Tag Archives: traffic in Metro Manila

The image of EDSA, used as “backdrop,” is courtesy of Richard Reyes/Philippine Daily Inquirer. The modified version of the same image—where an image of a prospective elevated bike lane is super-imposed—is courtesy of Anders Berensson Architects of Sweden. The bike lanes envisioned by this author will have protective roofs and railings for added security. A future work will calculate if putting solar panels on the roofs will be viable.

Sky bike lanes to reduce private cars on the road by 24 to 33%

Majority of Metro Manila residents favor sky bike lanes

[Note: This is a repost of my article, which was also published in Linkedin. This article is based on (with many portions directly lifted from) my thesis (special problem) for the Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management program of the UP Open University.]

The image of EDSA, used as “backdrop,” is courtesy of Richard Reyes/Philippine Daily Inquirer. The modified version of the same image—where an image of a prospective elevated bike lane is super-imposed—is courtesy of Anders Berensson Architects of Sweden. The bike lanes envisioned by this author will have protective roofs and railings for added security. A future work will calculate if putting solar panels on the roofs will be viable.

The image of EDSA, used as “backdrop,” is courtesy of Richard Reyes/Philippine Daily Inquirer. The modified version of the same image—where an image of a prospective elevated bike lane is super-imposed—is courtesy of Anders Berensson Architects of Sweden. The bike lanes envisioned by this author will have protective roofs and railings for added security. A future work will calculate if putting solar panels on the roofs will be viable.

Metro Manila is indeed among the most congested cities in the world. A study made by Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has estimated that losses from traffic congestion in Manila could reach up to P6 billion per day in the next fifteen years (Jica, 2014).

Meanwhile, a World Bank study in 2004 estimated that PhP 910 million was spent on hospitalization and medical expenses for the treatment of non-communicable diseases that include acute lower respiratory infection/pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular diseases.

Dealing with traffic congestion entails interventions in several fronts, particularly, in policy, infrastructural, and behavioral dimensions. This study is focused on the infrastructural dimension with the caveat that the other dimensions should also be equally addressed if Metro Manilans are to effectively address the issue.

A simple policy-based solution to the traffic condition is to lessen the number of vehicles on the road particularly given that the road network is not catching up significantly with the increase in vehicle and population. This is already being addressed by policies such as the number-coding scheme. This helps but other solutions are clearly required.

A preliminary study had been undertaken and considers an infrastructural approach as a support mechanism for policy- and behavior-based interventions. It looks at the construction of sky (elevated) bicycle (bike) lanes in Metro Manila, with the assumption that it can help reduce the number of motorized vehicles on the road, and, consequently, reduce congestion and carbon emissions, thereby contribute to climate change mitigation.

This initial work—envisioned to contribute to future pre-feasibility and feasibility studies—considers the likely impacts of this intervention, estimating the impacts through reduction of motorized vehicles and carbon emissions. The results of the preliminary study—based on a survey with 250 respondents and complemented by relevant work all over the world—support the case for the construction of a well-integrated network of bicycle lanes (with most of them elevated) as this will likely result to the 24 to 33.37% reduction of private motor vehicles on the road, leading to the potential decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of about 2.23 to 4.46 millionmetric tons CO2e annually by year 2030. This is roughly the same amount of carbon that can be sequestered by 57.76 to 115.54 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years.

Majority of Metro Manila residents favor sky bike lanes 

The survey also revealed that there is an overwhelming support on the building of sky bike lanes in Metro Manila based on the number of respondents who said that they like the idea—221 people, representing 88% of the total respondents (n = 250). With the high number of supporters and potential bikers, the question that comes to mind is, “Why are there so many people not biking to work/school these days?” The question had been answered by the survey as well.

Safety as a major deterrent

For current non-bikers, safety concern is the top reason why they do not want to bike. In the question, “If you answered NO above (#4 in the questionnaire), what is the main reason why you don’t bike or don’t like biking?”, 57 persons (38%) said they are concerned about road safety. The next top concern is on possible health impact (e.g., poor air quality) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. NON-BIKERS: Reasons for Not Biking

Figure 1. NON-BIKERS: Reasons for Not Biking

These results are consistent with studies in other countries. In what could be among the most extensive studies on biking, Monsere et al. (2014) worked with the US National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) and National Association of City Transportation Officials and considered the importance of segregated bike lanes.

