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On the need to change mindsets about bike lanes

Public acceptance of bike lanes has grown during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there were few supporters especially among local government units and national agencies that seem to be comfortable with the status quo. Few like Iloilo and Marikina had any bike facilities worth mentioning. The pandemic was supposed to change that and it did for many. However, the acceptance and the gains seem to be eroding as we return to face-to-face activities and the ‘old’ normal situation.

I’m sharing below an article on the need to change mindsets about bike lanes and cycling in general:

Thompson, C. (January 24, 2023) “The Battle Over Bike Lanes Needs a Mindset Shift,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/the-battle-over-bike-lanes-needs-a-mindset-shift/ [Last accessed: 1/27/2023]

To quote from the article:

“Maybe bike lanes will always be fraught, until enough of the public is finally in a true lather about climate change—and it seems reckless to not have them.

Crises, after all, have a way of opening people’s eyes to possibilities. During Covid, restaurants and cafés lost so much business that cities nationwide began allowing them to build curbside seating areas where people could sit, safely, in the open air. It greatly reduced parking—but because, well, crisis, shop owners didn’t see any way around it. Patrons loved the outdoor seating so much that cities are making it permanent: A New York City study of several streets closed during Covid found storeowners making more than before, and diners digging the al fresco lifestyle. If data won’t change minds, customers might.”

There are two opposing sides on this matter. On one side are advocates who naturally will push for bike lanes and will promote them as The solution (emphasis mine) rather than one of a cocktail to address the transport mess we are in. On the other side are conservative, status quo types (or car-lovers as bike advocates will call them) who believe cars should have the roads to themselves. Unfortunately, many in government and particularly in transport agencies are with the latter. Perhaps they should be the first ones that need to be converted to favor active transport?

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.

 

Shared article: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them

I’m sharing this article on active and micro mobility modes from Todd Litman, published in Planetizen.com:

Source: Active and Micro Mobility Modes Can Provide Cost-Effective Emission Reductions–If We Let Them

From the article:

“Common Active Transportation Leverage Effects:
Shorter trips. Shorter active trips often substitutes for longer motorized trips, such as when people choose a local store rather than driving to more distant shops.
Reduced chauffeuring. Better walking and bicycling conditions reduces the need to chauffeur non-drivers (special trips to transport a passenger). These often require empty backhauls (miles driven with no passenger). As a result, each mile of avoided chauffeuring often reduces two vehicle-miles.
-Increased public transit travel. Since most transit trips include walking and bicycling links, improving these modes supports public transit travel and transit-oriented development.
-Vehicle ownership reductions. Active mode improvements allow some households to reduce their vehicle ownership, which reduces vehicle trip generation, and therefore total vehicle-miles.
-Lower traffic speeds. Active travel improvements often involve traffic speed reductions. This makes non-auto travel more time-competitive with driving and reduces total automobile travel.
-More compact development. Walking and bicycling support more compact, multimodal communities by reducing the amount of land devoted to roadways and parking, and creating more attractive streets.
-Social norms. As active travel increases, these modes become more socially acceptable.

The article is a must read if we are to understand how important active transport and micro mobilities are in the context of today’s transport conundrum. Of course, part of the contextualization and perhaps ‘localization’ on these modes will be related to land use or development. The latter is a big challenge especially for the likes of Metro Manila and other rapidly developing cities in the Philippines where housing in the cities (related to compact development) has become quite expensive and has driven more and more people to live in the suburbs. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this has resulted in more pressure to develop transportation systems but infrastructure development cannot play the catch up game given the limited resources for their construction. Meanwhile, services are also behind in terms of quality and requires reforms and rationalizations.

