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On the need for more facilities for cycling and ensuring they will be used for cycling

I read and hear a lot of comments about two particular items: pedestrian overpasses and bike lanes. Most of the comments call for pedestrians and cyclists to have priority over cars and for the latter to give way to pedestrians and cyclists every time. The hardline stance for some is for the pedestrians to be allowed to cross anywhere and for cyclists to be able to bike on any lane they choose to. Of course, the concerns about these are quite obvious and safety still calls for people, no matter what mode they choose, to use the appropriate spaces. What few actually discuss and delve into are design solutions to these problems. Many cite good practices elsewhere but stop at sharing these and not really going into in-depth and constructive discussions on how to implement these good designs here. Most of the time its just “the government must do this” and “the government must do like what (insert city or country) is doing”. Worse are those who tend to simplify it as an “architect vs. civil engineer vs. planner” kind of conflict. Playing the blame game doesn’t get us anywhere if we wanted the planning and design of transportation infrastructure improved.

Cyclists use the overpasses to cross the wide Marcos Highway between Pasig and Marikina. There are only 2 ramps, one each on either side of the highway and it partly occupies the sidewalk beneath. Could there be a better design for such overpasses?

Motorcycles using the bike lanes along Ortigas Avenue. How do we make sure that spaces are utilised according to their intended users? How do we design these spaces to include elements that will deter such incursions?

There are many references out there showing us what good design should be from the technical and social perspectives. Surely these can be taken up not only at the workplace for architects, engineers and planners but in schools where such principles are supposed to be learned and inculcated into the minds of future architects, engineers and planners.

On bicycle helmet standards

Here is an interesting online article about helmet standards. One of the issues on child safety is whether children should be wearing helmets and if yes, then what helmets are safe for them to wear? Here is the link to the article:

A comparison of bicycle helmet standards

There was a lively discussion about which helmets are appropriate for children during a recent seminar I attended in Bangkok on safe journeys between the home and school. In Vietnam, for example, most children wear a child-sized helmets that are lighter than the ones adults use. In other countries, children wear bicycle helmets, which are even lighter but which some experts deem to be unsafe if used on motorcycles. In our case, most children don’t even wear helmets! That is definitely not safe even if the motorcycle speeds are low as children are more vulnerable than adults in these situations. We do have helmet standards in the Philippines (refer to Bureau of Product Standards) but these are for adult sizes and adult use rather than for children.

A common sight in the Philippines is parents taking their children to school on a motorcycle.  Note that both children are not wearing any protective gear.

It would be nice to conduct a survey on helmet use for schoolchildren in the Philippines. We often make observations and provide anecdotal evidence on use/non-use but we don’t have the numbers to substantiate this issue. While, multiple passengers on motorcycles (e.g., a parent taking his/her child or children to school) is basically unsafe, it is widespread in the Philippines and surprisingly have not led to a high incidence of crashes involving them. Well, at least, not that we know of based on news reports and whatever available statistics are there. I guess that underlines the need to have better data collection and statistical analysis for this but that’s another story…

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.