Caught (up) in traffic

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On child-friendly cities

Here’s another article that I want to share. This time it is about child-friendly cities. Here is an article that present many good practice examples in other cities. Many are easily replicable in our towns and cities, and should be considered by local governments in order to enhance safety and health aspects in their jurisdictions.

Laker, L. (2018) “What would the ultimate child-friendly city look like?”, theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/28/child-friendly-city-indoors-playing-healthy-sociable-outdoors [Last accessed 3/9/2018]

Emphasising safety during these holidays

Here are a couple of articles that I thought should reiterate the importance of safety whenever we travel. This is especially true during this holiday season when a lot of people are going around – shopping, heading to their hometowns or simply vacationing.

Rey, A. (2017) “Holiday rush can lead to road crashes – expert”. Rappler.com. December 28, 2017. https://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/road-safety/192411-holiday-rush-road-crash-incident-expert?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=move-ph (Last accessed: 12/29/2017).

Merez, A. (2017) “Holidays heighten road accident risks: analysts”. ABS CBN News. December 28, 2017. http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/12/28/17/holidays-heighten-road-accident-risks-analysts (Last accessed: 12/29/2017).

Transport safety during the holidays

I was having a late morning haircut when I overheard from the TV news reports of many road crashes occurring over the last 3 days including Christmas Day. One incident involved a jeepney that apparently veered away from its lane and crashed head-on to a provincial bus. It was ironic that the passengers of the jeepney were bound for the town of Manaoag in Pangasinan province, likely to give thanks for blessings they received in 2017 and pay homage to the Blessed Virgin whose image in Manaoag is regarded as miraculous. Not reported were the many other crashes that probably occurred all over the country over the same period but were considered minor incidents as no one perished and likely only involved property damage.

There was also an incident a few days ago involving a ferry traveling between Infanta, Quezon and Polilio Island.The ferry was carrying 251 passengers, of whom at least 5 reportedly perished. The incident again raised old but lingering issues on maritime safety including those pertaining to seaworthiness of vessels especially those plying the regular, frequent routes connecting the many islands in the country.

A lot of people travel during this season in the Philippines. Many travel to their hometowns for the typical homecomings, reunions people have during Christmas and New Year. Most trips are on the road (the mode share is dominant even considering the popularity of air travel and the sizeable number of trips on maritime transport) and the combination of road conditions, driver behaviour and other factors often lead to situations that may result in road crashes. We cannot overemphasise the importance of taking extra care when we travel, whether as a driver, a passenger or even a pedestrian walking along the road. A friend who is also an official of the transport department once gave passengers of buses advice to tell their drivers to slow down and drive more safely if and when they feel they are driving recklessly. You don’t lose lives by slowing down and driving more carefully (probably with the exception of drivers of emergency vehicles like ambulances), and this applies, too, to passengers of private vehicles who need to tell their drivers (likely relatives) to slow down or drive more safely. One does not want some joyride transform almost immediately into  a nightmare much less a last trip for everyone.

Keep safe everyone!

The need for speed (limits)?

My social media newsfeed regularly contains updates being posted by various entities about transport and traffic in Metro Manila and across the Philippines. Among those I regularly see are posts on road safety and interesting to me are the frequent posts on legislating speed limits at the local level. These are in the form of city or municipal ordinances that are supposed to strengthen, supplement and/or clarify speed limits that are actually already stated in the road design guidelines of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). These limits apply not only to national roads but to local ones as well. However, their effectiveness may be limited or reduced by the absence or lack of signs, markings and, most importantly, traffic law enforcers who are supposed to monitor traffic and apprehend those violating rules and regulations.

While there is a need for defining and clarifying speed limits perhaps in the form of local legislation, I believe the more urgent matter is the implementation and enforcement of laws. It has often been mentioned that we already have so many laws, rules, regulations and the truth is we do, and may not need more. One really has to go back to the basics in terms of enforcing these laws and that means enforcers need the knowledge and tools to be effective in their work. There is an opinion that many enforcers are not knowledgeable about many rules and regulations and therefore are prone to just focus on a few including violations of the number coding scheme, truck bans and the much maligned “swerving”. You do not often seen apprehensions for beating the red light, beating the green light (yes, there is such a violation), speeding, or “counter-flowing” (or using the opposing lane to get ahead of traffic in the correct lanes). There are also turning violations as well as those involving vehicle (busted tail lights, busted headlights, busted signal lights, obscured license plates, etc.). More recently, there are anti-drunk-driving laws that also urgently need proper implementation.

