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The UN together with its partners recently launch a Second Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021-2030). I will share the statement in a subsequent post. For now, I will share some slides from the recent webinar organized by UNICEF that focuses on safe and healthy journeys for children. Those of us who are working directly with UN agencies have been working on safe journeys for children particularly as they travel between their homes and schools. The recent launch and pledges or commitments of support from partner organizations will surely reinforce efforts to ensure the safety of children whether or not they return to school.
Context setting or rationale for UNICEF’s initiatives
Key resources or references shared by the webinar host
The term ‘co-benefits’ reminded me of a past project I worked on that was about low carbon transport. We also did assessment using co-benefits of low carbon transport. Among these were road safety.
The slide and the table speaks for itself – examples of effective strategies
There were several presentations during the webinar. However, the most interesting and informative for me was this one about the guidance for safe and healthy journeys to school.
Ten (10) points to consider as guidance for safe and healthy journeys to school
Database initiative in support of the guidance (I will get the link to this and share it in a future post.)
An example from London’s experience
This is a slide on what cities can do to promote active transport among children.
The photo shows what is termed as a “bicycle school bus”. This and “walking school bus” are real options for children and their guardians when traveling between their homes and schools. Such underlines the option of not using motor vehicles (i.e., reduction in motor vehicle trips).
I will try to elaborate on these in future posts, particularly on the 10-point guidance.
Traveling at noontime along Sumulong Highway in Antipolo City, I chanced upon the changing of morning and afternoon shifts for a national elementary or grade school. The scene is similar to that of the high school I posted previously but there were more people here considering many grade school children were with their parents or guardians, easily doubling (more?) the number of persons generated by elementary schools. However, there are few private vehicles generated by this public school and so congestion along Sumulong Highway is due to the sheer number of people entering, exiting and waiting at the school’s single gate and the tricycles manoeuvring in the area. I also noticed here that most people did not take a vehicle to go to/from school but walked to/from their homes. Again, this underlines the issue about where we send our children for schooling and how they commute. It also says something about the quality of schools that ‘force’ parents to choose the more exclusive ones located a good distance away from where they reside.
Students arriving at the school have to fall in line and wait for the morning batch to come out. There is very limited space outside the school so people including parents and guardians spill out of the sidewalks and occupy part of the curbside lane.
Causing some congestion were tricycles manoeuvring as they brought in students. Those waiting for their potential or intended (sundo) passengers were lined up along the curb side.
I chanced upon the changing of the shifts for a national high school. This was the time of day when the morning shift students were dismissed (i.e., coming out of school) and the afternoon shift students were coming in.
Students come out of the school to mainly either walk or take public transport (mostly tricycles) to their homes.
Most vehicles give way to people, especially students, crossing the busy street. There are usually traffic aides in the area who help manage traffic and to ensure pedestrians may safely cross or move about.
There are no severe traffic congestion here unlike those generated by many exclusive or private schools. There is actually a private school just beside this public high school that also generates significant private vehicle traffic but somehow manages not to congest this major road that’s part of the L. Sumulong Memorial Circle the way another private school congests Sumulong Highway in the mornings.
Is this simply because of the school being a public school as compared with private schools? Perhaps it is, given the perceived disparity in income classes concerning those going to typical public schools and those going to typical exclusive schools. But income disparity aside, wouldn’t it be possible for most students to just walk or take public transport to school? I actually envy the public school students in the photos above as they can walk to school. And that is because they likely live near the school, which is something that is a desirable situation if public schools are at least at par in quality with the more established private schools (especially the sectarian ones where many parents likely prefer their children to go to). This disparity in quality leads to people residing in relatively long distances away for the preferred schools to travel (often with their private vehicles) to and from the exclusive schools. The point here is that it really is more complicated than what it seems in terms of trip generation.
It’s school time once again in most parts of the Philippines. Public and private schools including most colleges and universities have resumed classes this month of June while others start this July and August. But with the resumption of classes, there is also the re-emergence of issues pertaining to the safety of these children. Students are exposed to the hazards of commuting. These include the likelihood of being injured or killed by vehicles running along the roads the students use to get to school.
The photo above is a typical scene in front and around many public schools in the country. Schools are located along national roads and often lack spaces for students and their guardians. Many end up occupying the roads and causing congestion. Of course, that congestion is secondary to the safety of these children. Nevertheless, such issues need to be addressed in a more holistic manner rather than attempt to solve one as if they could be isolated.
Most students of grade schools and high schools around the country either walk or take public transportation in their commutes. They are exposed almost daily to motor vehicle traffic along the roads and risk being sideswiped or run over by vehicles. In certain cases, small children walk significant distances thereby increasing the likelihood and risk of being harmed by traffic.
Traffic is particularly bad along most roads leading to schools mainly during the morning, mid-day and afternoon periods when students arrive or leave their schools. In Metro Manila, for example, the worst congestion are experienced along major roads like Katipunan Avenue (due to traffic generated by Ateneo, Miriam and UP) and Ortigas Avenue (due to La Salle Greenhills). That means a lot of time and fuel are wasted and more emissions are released into the air that we breathe. However, one can argue that in terms of road safety, this is better since gridlocks mean slow moving vehicles that make it safer for walking or cycling. This is not the same in the provinces or rural areas where there is less congestion and vehicles travel at faster speeds.
Children heading to school on a ‘skylab’ version of the motorcycle taxi
While there are initiatives pertaining to revisions in speed limits, such are limited (pun not intended) by how much action can be done in order to enforce these regulations. Add to this the requirement of having the instruments to measure and record speeds in aid of enforcement. This was what MMDA did along Commonwealth Ave. and Macapagal Blvd. with the acquisition of two speed guns. I don’t see them using these anymore and wonder if the instruments are still working. Meanwhile, expressway authorities are using these as they continue their enforcement of speed limits along tollways. [I am aware of NLEX and SCTEX enforcement units employing speed guns along those tollways.]
