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Pedicabs in San Diego

I was surprised to see a familiar vehicle going around San Diego as I took a walk around the Gaslamp District. I had to do a double take as I saw three-wheeled non-motorised transport (NMT) along a busy road. Many were brightly decorated or sported  lights that made them noticeable among the vehicles on the streets when it got dark. Many drivers were also dressed to attract passengers. Many wore helmets or some head gear (hats or caps for others). Motorists seem to be well-adjusted to these pedicabs running along San Diego roads but then traffic in the CBD appears to be lighter compared to downtown Los Angeles or San Francisco.

IMG10990-20150504-1908Bicycles and cycling are very popular in San Diego so pedicabs seem to be a natural extension of that

IMG10991-20150504-1908Three-wheeler with a smiley

IMG10992-20150504-1909Pedicabs could carry 2 to 4 passengers depending on their seating configuration

IMG10993-20150504-1912A pedicab decked with rope lights is followed by one with well-dressed passengers. The pedicabs were quite popular with delegates/participants of the INTA conference held at the San Diego Convention Center.

IMG11074-20150506-1227I like this photo I took of a pedicab ferrying a passenger to the historic Sta. Fe train station. A San Diego trolley is also in the photo. The image shows the complementation among transport modes.

The pedicabs in San Diego are basically for tourism and not necessarily for commuting. They do, however, agree to carry people who would rather ride the pedicab than take a taxi or walk to their destinations. You just have to negotiate a fair price for the ride. The good thing with the pedicabs in San Diego is that their operations there provide a good example, a proof of concept if I may state, of how motorised and non-motorised options can co-exist. These options for travel include the rail-based trolley and provide people with a plethora of options for sustainable mobility. I think this should work in medium sized, highly urbanised Philippine cities as well.

Streets of Malabon

I happened to be in Malabon one weekend for a get-together with the wife’s relatives who lived in the area. Malabon is an old town that is often mentioned in history books (i.e., during the Spanish period). Though the name of the town is said to have been derived from the term “ma-labong,” which is short for “maraming labong” or plenty of bamboo shoots, it is likely, too, the place was named after San Francisco de Malabon. Here are a few photos we managed to take as we drove along Malabon’s streets. I was not familiar with the area but Waze and Google maps provided ample information for us to navigate our way around.

IMG09030-20140726-1624 Gen. Luna Street in the Malabon city proper is a one way street. Other streets in the CBD have also been designated as one-way streets as all (and not just a few or most) roads are narrow.

IMG09031-20140726-1624Non-motorized transport are popular in Malabon and you will see a lot of bicycles and pedicabs along the streets. These are usually in mixed traffic and seem to blend quite well with motorized vehicles. This seems to be a good example of practicable road sharing.

IMG09032-20140726-1624While the streets are designated one-way for motor vehicles, bicycles and pedicabs generally travel counterflow and oblivious to the risks of doing so. Still, motorists seem to be okay with this and traffic enforcers do not mind the practice.

IMG09033-20140726-1626There are many people using bicycles and pedicabs in Malabon. Noticeable are the unique designs of sidecars as the bicycles used in the trikes are taller than the usual bikes elsewhere.

IMG09034-20140726-1630One of the narrow side streets in Malabon. I think these should only be used for walking or cycling and motor vehicles (including motorcycles) should not be allowed to use these. Malabon can be developed as a walkable city and since it has narrow streets, traffic circulation needs take into consideration how to effectively use one way scheme or combinations in the network.

Malabon is a flood-prone area. Combined with its narrow streets, the area needs an all weather transport system. Non-motorized transport like bicycles and pedicabs can provide this as well as buses perhaps, though the narrow streets and tight turns at intersections can definitely be tricky for large vehicles. It would be interesting how the city will continue to develop considering the constraints. The town proper itself is challenged in terms of the area available for development and perennial flooding will always be an issue that will be quite difficult to overcome. Still, the city and its citizens persist and have been able to overcome these challenges. It can only be hoped that the city will continue to thrive amidst the challenges.

EDSA: Taft to Tramo

The EDSA-Taft Ave. intersection was in the news a few weeks ago due to the MRT3 train that derailed and overshot the end of the line along EDSA. Being a major intersection for roads as well as for rail (MRT3 and LRT1), it is a very crowded area. Nearby, too, is the Redemptorist church in Baclaran that attracts a lot of people especially during Wednesdays. Following are a few photos of the area showing the conditions on the pedestrian overpasses and at street level.

IMG08788-20140610-1649The pedestrian overpass at EDSA-Taft is also a mall of sorts given the merchandise being sold at informal shops at the overpass.

IMG08789-20140610-1649The overpass connects to the EDSA-MRT 3 Taft Ave. Station. This is the MRT 3’s end station and the overpass system connects the MRT 3 Taft Ave. Station with the LRT Line 1 EDSA Station. The connection was not and is still not a smooth one, which has been the subject of criticism from a lot of people.

IMG08790-20140610-1649The overpass allows people to walk around this large intersection

IMG08791-20140610-1650Pedicabs freely travel along this stretch of EDSA between Taft and Tramo on lanes designated for public utility buses and clearly violating regulations regarding what vehicles are allowed on EDSA. You can also see in the photo a cart full of merchandise being pushed along the curbside lane.

