When I was in Massachusetts last year, the city government of Boston just launched the “Go Boston 2030 Vision Framework” — an initiative which hopes to cement Boston’s place as America’s most walkable city by putting up infrastructure that would improve access into and around the commercial districts for people travelling on foot, by bike or scooter. Ultimately, they intend to increase people walking to work by 50% and increase bicycling shares four-fold within the next ten years.
This has been a trend for many progressive cities around the world. In fact, since 2007, Boston has built more than 144 kilometers of bicycle lanes. In Denmark, they constructed a “cycle superhighway” — a “coherent network of cycle highways” spanning over 20 cities and municipalities. In Amsterdam, museum enthusiasts can cycle through the Rijksmuseum, a 19th century museum famous for Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
In the Philippines, there hasn’t been much political support or policy or infrastructure that would address the needs of cyclists and pedestrians. It was almost impossible — and to a certain extent unsafe — to walk or cycle along national highways.
In 2011, the Asian Development Bank examined walkability and pedestrian facilities in Asian cities. It showed that in Manila, like Hanoi, a sizeable number of the trips could be made by foot and bicycle because the average distance traveled per trip is low. Data from the Metro Manila Urban Transport Integration Study showed that nearly 35% of destinations are within a 15-minute walk or bicycle trip, but the majority of short trips are made by paratransit (jeepneys and tricycles) and cars.
Fortunately, the vision for Philippine infrastructure is about to change.
Just a few days ago, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar led the opening of the 6.94-km Laguna Lake Expressway, a toll-free road which cuts travel time from Bicutan to Taytay and vice versa from one hour to just 30 minutes or less.
But what is more interesting about the 4-lane divided highway which connects the eastern part of Metro Manila and the towns of Rizal province is the fact that the national road is equipped with the Philippines first 3-meter-wide protected bicycle lane.
The vision of incorporating pedestrian infrastructure in public roads is not only happening in Manila, but also in other places in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
For instance, the Cagayan de Oro (CDO) Coastal Road, a 12.77-km bypass road expected to ease access in the eastern side of Macajalar Bay in CDO, Gingoog in Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, and Caraga is also built with bicycle lanes. The road project which starts from from Brgy. Gusa in the eastern side all the way to the western side in Brgy. Igpit, Opol, in Misamis Oriental is expected to reduce travel time from the Laguindingan Airport to the city proper to only 20 minutes.
Another project in Mindanao which would include bicycle lanes would be the Davao City Coastal Road, an 18-km road project which will start at Jct. Bago Aplaya (south) to Sta. Ana Wharf toward R. Castillo Street.
In Visayas, pedestrians are also provided the option to bike or walk along the Bacolod Negros Occidental Economic Highway, a 21.8-km road that would serve as an alternate route passing the interior area of Bacolod City leading to Bacolod Silay Airport and tourist destinations in the area.
The construction of pedestrian infrastructure should not be seen as a pivot against motorization but a desire for public spaces, access to alternative forms of transportation and recreation.