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The term ‘sharrow’ basically short for shared right-of-way and refers to lanes or roads that are ‘designated’ for all modes of transport including and especially non-motorized ones such as bicycles. It also refers to the lane markings. There have been some mixed experiences and opinions about sharrows; particularly referring to whether they are effective. Here’s an article from the director of technology of Smart Design, which is a strategic design and innovation consulting firm in the US that gives another opinion (an evidence-based one) about sharrows:
Anderson, J. (September 30, 2020) “Safer with sharrows?”, World Highways, https://www.worldhighways.com/wh12/feature/safer-sharrows
I guess the experiences in different countries vary according to several factors. Perhaps these include cultural factors that also relate to human perceptions and behavior? Education is also definitely a factor here aside from awareness. And we have to work harder on these and together, rather than play the blame game on this matter that relates to safety. How many times has the observation that Filipinos tend to regard road signs and markings as merely suggestions rather than guides and regulations?
A few articles came out of Sun Star Cebu recently regarding an activity over the weekend that was supposed to promote road sharing. I read four articles by different opinion writers. These may be found in the following links:
- A crazy exercise [Bobby Nalzaro, September 28, 2014]
- Sharing narrow roads [Opinion, September 29, 2014]
- Road sharing, road rage [Eddie Barrita, September 30, 2014]
- Green Loop’s faulty premises [Bong Wenceslao, September 30, 2014]
The first three articles seem to be more like reactions of motorists to activities that seek to promote road sharing and cycling in particular. The writers missed the point in so far as road sharing is concerned and are definitely biased towards the status quo in terms of road usage. However, some of their observations need to be qualified as certain roads seem to have been closed with little advise to the general public, many of whom take public transport. The last article is the more grounded one and explains the perspective of non-bikers who are public transport users. This is the calmer opinion among the four and expresses his points in a more objective manner.
I was not there and I haven’t read yet any articles from the organizers or participants to the activity. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt in so far as their advocacy is concerned. But then one also has to consider the valid points raised by other road users whenever road sharing is equated to cycling rather than a more balanced mix that is focused towards maximising the number of people or amount of goods transported. It is not only a question of space but of efficiency of movement. Bicycles might be efficient in energy but unfortunately it is not the most efficient in terms of the number of people carried between origins and destinations. And we can never decongest our streets in order to make more space for cyclists and pedestrians if we cannot come up with efficient public transport systems that will encourage people to leave their cars or not to buy one in the first place. It can be argued that people are actually opting for motorcycles than bicycles for commuting – another trend that needs to be understood from the perspective of people making these choices for their transport needs.
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.
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.
Non-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.
While 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.
There 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.
One 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.
As there are increased calls for more bikeways, we try to look at some good examples of what I’d call “practicable” road sharing. I term it “practicable” because it is something doable or is already being done or practiced. I tried to find a few good examples of practicable road sharing to show that it can be done and usually if all road users respect each others’ right to use the road. This respect can be developed over time and requires some familiarity for each users behaviors. Of course, there will always be abusive or disrespectful people on the road including drivers of different types of vehicles. Reckless or unsafe driving is not limited to public transport or truck drivers. There are also many unruly private vehicle drivers who endanger the lives of others whenever they are on the road. Then there are the motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – all road users and also with bad apples or “pasaway” among them.
Road sharing happens everyday in Antipolo City in the Province of Rizal. Along Ortigas Avenue and Sumulong Highway – the two main routes to and from Antipolo, you will see motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians sharing what are mostly 4 lane, undivided sections of the two major roads. Antipolo is a very popular destination for cyclists so even during weekdays you will find a lot of people cycling up and down the mountain roads even during the night time and very early mornings. While many are recreational riders, many, too, are doing this for health. I would bet that a good percentage might be biking to work or school but there are no hard statistics to show this (topic for research?).
Sharing the road shouldn’t be too difficult. However, road users need to have respect for each other’s right to use the road. I have observed many instances where one or more road user types are guilty of “disrespect” and tend to hog the road as if making a statement that “i am king of the road” rather than “i have the right to use the road.” Here are among my pet peeves:
1. Slow moving trucks or jeepneys hogging two lanes and not giving way to other vehicles to pass them.
2. Jeepneys and private vehicles racing up or down the mountain roads and overtaking even in perilous sections (i.e., those already identified as prone to crashes).
3. Tricycles taking up the middle lanes and maneuvering anywhere.
4. Cyclists taking up the middle lanes or sometimes the entire two lanes of any direction preventing other road users to pass them.
5. People crossing anywhere along the road especially at blind sections (curves) where sight distance is limited.
There are practically no pedestrian sidewalks along most of Ortigas Extension and Sumulong Highway so pedestrians would have use the carriageway. As there are a significant number of people walking (e.g., students, workers, and even joggers or walkers), motorists and cyclists need to be careful not to hit these people. The same people, however, need to be aware of these vehicles and should exercise caution, always being alert as they use the road properly. Ultimately though, I would like to see walkways built along Ortigas and Sumulong especially since there is already an increasing demand for walking especially during the summer months when Antipolo holds its fiesta and a lot of people go on pilgrimages on foot to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
There is practicable road sharing in Antipolo because most road users are already familiar with each others’ behavior and accept each others’ presence and rights on the road. These road users are likely residents of Antipolo or nearby towns or regular visitors to the city. They are “nagbibigayan sa daan.” The “pasaway” people are likely the newer ones who seem to think that the way they drive or ride (i.e., unsafe) elsewhere is the norm. Of course, that goes without saying that familiarity with the roads and its users also breed risk takers who think they already know the road and have the skill and experience to drive like crazy. Here is where effective enforcement (e.g., timely apprehensions and reminders) and engineering (e.g., traffic signs and pavement markings) comes in to address the gaps in safety in order to reduce if not totally eliminate crash incidence along these roads.