On school bus services and the return to face-to-face classes

I did an interview last August with a major business daily but I couldn’t find it as published as part of an article. The topic was a very timely one as children return to schools for face-to-face (F2F) classes. Here are the questions sent to me and my responses as I remember them:

1. How will the transport sector cope with the expected increase in demand as more schools resume face-to-face classes?

For schools located in the cities, what we see is people opting to take private transportation in the form of cars or motorcycles to take their children to school. This is because public transportation supply is still not back to pre-pandemic levels while at the same time, parents and guardians and even students who commute by themselves (e.g., high school and college levels) may be hesitant to take public transportation as well as school service vehicles. The latter may be attributed to concerns about the safety particularly with regards to health (i.e., getting infected or exposed to Covid-19 if they take public transport or a vehicle where they share the ride with many other people). We need more public transportation capacity to be able to address the increased demand brought about by students coming back for face-to-face classes. We also need to have other options or alternatives for their safe journeys including walking and cycling for their commutes.

For schools in the rural areas, there may be little adjustment concerning transport since most schoolchildren walk or take motorcycles or tricycles to school. This is perhaps because most schoolchildren reside within the school district and do not have long commutes like what we have in many cities (e.g., most schoolchildren who study at schools like Ateneo, LaSalle, etc. likely live in another city or town rather than near the schools).

2. How many school buses are expected to resume operations? How many of them have permanently closed?

I currently don’t have the data on that but LTFRB should have reference or baseline data. School service vehicles are required to register with the LTFRB and perhaps a look at the number registered before and during the pandemic could show how many can be expected to resume operations nationwide and per region. LTO doesn’t have these numbers as they only register by vehicle type. We will not know from LTO data which jeepneys, vans or buses are used for school service. Most school service are tied to the schools the student of which they provide transport services to. If the school closed, then chances are that the school service may apply to other schools. That said, the last two years where schools operated online were a backbreaker to many school service and only the registered numbers with LTFRB can tell us just how many are not returning at least for this school year.

3. How does the surge in fuel prices affect the operations of those involved in school transportation? Will this affect the ability of teachers, schools staff and students to travel on-site?

School services might increase their rates, which are usually monthly or semi-monthly. This is to make up for the increase in fuel prices and vehicle maintenance as well. This will likely only affect students’ travel rather than those of their teachers or school staff. The latter group will likely take public transport or their own vehicles for their commutes. In their case, their travel may be affected by transport fare increase or their own fuel expenses if they use their own vehicles. They have little choice though because they have to travel to work. Student though may still enjoy some respite as many schools are adopting blended or flexible schedules that will only require students to do face-to-face classes on certain days of the week.

4. What’s the long term impact of the pandemic on the school bus industry?

People will remain to be apprehensive in letting their children share a school van or bus ride due to the pandemic. We can only promote vaccination and compliance with health protocols to ensure that schoolchildren will have safe journeys as far as Covid-19 is concerned. The return to face-to-face classes this school year will perhaps help determine if the pandemic will have a long term effect on the industry or if people’s (parents and guardians) trust to school bus services will return within the short term.

5. How can school bus drivers and operators cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic and rising fuel prices?

LTFRB issued Memorandum Circular 2022-066, which adds health protocols for school service:
• Regular examination of the drivers and conductors’ fitness to work by checking their body temperature and screening for symptoms related to COVID-19.
• Regular disinfection of frequently-touched surfaces, such as but not limited to seats, armrests, and handles.
• Mandatory wearing of face masks at all times by drivers and conductors, including passengers.

School transport services must comply with these protocols and demonstrate the safety of their mode to convince people to return to using or subscribing to school service vehicles. Meanwhile, there is really no escaping rising fuel prices but collective transport in the form of school service vehicles are still more efficient and cheaper per passenger compared to using private vehicles; not to mention contribute to reducing traffic congestion along school routes. This must also be promoted (i.e., people made aware of the advantages) vs. private vehicle use.

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!).

 

A Bike Master Plan for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao

Before Active Transport Week concludes this weekend, I would just like to share this collage from one of our staff at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is about the Master Plan developed for the three metropolitan areas in the country – Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.  I will share more details about this soon including a link or links to where you can download a copy of the plan.

The project concluded recently with the submission of the Final Report but most important is the Master Plan document that can serve as a reference for further development of bike lanes in the metropolises. I’ve seen the Master Plan and many of its provisions and recommendations can easily be adopted or is replicable in other cities and municipalities in the country. Perhaps, there should be a National Master Plan?