They saw that safety concern is indeed a major deterrent toward the use of bicycles. Their studies, along with work of other experts in the field estimated that many (e.g., 60% of the US population) are “interested but concerned” but that 81% of this segment will likely feel “comfortable” on streets with a separate bike lane. Interestingly, if we will add 38% (concerned about road safety) and 24% (concerned about health impacts) from this survey (proposed Sky Bike Lanes for Metro Manila), they will add up to 62%–which is close to the result (60%) in the US. Certainly, there is another layer of complexity about safety concerns and a simple mathematical solution is not going to resolve that. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that there is a universal truth about feeling scared on the road if one is biking (unprotected) in busy roads.

Similarly, Fraser and Lock (2011), undertook a systematic review of literature, which analyzed the impact of built environment, for example, dedicated bicycle routes, toward increase in cycling in a given society or population. Their review of 11 studies showed that environmental factors indeed had a positive association with cycling. This means that factors such as presence of dedicated bicycle lanes, separation of cycling from other traffic, short distances (e.g., from home to school) contribute to people’s willingness and decision to bike.

Two to 4 car owners (out of 10) will leave cars behind if there are sky bike lanes

Based on the Metro Manila survey, 43 (42%) car owners indicated the desire to use the bike lanes “all the time or often (e.g., at least three times a week).” By adding those who indicated using them “occasionally (or at least once a week)” (13%) and “every now and then” (35%), there is a potential of 90% of car owners using the bike lanes in varying frequency.

Based on the study’s estimations (using projections undertaken by Jica in 2014), there is a reduction of volume by 24% by 2020. This means that 2-3 out of 10 persons who own cars will likely bike to work/destination by 2020 if there is already a good network of sky bike lanes by then.

Using a second set of scenario (where there will be more bikers), there will be a likely reduction of private car volume by 33.37%. Again, this means that that 3-4 out of 10 persons who own cars will likely bike to work/destination by 2030 if there is already a good network of sky bike lanes by then.

Meanwhile, the estimated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of about 2.23 to 4.46 millionmetric tons CO2e annually by year 2030 is better illustrated by using the US EPA online Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator (USEPA, 2017). Clearly, the estimated reduction of carbon emissions that the proposed sky bike lanes will likely contribute is significant. For example, the volume of reduction is the same as the amount of emissions that may be sequestered from roughly 57.76 to 115.54 million of tree seedlings grown for 10 years (Figure 2).

Figure 2. What does 2.23 and 4.46 million MT of CO2e mean?  [Source: US EPA, 2017]

Figure 2. What does 2.23 and 4.46 million MT of CO2e mean?
[Source: US EPA, 2017]

Sky bike lanes in other countries

The construction of sky (elevated) bike lanes is a fairly new intervention. There is no official count available online but there could be about ten (10) elevated bike lanes all over the world so far with about four (4) of them under construction or in the planning stage. Nevertheless, this preliminary study—despite its focus on a relatively novel idea—will, hopefully, contribute to continuing discourses and encourage more research work on the effectivity of segregated, specifically, elevated bike lanes, for cities like Metro Manila—where there is no longer much space on the ground for any massive infrastructural intervention.

One of the more popular sky bike lanes is the Cykelslangen (Bicycle Snake) in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is constructed over the Copenhagen Harbor, 4-meter wide (with two lanes) and 230-meter long. It is about 5.5 m in height from the quay and used by 12,500 bikers/day. It cost the Danish government about US$6.6 million to construct.

Cykelslangen (Bicycle Snake) in Copenhagen, Denmark. [Image courtesy of Dissing+Weitling Architecture]

Cykelslangen (Bicycle Snake) in Copenhagen, Denmark. [Image courtesy of Dissing+Weitling Architecture]

Meanwhile, the Bicycle Skyway in Xiamen, China, is probably the latest to be built, with the government opening it to public in early 2017 (Travers, 2017). The elevated bike lane—inspired by a concept by middle school students who won in a local science and technology competition—straddles over five residential areas and three business districts. The bike lane can be reached through 11 entrances, which also connect to the same number of bus stops and two underground rail stations (Johnston, 2017). It took safety considerations very seriously by installing 30,000 lights and automated gates that help monitor flow and capacity (Johnston, 2017).

