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On healthier cities and encouraging walking

It’s a Sunday and the sun is up after days of rain so it would be a good time to be outdoors. Here is a nice article for the fitness buffs out there. Many of us have sedentary lifestyles and this has come as no surprise with the how we work and study as well as the influence of tech in our everyday activities. Even as I write this, I am sitting in front of my desk and have only my fingers and hands working. The rest of me is inactive except perhaps my senses and my brain. ūüôā

Merle, A. (2018) “The Healthiest People in the World Don’t Go to the Gym,” medium.com,¬†https://medium.com/s/story/the-healthiest-people-in-the-world-dont-go-to-the-gym-d3eb6bb1e7d0 [Last accessed: 8/1/2018].

I miss the times when I was living in Japan and when we were living in Singapore mainly because I was able to have a more active lifestyle in the cities where I lived. I walked and biked a lot when I was in Yokohama, Tokyo and Saitama, and later walked a lot around Singapore. I/we didn’t need a car as the public transportation was excellent and so were the pedestrian infrastructure. I recall walking between our laboratory at Yokohama National University and the dormitory, and later the Sotetsu Line Kami-Hoshikawa Station almost everyday. And then climbing up and down the hills of Yamate on Sundays. I can walk around Tokyo on my own and finding my way through shopping streets especially in Akihabara and Ueno. Of course, my favourite places would always include Kamakura, which can be reached via a train ride from Yokohama Station. The wife and I loved walking around Singapore and exploring places on foot. Indeed, you can be healthy and have a workout everyday without being too conscious about it!

The future of walking?

Here’s another nice article on the most basic of all modes of transport for people – walking.

Levinson, D. (2018) “What will the footpath of the future look like?”, ¬†foreground.com.au,¬†https://www.foreground.com.au/transport/future-footpath/?platform=hootsuite [Last accessed: 7/18/2018]

My only comment about this article is that perhaps the matters mentioned here pertaining to technology that is often associated with the mention of the word “future” is something that the more advanced countries might be concerned with. They are not necessarily applicable to many if not most cases in the developing world much like the talk about autonomous vehicles being exciting in developed countries but not so in others. So yes, the future of walking should still be for people to walk and for authorities to provide the facilities for this activity. Active transport, after all, is not about moving machines but for people to be on the move.

Park and ride near the Line 2 Santolan Station?

These days when there are heavy rains and the threat of flooding, the Marikina river and its riverbanks come to mind. In the Santolan area, where a former Mayor of Marikina has invested a lot in developing a bus terminal, he seems to be stretching it in terms of trying to make the area a major intermodal terminal and maximising utility of the land. The latest venture is described by the sign below:

“Park and ride” sign along the Marcos Highway Bridge crossing the Marikina River

A closer look at the sign shows what’s written at the lower part. That is, that the parking spaces are “walking distance” from the Line 2 Santolan Station. I’m not sure if they measured the actual walking distance and what it would take to walk that distance between this parking area for the “park and ride” and the Line 2 Santolan Station. A quick measurement using Google Maps indicate that the distance between these two are more than 400m, and this is not an ‘easy’ walk considering that you would have to ascend from or descend to the riverbanks level and there is no shelter from the elements for what would be regular walks if one is to commit to this “park and ride” arrangement. If I were to walk such a distance, then I would likely choose to park at the mall and use the long footbridge connecting it to the station.

I still maintain that the best location for a “park and ride” would be one near the station similar to the Trinoma mall parking lot being practically adjacent to the Line 3 North EDSA station. And that is what LGUs, the railway authorities or the private sector should look into for projects like the Line 2 Extension and Line 7. The area around the future Line 2 Masinag Station presents a lot of possibilities in terms of parking facilities including perhaps a redevelopment of the existing SM City Masinag to be integrated with the station. As for Line 7, the areas around another SM City (Fairview) also presents opportunities for “park and ride” facilities.

On prioritising pedestrians and promoting walking

We begin March with an excellent article that came out from curbed.com:

Walker, A. (2018) The case against sidewalks and how cities can create new avenues for pedestrians, curbed.com, https://www.curbed.com/2018/2/7/16980682/city-sidewalk-repair-future-walking-neighborhood [Last accessed 2/23/2018].

How do we improve the environment (i.e., facilities) to encourage people to walk? Do we simply clear up sidewalks? Widen them? Build overpasses and underpasses? What should be the context for improving pedestrian facilities for our cities and municipalities? What are the implications to planning and design?

Another walkability tool: Pedestrians First

The ITDP recently came out with a new walkability tool called Pedestrians First. Here’s the link to their site where you can download the tool. The tool was released in the recently concluded World Urban Forum held in Malaysia.

https://www.itdp.org/publication/walkability-tool/

Of course, there are other tools out there including one developed by Clean Air Asia, material on which may be found through the following links:

http://cleanairasia.org/walkability-study-in-asian-cities-4/

Walkability Mobile App

Our technical staff and my students are currently using the methodology developed by Clean Air Asia and have covered several major thoroughfares in Metro Manila and a highly urbanized city in studies that have been undertaken in the last 6 years. I already asked them to take a look at the new tool and see how this compares with the ones we are using.

Article on building support for walking and cycling infrastructure

There is another recent article on non-motorized transport (NMT). This is a good read and something that I think should be required for those who are little too serious or staunch about their advocacies.

Doyon, S. (2017) “Building support for walking and bicycling infrastructure” ¬†Public Square, A CNU Journal,¬†https://www.cnu.org/publicsquare/2017/11/11/building-support-walking-and-bicycling-infrastructure (Last accessed 11/11/2017)

I believe that if you want to convince people to appreciate and support your cause, you should not take the hardline. Instead, there should be a more persuasive process for wooing people. This is especially true in transportation and the advocacies for walking and cycling. You will not get a lot of support, for example, by condemning car users and telling everyone they should bike instead.

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.