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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.

On cycling fatalities and the way forward

I’ve read a few articles and social media posts about how its become more dangerous or risky for cyclists during the pandemic. The statistics and observations show that there is an increase in the number of cyclists. I am not even considering here the recreational ones (and I have observed that there are a lot more of them). I focus rather on those who use bicycles to commute between their homes and workplaces; or those who cycle to market or do their groceries. The danger lies mainly from motorists who have little or no regard for cyclists and pedestrians; choosing to hog the roads for themselves. And there seem to be more of these motorists these days, too, as people owning cars have opted to use these instead of taking public transportation.

Here’s a recent article about safety in the US. Those stats and assessments can be replicated here given the availability of data on kilometers traveled and crashes that are usually employed for risk assessments.

Marquis, E. (December 22, 2020) “Cars have killed almost 700 cyclists in 2020,” Jalopnik.com, https://jalopnik.com/cars-have-killed-almost-700-bicyclists-in-2020-1845934793

The only solution for our case really is to put up protected bike lanes. Local standards or guidelines need to evolve and the people behind these should be of progressive thinking rather than relying on “what has been done” or “what they have been doing”. That attitude will only give us poorly planned and designed infrastructure for cycling and walking. The coming year offers some opportunities for active transportation as the DOTr and the DPWH (plus the MMDA in the case of Metro Manila, and perhaps the LGUs where applicable) are supposed to implement major projects intending to produce the bike lanes and walkways for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao. The budget is in the billions of pesos so much is expected about these projects. Will they become models for other Philippine cities and municipalities to follow? Or will these be like going through the motions just to appease those calling for active transport facilities?

On the transformation from car-oriented to people-oriented streets

I saw this article shared by a friend on social media and share it here as an interesting piece providing ideas and the thinking or attitude required if we are to transform our streets:

Jaffe, E. (2020) “4 ways to go from “streets for traffic” to “streets for people”, Medium, https://medium.com/sidewalk-talk/4-ways-to-go-from-streets-for-traffic-to-streets-for-people-6b196db3aabe [Last accessed: 9/30/2020]

It is actually interesting to see how this plays out in Philippine cities. The ‘honeymoon’ or ‘grace’ period from the lockdown to the ‘normalization’ (read: going back to the old normal) of traffic might just have a window and this is closing for active transport. National and local officials, for example, who seemed enthusiastic and quickly put up facilities for active transport have slowed down efforts or even stopped or reneged on their supposed commitments. The next few weeks (even months) will show us where we are really headed even as there are private sector initiatives for active transport promotion and integration.

On bicycles slowing down cars

There is a perception that cyclists tend to slow down other vehicles, mainly motorized, along roads. Again, such can be the experience of some that have been generalized and accepted as fact in most cases. However, if we look closely at the evidence, the perception may not be true for most cases after all. This article comes out of Portland State University:

Schaefer, J., Figliozzi, M. and Unnikrishnan, A. (2020) “Do bicycles slow down cars on low speed, low traffic roads? Latest research says ‘no’,” EurekAlert!, https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/psu-dbs072320.php [Last accessed: 8/1/2020]

 

Check out the wealth of information through the links found throughout the article that includes references to published material in reputable journals. EurekAlert! is from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

On the bicycle as the future of urban transport

Here is another quick post where I am sharing an article on the bicycle as the future of transport:

Dans, E. (2020) “Whichever way you look at it, the bicycle is the future of urban transport”, medium.com,  https://medium.com/enrique-dans/whichever-way-you-look-at-it-the-bicycle-is-the-future-of-urban-transport-c40157625115 [Last accessed: 7/17/2020]

I’ve posted about this idea before here and on social media. While some people were engrossed or obsessed about self driving cars, I was asking them how this could be the future of transport when all this leads to is more cars on the roads, and perhaps roads designed to accommodate these vehicles. The evidence vs. self driving cars was already there and the pandemic only emphasized how this could not be the future of transport. Instead, we have something more basic and not even motor-powered – the bicycle. Come to think of it, there is also walking. But then the bicycle is more energy efficient and can take you over longer distances than your feet.

Reference on Bicycle Facility Preferences and Increasing Bicycle Trips

There are many references that are free for downloading. These include the latest publications from the National Academies Press that includes outputs from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. I am sharing here and posting also as a reference for me to return to a new publication from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program:

NCHRP Research Report 941: Bicyclist Facility Preferences and Effects on Increasing Bicycle Trips by Watkins, Clark, Mokhtarian, Circella, Handy and Kendall.

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25792/bicyclist-facility-preferences-and-effects-on-increasing-bicycle-trips?utm_source=NASEM+News+and+Publications&utm_campaign=79720e1f2f-NAP_mail_new_2020_05_04&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_96101de015-79720e1f2f-106035917&goal=0_96101de015-79720e1f2f-106035917&mc_cid=79720e1f2f&mc_eid=ac92e6afc0

The research was supported by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Tartanilla – Calesas in Cebu City

We spotted these calesas or horse drawn carts while walking around downtown. These are also called ‘tartanilla’, which is familiar to us since its the same term used in Cagayan De Oro for their version of this transport mode. Here are a few photos:

Although mainly used for tourism purposes in Manila, the tartanilla in Cebu seems to enjoy some non-tourist ridership. Most of the passengers we saw riding them didn’t look like tourists.

There are on-street stations for these tartanillas.

Tartanilla station sign – the stations appear to be informal but I guess the city is regulating their services and retaining them as part of the heritage of the city.

Marikina’s Bike and Parking Lanes

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.

Shoes made in Marikina

This seems to be an odd topic for this blog at first but then shoes are very much related to transportation. You have to have a good pair of shoes on you for walking, jogging or running. There are even driving shoes and boat shoes (i.e., those docksides and topsiders were originally made for boating or walking along the seaside). And so I write this short article about shoes; particularly those made in Marikina.

Marikina is well-known for its shoemaking industry. It used to be a major industry that manufactured shoes that were popular throughout the country as well as being exported for sale abroad. These were mainly handmade using techniques and skills passed on from one generation to the next. It was not uncommon for families to be involved in shoemaking and the brands of many shoes carry the names (or combinations) of families involved in the business. There was even a Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao where I recall we had bought many pairs of shoes for school and casual days. Among the brands I remember were Chancellor, Valentino and Cardams. There is also a Shoe Avenue in the city along which many shops are located. In many cases, these are also the factories themselves.

The industry suffered due to a combination of automation (i.e., mass production) and the influx of cheap shoes from China. Without government support for the industry, many, regardless of whether they were small or big, eventually seized shoemaking. Those who survived and those who were revived are the ones you still see. And then there are upstarts who have been encouraged by the support now being provided by the city government. One venue for this support is through a “Sapatos Festival” that the city organises to promote shoes and other footwear made in Marikina.

The Sapatos Festival was held right across from the Marikina City Hall.

One could find a variety of footwear using various materials including genuine leather, rubber, faux leather, etc. This photo shows men’s shoes being sold at one of the shops there.

I tried on a pair I fancied and after the typical examination of workmanship and quality, I decided to buy this pair for 900 pesos (about 9 US dollars!).

Marikina-made footwear and bags are also sold at the Riverbanks mall that used to be a textile factory complex. These are inexpensive yet very good quality products that I think we should re-discover and support. Perhaps we should also provide constructive comments or suggestions on how the makers can further improve their products in order for them to be able to compete with the mass-produced variety. There is definitely a market for well-made footwear whether you walk, take public transport or drive.