The newly-build elevated bike lane in Xiamen (China)—at 8 km, it is touted to be the longest so far in the world. [Image courtesy of E. Johnston/Road.cc]

The newly-build elevated bike lane in Xiamen (China)—at 8 km, it is touted to be the longest so far in the world. [Image courtesy of E. Johnston/Road.cc]

Another good example is the 1-km shared bicycle lane and walkway that has transformed the urban landscape of this part of Auckland, New Zealand. Called,Te Ara I Whiti (Light Path), it is found in Nelson Street andhas received international recognition in the World Architecture Awards in 2015. Its name was inspired by the integration of LED mood lights that keep on changing colors.

Te Ara I Whiti (Light Path) in Auckland, New Zealand. [Image and data courtesy of GHD, Katz Maihi and Iwi, Monk Mackenzie Architects, LandLab, and Novare]

Te Ara I Whiti (Light Path) in Auckland, New Zealand. [Image and data courtesy of GHD, Katz Maihi and Iwi, Monk Mackenzie Architects, LandLab, and Novare]

The case for segregation

Ziemba, Mitra, and Hess (2012) looked at the important question on segregation and their study revealed that there was indeed an increase in the number of bikers when bike lanes are physically separated and improved. The improvement in the design of a bike lane in Sherbourne Street (downtown Toronto) led to an increase in the number of bikers, where almost 24% of the respondents who are newbikers shifted from driving. Meanwhile, Strauss and Moreno (2013) undertook a study in Montreal and found that 61% more cyclists are found in intersections that have segregated bike lanes than in street corners without.

A comprehensive study for the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan(State of New South Wales through Transport for NSW, 2013) with over 1,200 submissions revealed that 70% of NSW residents indicated that they will likely bike more if it was safer and more convenient. The strategies outlined are evidence-based, indicating, for example, that comparing the number of vehicles and bicycles in a particular street with segregated bike lane during a peak hour (8:00 to 9:00 am), more number of people are traveling by bicycles.

The results of this study as well as other reports became bases for the strategy paper developed by the National Roads and Motorists Association of Australia (2015), which also favor the construction of separated or segregated bike lanes that are intelligently located and form a grid. This means that bike lanes should be continuous (as against disconnected). The Association emphasized that “more continuous separated routes will make cycling a more attractive option and reduce the safety risks associated with funneling cyclists onto roads where cycle paths suddenly end.

Meanwhile, a study by Teschke et al. (2012) compared roads with and without segregated bike lanes and the results showed a reduction in the risk of crashes by nine (9) times. Buehler and Dill (2015) undertook extensive literature review and came to the conclusion that many of existing research work do suggest that a high percentage of people favor “separate paths and/or lanes over cycling in roadways with motorized traffic — particularly with high volumes of fast-moving motorized traffic. Among bike facilities, cyclists and non-cyclists seem to prefer physically separated bike paths or cycle tracks to bike lanes or wide shoulders on roadways.”

Aside from safety considerations, impact on reduction of motorized vehicles (consequently, carbon emissions) is indeed very significant. Experiences in other countries show that biking (in some countries, along with walking) has a direct impact on the decrease of motorized vehicles on the road. In Netherlands—where biking registered a 30% share in total travel mode—car use is only at 45%. Compare this in a country like the US—where biking share is only at 1% (the lowest among the countries in the list)—car use is as high as 84%, generating the highest share. This was reiterated by Gosse and Clarens (2013) who highlighted that providing people with better bicycle facilities is an initiative that can increase share of non-motorized vehicles in the modal share without requiring huge investments.

Therefore, empirical data point to decline in motorized vehicle use where there are good systems and infrastructure such as segregated bike lanes, metro (subway), and sidewalks. While there is still a need to keep on analyzing experiences and validating data, such numbers should guide policymakers and decisionmakers in planning their cities particularly when it comes to transportation infrastructure.

There is no extensive study in the Philippines yet on the extent of biking although a study by Gozun and Guillen (2008) estimated that only around 2% of all trips in Metro Manila are made by bicycles. Latest statistics show a very high share of private cars at 71.3% by vehicle trips and 31% by modal share (Jica, 2014). The non-inclusion of biking in many transportation-related studies reflects that the extent of biking—while showing increasing trend in many countries and cities all over the world—is still low in the Philippines.