The DPWH is also doing its part by doing road safety audits and identifying measures to reduce the likelihood of crashes involving these students. Among these are rumbles strips and, in some cases, the construction of sidewalks but these are not enough. There were recommendations from an iRAP project many years ago but the agency was resistant to what they thought were new and innovative ideas that were actually already being implemented in other countries. Perhaps these recommendations and that iRAP study could be revisited and solutions drawn from there?
Many roads again are expected to become more congested as school resumes in most parts of the country especially in cities. But while congestion is usually the top issue along roads near many schools, one concern that usually takes a back seat to congestion is safety. Many public schools in the provinces are located along national highways. Many if not most of their students walk to and from school, usually on the carriageway when the shoulders are too rough, dusty or muddy. This situation for students increase the likelihood of their being hit by vehicles using the road. The risk increases because of their exposure to the dangers posed by motor vehicles. Following are a couple of photos showing typical cases at public schools along national roads. Both are in Antipolo City.
Typical at-grade pedestrian crossing in front of a school. Students in most public schools often commute by walking or taking public transport like jeepneys or tricycles.
Despite this pedestrian overpass across a public school along Sumulong Highway, most students still prefer to cross on the road rather than go up and down the overpass.
Oftentimes, the seemingly obvious solution of constructing overpasses for safer crossings for students does not pan out as planned or intended. There are many underutilized pedestrian bridges since the natural way is still to cross at-grade. Then there is the issue of providing them safer walking paths or walkways. In both photos above, the sidewalks are only token (“puwede na iyan”) and insufficient for the pedestrian traffic supposed to use them. We need to plan, design and provide such facilities for our pedestrians, especially children, who are marginalized compared to those who have their own vehicles for travel.
There are two important traffic news stories yesterday:
- MMDA successfully clears parked vehicles outside La Salle Greenhills
- MMDA sets drop off, pick-up points for Ateneo students
For some reason that’s a bit surprising for many, the MMDA seems to have solved two of the most enduring issues on traffic congestion along two major thoroughfares. LSGH is along Ortigas Avenue while Ateneo is along Katipunan Avenue (C-5). Both have high trip generation rates and a significant percentage of their trip gen is comprised of private vehicles. While, Ateneo’s trip generation has led to traffic congestion due to the sheer number of trips the university attracts, the congestion due to La Salle is due to the poor traffic management and lack of parking spaces for vehicles attracted by the school.
I only wonder why it took so much time to address these problems considering the solutions mentioned in the articles are basically ones that could have been implemented years ago. In the case of La Salle, good old fashioned traffic enforcement apparently did the trick. But then, the MMDA even with the LGU constraint could have been stricter before whether when they were under Bayani Fernando (BF) or any of his successors as MMDA Chair. With Ateneo, the scheme is very similar if not the same as what BF proposed over a decade ago when he was MMDA Chair. At that time though a touchy issue was the U-turn scheme he installed along Katipunan that cost trees and the former service road on the west side of the avenue. We can only hope that these claimed ‘successes’ will be sustained and ensure smoother flow of traffic along the major roads they directly affect.
In the news weeks ago is the coding scheme for vehicles that Ayala Alabang, a posh residential subdivision in Muntinlupa City, imposed on vehicles coming in and out of the village. According to media reports, affected are vehicles bound for and coming out of De La Salle Zobel (DLSZ), which is an exclusive school located inside the subdivision. There is another exclusive school inside the village but they don’t seem to be in the news regarding this issue on car stickers and access through the subdivision roads. Perhaps they generate a lot less cars from outside the village?
I lived in villages where there are exclusive schools also located inside the villages. They are smaller compared to DLSZ and likely generate significantly less vehicles than the latter. Also, the numbers of vehicles they generated from outside the subdivisions are not enough to cause traffic congestion along the main roads to and from the schools and the village gates.
For the school in the former subdivision we used to reside in, I noticed that most students arrived via school service. School service vehicles carry more passengers than private cars and so help reduce the number of vehicles generated by the school. These were mostly vans or AUVs and not the mini-buses, coasters or regular buses of when I was in grade school and high school myself. Though lower in capacity compared to buses, AUVs and vans could take in 10 to 12 students comfortably and perhaps max out at 14 to 16 people depending on the sizes of the children the ferry between school and their homes.
In the current subdivision where I live, most students go by car and the wider main road that they use translated to faster cars running between the village gate and the school. I have observed many instances when speeding vehicles do not slow down at intersections or when there are people about to cross the street. There are no humps along the main road like those in the previous village. Humps or speed bumps can be very effective in reducing speeds but improperly designed humps can eventually damage your car’s suspension. The rolling terrain of our village does not seem to be a deterrent against speeding and limited sight distances along the main road presents a significant likelihood that a crash can occur involving speeding vehicles. Thus, some traffic calming measures need to be formulated and implemented before tragedy strikes.
Now that school is almost out for most schools (including the ones inside subdivisions) I think the attention the issue has been getting will steadily die down. But that will be until schools open again in June and residents again feel the impacts of traffic generated by the schools from without the subdivision whether its traffic congestion or road safety that is the more pressing issue in residential subdivisions hosting schools. Perhaps a sticker system and the restriction of the number of vehicles of outsiders is one way to reduce the negative impacts of traffic generated and then there is also the option of not allowing a major school to be located inside a residential subdivision in the first place.