IMG08792-20140610-1650A motor tricycle ferrying passengers along EDSA just before Tramo (that’s the street above which is an overpass from EDSA southbound).

Manila’s jeepney experiment

A few months ago, and almost right after the local elections, the City of Manila embarked on a campaign to reduce the number of colorum or illegal buses plying along the streets of the city. The result was confusion and mayhem as commuters and authorities were unprepared to deal with the sudden decrease in the number of buses (some companies even restrained all of their buses from entering Manila to protest the city’ move) and the jeepneys and UV express couldn’t handle the demand. Much of that seems to have been resolved and buses are now back in Manila; although whether all these buses are legal ones is still unclear. The city, it seems to some quarters, was only after buses with no formal terminals in the city and appeared to have made the drive to show bus companies who’s in-charge there.

Now comes a drive against jeepney drivers, particularly those undisciplined ones that are often found violating traffic rules and regulations, and endangering their passengers with their brand of driving. The result was a one-day strike (tigil pasada) of jeepneys belonging to the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations in the Philippines (FEJODAP), one of several organized jeepney groups in the country. Others like operators and drivers from Pasang Masda, PISTON and ACTO, opted not to join the transport strike. The result was a transport protest that had little impact on most people’s commutes though the group did manage to attract media attention and gave interviews to whoever cared to listen.

Not to judge Manila as I believe it has made huge strides by confronting the many urgent issues in transport in the city. Not many cities take these problems head on as Manila has done this year. However, the jury is still out there if their efforts have been effective and if these will be sustainable and not the ningas cogon kind that we have seen so much of in the past. For definitely, there are a lot of other transport issues that Manila needs to contend with including how to make the city more walkable and bicycle-friendly (not an easy task!) and how to address the excessive number of pedicabs (non-motorized 3-wheelers) and kuligligs (motorized 3-wheelers using generator sets or pumpboat motors for power) in the city. Hopefully, again, the city will be up to the task of addressing these problems along with the persistent congestion along its roads.

Pedicab fares

Tricycle and pedicab fares are set quite variably depending on the service areas and those regulating the services. In many cases, it is the pedicab association comprised of drivers-operators who set the fares, which are then supposed to be approved by local officials like those in the barangay or municipal/city hall. I say “supposed” here since most rates are not formally regulated in the manner like how the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) sets fares for buses, jeepneys and taxis. While the principles of “willingness to pay” is applied to some extent, pedicab and tricycle fares are usually imposed (to use a strong word) by tricycle and pedicab associations with very rough estimates of operating costs or, in the case of NMTs, the equivalent of physical effort, required to convey people.

In residential subdivisions or villages, associations may have a say in the fare rates. Where I live, the association sets the standard rates and these go to the extent of differentiating between day time and night time rates. There is even a rate for when streets are flooded! There is also a definition for regular and special trips and rates are according to the general distance traveled by pedicab. That is, fares to Phase 2 are generally higher than those for Phases 1 and 3 because Phase 2 streets are generally farther from the reference origin/destination, which is the village gate. Given the effort of pedicab drivers to transport passengers, I think the rates are just right. The only part there that seems unusual is the rate of PhP 1/minute for waiting time, which to me seems to high. Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop passengers from showing their appreciation for hard work in the form of tips. And there is no limit to the generosity of some passengers who choose to pay more to the (pedi)cabbie.

IMG06634-20130827-0853Tariff sheet displayed inside the sidecar of every pedicab of our village. The information is useful especially to guests or visitors who are not familiar with pedicab rates in the area.

All weather transport

The flooding brought about by heavy rains around the country rendered many roads impassable to motor vehicles. This meant traffic congestion in many areas and so many commuters being stranded due to the lack of public transport vehicles available to them. In these times, the only modes for traveling are reduced  and limited to walking and non-motorized tranport (NMT). While cycling is an option for some people, a more popular mode in many areas and local roads are pedicabs. Known by various names in the vernacular such as padyak, trisikad, sikad, etc., these three wheelers are found providing transport services particularly in residential areas. These tend to use national roads and busy streets in cities, and such often causes conflicts with motor vehicles as the NMTs slow down traffic. During times of heavy rains due to typhoons or the monsoon, pedicabs become the mode of choice for many who need to get to their workplaces, schools or home despite flooded streets.

2013-08-20 19.25.29Photo of TV news report (GMA News’ 24 Oras) on air passengers taking pedicabs in order to get to the airport and catch their flights. Traffic was terrible due to floods along airport roads and only the non-motorized transport could navigate the flood waters. Interviews of passengers including tourists and foreigners showed their appreciation of the alternative mode of transport they had to take to catch their flights.

IMG06611-20130819-1323Pedicab service along a flooded residential road – special rates are often charged by pedicab drivers during the rainy season and when go into flooded streets. Regulated fares are charged in areas like residential subdivisions where homeowners associations have a say in fare rates. In other places, fares can be arbitrary or according to the willingness to pay of prospective passengers.

2013-07-27 14.52.13Bicycles are becoming popular for commuting not especially due to floods but more because of increasing fuel prices and fares. There is also an influx of second-hand or used bicycles from Japan (Note: Jitensha is bicycle in Japanese). These have become collectibles but are in actual use by their owners like the bikes shown in the photo that were exhibited at a mall recently.