Study limitations

The survey is still currently open so as to ensure a robust analysis during the pre-feasibility and feasibility stages. Therefore, while diligent efforts had been exerted to cross-reference the initial results[1], assumptions, and analysis here with others’ work in the field, the calculations from the survey data shall be continuously enhanced in future work (and, at the current stage, should be used with caution).

No substantial data and analytical work are available on biking in the Philippines, much more, from peer-reviewed journals. Therefore, the author had to rely more on work in other countries. This poses limitations because conditions (e.g., climate) in other countries are very different. Nevertheless, this must be taken as a continuing challenge for researchers not just in the Philippines but all over the world.

This is an initial work on scenario development so focus is on preparing the ground work for better and more robust scenario building. As the sample size is smaller than the ideal, some data (e.g., anticipated distance to be covered by potential bikers) had not yet been utilized in anticipation of the more complete survey.

Paving the path toward urban renewal 

Clearly, the preliminary results and existing literature support the case for segregated bike lanes—where sky bike lanes fall under—and which are expected to encourage more bikers on the road (with many of them hoped as previous car owners). However, a robust feasibility study is crucial in order to ensure viability.

The traffic problem of Metro Manila requires multi-faceted solutions and the building of sky bike lanes alone will not solve it completely. Nevertheless, it is very crucial that the solution should include an intervention to lessen the number of motorized vehicles on the road—and increasing bikers on the road, along with effective and efficient mass transport systems, will help in ensuring this.

However, in the case of the Philippines, there is much to be done. The country has been “under-building” (e.g., mass transport systems) for the past decades but building too much in areas where they are aggravating congestion problems (e.g., shopping malls in central business districts).  The traffic problem (and the bigger part – urban decay) can only be addressed through multi-pronged interventions where both behavior and policies inter-weave.

More studies need to be to undertaken. It is ironical that with the gravity of the problem, substantial work and investigation still need to be done particularly with non-motorized transportation. The massive transportation challenges in Metro Manila can only be solved through a holistic approach where policy-, infrastructure- and behavior-based interventions are done comprehensively and systematically.

Constructing elevated bike lanes is an infrastructure-based intervention. It is not the end-all-be-all type of solution but the results of this study show a huge potential for reducing traffic gridlocks and massive congestion in Metro Manila—a reduction that will ultimately result to lasting socio-economic and environmental impacts including reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

While this is just a preliminary work for the bigger task ahead, it is hoped that this work becomes a basis for a more in-depth analysis of elevated bike lanes and a tool for policymaking, advocacy, and resource mobilization for the next stages.



[1] Based on 250 responses in the survey administered via Google forms (with cut-off date of 23 October 2017).

References:

Buehler, R. and Dill, J. (2015). Bikeway networks: A review of effects on cycling. Retrieved   from https://ralphbu.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/buehler-dill-treviews-2.pdf

Dissing+Weitling Architecture. (n.d.). The Bicycle Snake. Retrieved from http://www.dw.dk/cykelslangen-bicycle-snake

Fraser, S. & Lock, K. (2011). Cycling for transport and public health: A systematic review of the effect of the environment on cycling. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/21/6/738/493197/Cycling-for-transport-and-publichealth-a

Gosse, C. & Clarens, A. (2013). Quantifying the total cost of infrastructure to enable environmentally preferable decisions: The case of urban roadway design. Retrieved from http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748 9326/8/1/015028;jsessionid=545D4ACFA221562D900B3D2EA3F800F3.ip-10- 40-1-105

Gozun, B. & Guillen, M.D. (2008). Towards a Sustainable Transportation Environment: The Case of “Pedicabs” and Cycling in the Philippines, Thirteenth CODATU Conference of Urban Transport (CODATU XIII), Vietnam, 12-14 November 2008.Retrieved from http://www.codatu.org/wp-content/uploads/Towards-a-sustainable-transportation-environment.-The-case-of-Pedicabs-and-cycling-in-the-Philippines-Brian-GOZUN-Marie-Danielle-GUILLEN.pdf

