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Working on a project on road safety for children, I have had an increasing appreciation for the need to improve the plight of our children who are among the most vulnerable of road users. I have shared or posted many images showing examples of children being exposed to risk. These include children crossing streets without assistance and those riding on motorcycles with minimal protective gear (not that such gear can really save them from serious injury or worse should they be involved in a motorcycle crash).
I took this photo as we waited for the signal to allow us to cross a very busy intersection in Zamboanga City. The entire family seems to be coming from dinner or the grocery where they picked up their popsicles. I hope the father is focused on balance and safe riding with his family considering the potential for tragedy here.
Some people may say that such scenes show the norm. But we must realise that treating these as normal means we accept that our children (and all other people) will be hurt one way or another. Is this really what we like or accept to be the situation? Perhaps not. And so the challenge is to find ways to make the journeys of children safer and one aspect we can focus on is the journey between home and school. This is perhaps the most common trip by children is between the home and school (to and from), which covers a significant share of the total trips made everyday.
In order to do this, we need to know, assess and understand the manner of their commutes and the facilities they use. We should collaborate with people who guide them including their parents/guardians and teachers. And we should engage those who are in the position to implement solutions such as government agencies or local governments in effecting interventions.
Here are a couple of references/resources for pedestrian and cycling safety. These are guidelines and countermeasure selection systems that were developed under the Federal Highway Administration of the US Department of Transportation:
- Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System
- Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System
These guides are designed to be practical and should be helpful to practitioners/professionals, policymakers as well as researchers. These would be people looking for references to use in designing or revising (correcting?) existing conditions or situations in order to enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists who are among the most vulnerable of road users.
This week is the UN Global Road Safety Week. And so, I will be sharing some articles and references related to road safety including the following pertaining to crashes involving bicycles and motor vehicles:
Bicycle Accident Prevention: Avoiding the 12 most common types of bicycle/vehicle accidents
The only comment I have about the above reference is that it still uses the term “accident” instead of “crash”. The latter is the more appropriate term now being used by professional, advocates and policymakers who are focused on safety; keeping in mind the motto that “road safety is no accident”.
I frequently travel along Sumulong Highway as it is one of the faster routes among my alternatives between my home and my workplace. Quite often there are road crashes along this road including at sections where you assume people would be more careful driving or riding along. This assumption, while logical, doesn’t seem to hold for Sumulong Highway. The following photo shows a scene where a motorcycle rider probably lost control and took a spill near Padi’s Point.
An overloaded jeepney passes the scene of a crash involving a motorcycle. The rider, who can be seen seated on the curb at right, survived but obviously looked shaken by the experience. He could have easily have been run over by another vehicle after his spill.
I thought about how safety can be improved along Sumulong Highway. This was certainly a case where crashes cannot be wholly blamed on the road. There’s just too many risk takers including those who are called “camote riders” along this highway. Perhaps the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) or the Antipolo traffic unit can initiate a program where they apprehend reckless drivers and riders in order to educate them about safe driving/riding? There’s no need to set-up checkpoints but they should observe behaviour and flag down or chase those endangering others and themselves along this highway.
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?
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]
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.
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.