I think the current work that includes sidewalk clearing operations and anti-illegal on street parking of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is one good example of going back to the basics. These address the necessity of clearing space for both pedestrians and vehicles; space that have been constrained by obstacles that should not be there in the first place but so often have gotten the blind eye treatment. Going to the “next level” though requires tools such as speed guns,  high speed cameras at intersections, and instruments for measuring blood alcohol levels in the field (breath analyzers). And these require resources for acquisitions as well as capability building in the form of training personnel to handle equipment. No, I don’t think we need more laws, rules and regulations. What we urgently if not direly need is their proper implementation to effect behavior change that will improve both safety and the flow of traffic.

Recommended reading: “A New Traffic Safety Paradigm”

I begin December by sharing another paper from the highly respected Todd Litman:

Litman, T. (2017) “A New Traffic Safety Paradigm,” Victoria Transport Policy Institute, http://www.vtpi.org/ntsp.pdf (Last accessed: 12/2/2017).

I believe that this should be recommended reading for those doing work traffic safety.

Differences in opinions about safer roads?

I posted on a road safety-related page and suddenly there’s this guy who pounces on the post and delivers what he probably thought was an amusing commentary. From his posts, it was clear that he was one of those hard-core cyclists. I don’t want to use the word ‘fanatic’ but that is how many people would probably see him given his posts, comments and stand regarding cycling and safety. He also seems to revel in his claim to be a victim but the way he states this won’t really give him as much sympathy as he probably hopes to get. You have be more engaging and diplomatic if you want to be taken seriously whether as a stakeholder, a government official or an expert.

Everybody is certainly entitled to their own opinion (but not their own facts and that’s another story for another article that’s transport-related) about how roads can become safer for all. I say all because it is not only a concern of cyclists and motorists but pedestrians as well. Everyone, regardless of age, gender, economic status, etc. is vulnerable. And the only way we can succeed is if there is a collective effort that is fact/evidence-based and structured or organized. Cooperation is vital among various sectors and we must accept that there are many approaches, ways by which we can achieve the objective of safer roads and transport. Going hardline on one’s stand and trying to impose this on others will not get us anywhere.

Challenges for students commuting to/from schools

Its our first day of school for our daughter today. But unlike her, I recall that I had to wake up early when I was in grade school and high school because the ‘service’ providing transport  to and from school had to pick me up and then others. That usually meant a 5:30 AM wake up, a quick shower, dress-up (we wore uniforms) and breakfast before the ‘service’, an AUV, picked me up at home. School started at 7:30 AM and it took something like 45 minutes (depending on traffic) from our last pick-up to get to school at exactly 7:30. If our vehicle is able to finish pick-ups earlier, that meant we were assured of not being late for homeroom period. If the other kids (and there are many) are running late and we end up waiting longer for each, then we would likely be late. In many cases, our driver would have to resort to being reckless in order to make the time.

Nowadays, I think its much more difficult for kids due to the worsening traffic congestion. What was a 30 to 45-minute travel time between our home in Cainta to Pasig/Mandaluyong is now easily twice or longer that. And I am only referring to a direct trip. Even with Waze available, one can only have few options for routes between home and school.

While there are still many school ‘service’ vehicles (and not so many actually buses), many parents seem to have opted to Ateneo, for example, used to have a fleet of buses transporting students. These were replaced by AUVs and vans accredited by the school, and the many (too many?) private vehicles ferrying mostly individual students to and from their Quezon City campus.

School children have to wake up early to go to school. Some probably take their breakfasts as baon in order to save time for traveling. Some take their breakfasts at nearby eateries or fast-food restaurants.

Many children may be at risk as they are ferried to school via motorcycles and usually without helmets. In other cases, there are tricycles acting as school service vehicles. Often these are overloaded with children and their school bags.

Pedestrian facilities are also lacking in many cases and particularly in rural areas where public schools are located along highways that have no sidewalks or cities where pedestrian walkways are not built to standards for one reason or another. These are issues that need to be addressed and would be nice topics for research, especially those with practical and safety applications.