Japan International Cooperation Agency. (2014). JICA transport study lists strategies for congestion-free MM by 2030 [Press Release]. Retrieved from https://www.jica.go.jp/philippine/english/office/topics/news/140902.html

Johnston, E. (2017). Longest elevated cycle path opens in China [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://road.cc/content/news/217380-longest-elevated-cycle-path-world-opens-china

Monsere, C., Dill, J., McNeil, N., Clifton, K., Foster, N., Goddard, T.,…Parks, J. (2014). Lessons from the green lanes: Evaluating protected bike lanes in the US(through Portland University, commissioned by the US National Institute for Transportation and Communities). Retrieved from https://bikeportland.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/06/NITC-RR583_ProtectedLanes_FinalReportb.pdf

National Roads and Motorists Association. (2015, March). Cycling strategy: A new vision for cycling in NSW.Retrieved from https://www.mynrma.com.au/images/About-Education/NRMA_Cycling_Strategy_-_March_2015.pdf

State of New South Wales through Transport for NSW. (2013, December). Sydney’s cycling future– Cycling for everyday transport. Retrieved from http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/publications/sydneys-cyclingfuture-web.pdf

Teschke, K., Harris, A. Reynolds, C., Winters, M., Babul, S. Chipman, …Cripton, P. (2012). Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3519333/

Travers, J. (2017). World’s longer aerial bike path inspired by middle school students. Retrieved from https://www.ecowatch.com/aerial-bike-path-china-2261408355.html

US Environmental Protection Agency. (2017). Greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator

World Bank. (2004). Philippine Environment Monitor 2006. Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPHILIPPINES/Resources/PEM06-chapter3.pdf

Ziemba, R., Mitra, R., and Hess, P. (2012). Mode substitution effect of urban cycle tracks: Case study of a downtown street in Toronto, Canada. Toronto: Ryerson University. Retrieved from http://www.ibiketo.ca/sites/default/files/Ziemba_mitra_hess_trb%20poster%202016.pdf

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The proposed (commissioned) project, Klarastaden, a series of apartment structures and elevated sidewalks ("skyways"), planned to be built in downtown Stockholm.(Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

Of sky ways and serendipitous moments – envisioning sky bike lanes for Metro Manila

The proposed (commissioned) project, Klarastaden, a series of apartment structures and elevated sidewalks ("skyways"), planned to be built in downtown Stockholm.(Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

The proposed (commissioned) project, Klarastaden, a series of apartment structures and elevated sidewalks (“skyways”), planned to be built in downtown Stockholm.(Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

Note: This article first appeared in my Linked Pulse page. (Image credits: Anders Berensson Architects. This image also appeared in TechInsider.)

UPDATE: I am requesting feedback from Metro Manila residents. If you are from Metro Manila (or usually travel here), please answer a brief survey form here. You may also want to drop by the interim website for this dream project. Thank you!

 

Metro Manila’s traffic – why this idea came about

Sky bike lanes, anyone?

For a Metro Manila resident like me, this seems like a bright idea. The worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila has always been cited as among the most urgent problems that the country’s administrators should be dealing with. In fact, a study done by traffic and navigation app, Waze, revealed that Metro Manila has the “worst traffic on earth”, on a city level perspective (Waze, 2015). Through the Waze study, it was estimated that travel time here–from home to the work place–is about 45.5 minutes. The article did not indicate actual points of origin and destination but let us assume that the average is a good representation of the respondents’ daily commute. However, there may be some discrepancy if the respondents are mostly commuters who use public transportation. (I assume that Waze is mostly used by private car drivers and passengers at this stage.)

Clearly, the government and private sector need to put their acts together in order to come up with clear solutions. The traffic situation in Metro Manila can only be solved through a combination of policy, infrastructural, and behavior-based interventions. (For this article, let me focus on an infrastructural intervention as I also plan to discuss the other two in one of my future posts.)

One of the steps that we can consider is the building of bike lanes–not on the existing road networks but high up there, on elevated platforms. Obviously, Metro Manila’s roads can no longer accommodate new and separate bike lanes. However, is this idea of elevated bike lanes feasible? It has been lingering in my mind for the past couple of months.

The Klarasden’s sky way – can a bike-focused version be done?

