyclists to cars poses its own lethal risks. But these aren’t anywhere close to outweighing the benefits from exercise and lower obesity. (They’d add about 90,000 and 160,000 additional deaths per year for the two levels of use.) And if fewer drivers are using cars, there’s a chance that those numbers would come in even lower.
It’s worth noting that these numbers almost certainly underestimate the benefits of shifting to bikes. Bicycles use far fewer resources to produce, and they last longer than most cars. Maintenance is likely to be far less resource-intensive as well. So simply focusing on the use of the bike omits a lot of things that would show up in a detailed life-cycle analysis.
The researchers are certainly correct that there are a lot of locations where weather makes cycling a less-than-ideal option—and the range of places where heat makes it a positively dangerous option is expanding in our changing climate.
But some of the other issues are less severe than they might appear at first. For example, the advent of bicycles with electric assist means that hilly locales aren’t necessarily the barrier they might have been a decade ago. And while a number of countries have large open spaces where cars will remain a necessity, the trend toward urbanization means that most people in those countries will live in places where cycling can be made an option.
So, the biggest barrier is likely to remain the social will to rethink transportation.”
Indeed, social will (as well as political will) is perhaps the biggest barrier in our country. Many people may not agree but the evidence for this is so clear and obvious that one has to be naive or oblivious to not see it. How else will one explain people sticking to their cars and more readily shifting to motorcycles rather than the bicycle. Of course, there are other factors to be considered and the article actually cites wealth and geography as strong prerequisites in developing a cycling culture. We need to do much more to determine where interventions are needed including land use planning and land development as well as the provision of affordable housing closer to workplaces, schools, shops and other places of interest (Hello 10- or 15-minute cities!).
On how traffic enforcement enhances road safety
It seems to be a no-brainer and has always been an assumption to many traffic engineering studies including those employing simulation to determine the outcomes of various scenarios involving transportation. The element that is traffic enforcement, however, cannot be assumed as something uniform across countries, cities, barangays or even individual road sections and intersections (yet we often do assume uniformity and a certain level of strictness).
Here is an article that reports on new research pertaining to how the enforcement of traffic laws makes roads safer:
Mohn, T. (June 8, 2022) “Enforcing traffic laws makes roads safer, new research shows,” Forbes.com, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyamohn/2022/06/08/enforcing-traffic-laws-makes-roads-safer-new-research-shows/?sh=74b03c97591e [Last accessed: 6/10/2022]
To quote from the article:
“High visibility enforcement of traffic safety laws actually works. When carried out, regulations governing driving have a positive and measurable impact on safety by reducing dangerous behaviors behind the wheel that put road users at risk…
““Enforcement alone will not solve the traffic safety crisis,” Adkins added. “We cannot simply enforce, build, design or educate our way out of this problem. The Safe System necessitates a comprehensive approach for achieving our collective goal of zero traffic deaths, including equitable enforcement that focuses on risky driver choices that endanger all road users.”
The article points to new research published by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The synthesis to that research may be found here while the full report is found here.
Such research and articles are very relevant especially as incidents like the one involving a driver running over an enforcer become viral and bring to the forefront traffic enforcement or the lack of it (some will word it differently – like why many drivers don’t follow traffic rules and regulations). The discussion must continue especially in the context of road safety.