Flashback: Transport Infrastructure Framework Plan for the Philippines

I was reading an article yesterday about the outgoing NEDA Director General stating that Philippines needing a long term strategy for infrastructure development that will address the shortcomings or gaps due to unsolicited proposals. There was already something like this drafted almost a decade ago and under the auspices of the returning NEDA DG. Unfortunately, while NEDA accepted the Final Report of the study, they never adopted it as a policy that could also be imposed on agencies like the DOTr (still DOTC back then) and the DPWH. So for a sort of Throwback Thursday and on the last day of the Duterte Administration, I am sharing the promotional video produced for the framework plan that was supported by The World Bank.

The study was conducted by Cambridge Systematics (not related to Cambridge Analytics as far as I know) and was implemented at the same time as the JICA Dream Plan study for Mega Manila. I recall there is also a video on the latter and it listed all the infrastructure projects needed to address the transport problems of the Greater Capital Region. The Infra Framework Plan for the country mentions the various infrastructure projects ongoing and proposed for the Philippines but focuses on the soft side (i.e., strategies) including the reforms and institutional set-up that need to be in place for everything to come together and produce the desired outcomes in the long term. Sadly, strategies and plans are not well appreciated despite their being essential as foundations. While the Build, Build, Build mantra of the outgoing administration is worth praising for attempting to do the catch-up needed in as far as certain transport infrastructure is concerned, it falls short of what are necessary and to be prioritized. Instead, it ended up accommodating projects that are “nice to have” but should not be prioritized considering our limited resources and the undesirable foreign debt racked up by government. Hopefully, the returning NEDA DG and other officials will be able to steer the country clear of the current and future crises that may end up bringing more hardships on Filipinos.

Articles on railway safety

I shared a link to a Medium writer who specialized on articles about air crashes. These were investigative articles that provide details about air crashes especially since these are all tragedies and include those that have remained mysteries like Malaysian Airline Flight 370.

I am sharing today another collection of articles pertaining to transport safety. This time they are about railway or rail safety. Here is the link to the collection of articles from Max Shroeder:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com

And here is an example of what he writes:

https://mx-schroeder.medium.com/stressful-schedule-the-2005-amagasaki-japan-derailment-12156ddd488

Again, there is much to be learned about these incidents. The circumstances, factors and experiences need to be examined in order to draw lessons from these incidents and reduce the likelihood of them happening again. In the case of the Philippines, this is especially applicable as the country rebuilds its long distance railways infrastructure with a line connecting Manila and Clark, Pampanga along what used to be called the Main Line North (MLN) of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), and another currently being rehabbed and for upgrading to the south in what was called the Main Line South (MLS). Other rail projects are also underway like the Metro Manila Subway and the MRT Line 7. All pass through populous areas, and railway crashes may not just lead to passenger and crew fatalities and injuries but also the same for those residing or working along these rail lines.

On phasing out cars in cities

I’m sharing another article on reducing car dependence. The article was referred to by the previous series that I shared recently.

Nicholas, K. (April 14, 2022) “12 best ways to get cars out of cities – ranked by new research,” The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/12-best-ways-to-get-cars-out-of-cities-ranked-by-new-research-180642 [Last accessed: 5/20/2022]

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

“Question: what do the following statistics have in common?

The second-largest (and growing) source of climate pollution in Europe.
The leading killer of children in both the US and Europe.
A principal cause of stress-inducing noise pollution and life-shortening air pollution in European cities.
A leading driver of the widening gap between rich and poor urban residents.

Answer: the vehicles on our streets, primarily the not-so-humble passenger car.”

also this:

“The research is clear: to improve health outcomes, meet climate targets and create more liveable cities, reducing car use should be an urgent priority.”

and this:

“To meet the planet’s health and climate goals, city governments need to make the necessary transitions for sustainable mobility by, first, avoiding the need for mobility (see Paris’s 15-minute city); second, shifting remaining mobility needs from cars to active and public transport wherever possible; and finally, improving the cars that remain to be zero-emission.”

You can also listen instead of reading it as it is a narrated article.