They say that the universe “hears” us if we just verbalize our thoughts. I think what happened recently demonstrates that this saying is indeed true. You see, I came across a TechInsider article about the project, Klarastaden, through Linkedin just the other day. (I must thank my new online friend, Pia K Töre-Wallin, again for sharing the link!)

A bike-focused version of the Klarastaden’s sky way is something that crossed my mind a couple of months ago, as my husband and I were walking and discussing how the lives of Metro Manila urbanites are impacted negatively by the horrendous traffic situation. I told him about my dream to build floating or “sky bike lanes” as I called them. Back then, I was half-thinking it is a crazy idea. However, the other half of my brain is saying that the idea is very feasible.

Biking and the provision of bike lanes had always been proposed by environmental advocates but let us admit that Metro Manila can no longer afford to build separate roads for bike lanes (or even divide the existing roads to allow a portion for bike lanes).

Nowadays, there are brave souls who bike to work (how I admire their courage!), right alongside trucks, buses, jeepneys, and cars, so one can imagine the risks and dangers that these bikers are facing everyday (not to mention the health impacts of pollution). Marikina City was able to allot separate bike lanes, unfortunately, it is a small part of Metro Manila only. Nevertheless, we need to commend the city’s efforts and vision.

I have always envisioned a greener and more sustainable Metro Manila where bikers have their “own” roads and pathways and where they will feel safe and happy as they go to their offices and come home to their families.

I have always envisioned a greener and more sustainable Metro Manila where bikers have their “own” roads and pathways and where they will feel safe and happy as they go to their offices and come home to their families .Unfortunately, the city has no more extra space. And that is why I told my husband, “We should build sky bike lanes!”, in my most resolute voice.

“Fast forward” to Tuesday when I saw the article about Klarastaden - it dawned on me that, perhaps, my idea is not a crazy one! Yesterday, when I opened my Linkedin, I saw that two of my friends (one of them is Pia)  also found the idea cool! I eventually surmised that  I can probably work on this topic as my master’s thesis. (I am completing my course work, Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management, this year, at the University of the Philippines – Open University.) [UPDATE as of 16-Feb-16: I am glad to discover yesterday that two cities–Copenhagen and London–are actually thinking of building this type of bike lanes as well! In fact, as of this writing, Copenhagen has already completed  Cykelslangen (or “The Bicycle Snake”) and a bicycle and pedestrian bridge, which they call Bryggebroen. The London version called, SkyCycle, is still under consideration. These positive news certainly motivate me to continue building this idea on and, hopefully, we can also build similar bike lanes for Metro Manila!]

While the idea is beginning to take some shape, a feasibility study is still crucial. It is also important to know if the group of Mr. Berensson (and other stakeholders) will be willing to work with me on this gigantic project. [UPDATE as of 14-Jan-2016: I received a brief but positive and encouraging reply from Mr. Berensson. Nothing is final and no paper has been signed between us but he expressed his initial interest. If all goes well and there is no obstacle such as conflict in schedules, I am hopeful that his team will be on board.]

I propose the setting up of a team through which we can develop a feasibility study and gather support from partners and stakeholders. A sub-team will take care of the research requirements. For example, we will need traffic data, conduct market analysis  and scenario building, look at the demographics and health outcome, calculate GHG emission reduction, compare policy studies, and do other related tasks. Meanwhile, another sub-team can take care of the design part. A consortium may be established later on (e.g., during the construction phase).

This proposed project considers the thinking that, in an ideal world, commuters who use both motorized and non-motorized vehicles should co-exist and share the roads. In fact, in this kind of world, separate or even partially segregated bike lanes are not significantly necessary. In such a world, bikers have more confidence, knowing that they are respected on the road, in the same way that the bikers also know that they need to respect the rights of other drivers. However, it takes time to build this ideal world. Behavioral change evolves over a long time and sometimes, without the necessary impetus and public cooperation, it may not even be realized. In the meantime, the quality of life of Metro Manila dwellers is continuously deteriorating. Either we continue to work for and wait for the ideal world to happen–without any guarantee for success–or do something about our situation now.

The feasibility study will generate more data and insights, which will help us answer the question on viability in a more scientific and comprehensive manner.

Design features and considerations

Many features and considerations must be laid down on the drawing table as we envision such an infrastructure. Here are some of them:

1. To the extent possible, the sky bike lanes must be near or accessible to and from the existing MRT/LRT lines. (It will be better if they can be integrated.)

2. The primary sky bike lanes should pass through or built alongside EDSA and C5 (the city’s core road networks) but should have connecting lanes to other major roads nearest and within the key business districts like  Eastwood Business District, Ortigas Center, and Makati City.

3. This may be a far-fetched or nearly-impossible idea but industrial-sized air purifiers may be installed along the sky bike lanes. Eventually, with more people taking the bikes and leaving their cars at home, pollution level will hopefully go down – but of course, this assumes that the number of bikers will grow progressively as the population also grows. If this idea is really impossible or expansive to do, we can build natural/organic anti-air pollution systems. (See no. 4 below.)

4. To make the design greener and healthier, we can put up small sky gardens or simple plant boxes along or hanging from the inner and outer walls.

5. We can also put solar panels along the outer walls (or roofs). This will depend on many factors, of course, but we can also look at its feasibility.

Structural soundness

We also need to look at issues related to structural soundness. Two aspects should be at the top of the list.

1. The system should apply a forward-looking design. The bike lanes will most likely become very popular that an increasing number of people would want to use it over the years. How can we ensure a stable design? Of course, we cannot build very wide bike lanes but our design should be wide enough that they can accommodate more bikers in the long term.

2. The design should also consider locational and environmental challenges (e.g., natural disasters or “acts of God” like earthquake, strong typhoons, etc.).

Financing considerations

Moreover, the idea, if indeed viable, requires massive inputs and resources. The following are potential entry points for resource mobilization and financing.

1. Foremost in mind (as well as suggested by a friend and former project colleague, Abby Catucod) is a public-private partnership (PPP) structure that may be established for this undertaking. Development agencies may likewise be tapped.

2. There should be private sector “buy-in” to distribute and share some of the costs. For example, malls and shopping centers can fund the lanes near them but they may be allowed to build small side cafes or drink kiosks–these will be useful for thirsty/hungry bikers; to encourage more bikers, banks may be requested or required to offer loans for the purchase of bicycles (particularly for those who need them).

3. We must ensure sustainable upkeep and maintenance. For example, should the use be totally free for the public? Or should there be minimal users’ fees similar to the practice of toll fees? Will a payment scheme make the people use it less? Are people willing to pay? A market study may be able to help us answer these questions.

Policy scenarios and climate change

Finally, we also need to look at the implication and contribution to the over-arching goals on climate change mitigation and adaptation and sustainable development. For one, it must be stressed that the construction of sky bike lanes should happen alongside other transportation-related policies and interventions such as improvement of mass transport systems, use of cleaner fuels, and better transportation demand management.

I have been part of a study called, Integrated Environmental Strategies, in 2004 and through the project, our team looked at different transport-related policy scenarios and their combination. The analysis– which involved modeling (to estimate emissions reduction), health effects estimation, and economic valuation–predicted a significant improvement in air quality if all or most of the different policies are implemented. While the study team did not see any significant reduction in the level of particulate matter (PM) through the use of bike lanes alone, “applying the combination of measures…is forecast to cause a dramatic improvement in PM levels” (McNamara, et al., 2005).

Our 2004 study did not focus significantly on the impact to traffic reduction so the future team must look at this area. Some of the IES approach may actually be useful. (For those interested to read our Final Report, you may get a copy from this link. The material is also listed in the References below.)

I hope that this exploratory material will excite many potential stakeholders and, together, we can ponder on this further, and hopefully, make it possible. This is rather brief so I hope to keep on updating it in the course of the next few weeks or possibly write new updates.

I would appreciate it if you can respond to a quick/informal survey, which I had developed for this idea. Please go to this link. You may also want to drop by the interim website for this dream project. Thank you!

References:

McNamara, D., Subida, R., Velas, M.A., Andres, F., Vergel, K., Anglo E.,…Ibay, A.C. (2005). Integrated Environmental Strategies – Philippines Project Report Metropolitan Manila (Focus on the Transport Sector), Manila Observatory. Available at http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnadj320.pdf

Waze. (2015). Global Driver Satisfaction Index. Available at http://wazeblogs-en.blogspot.ie/2015_09_01_archive.html

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