Press Release
August 24, 2016

Privilege Speech of Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri
24 August 2016
Senate Session Hall

Elevated Walkways and Bike-lanes, for a Safer and Healthier Citizens,
an Inclusive Mobility Scheme

Mr. President, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege, on an issue that affects us all. I am referring to the traffic situation in Metro Manila.

Where does the traffic situation in Metro Manila stand? A quick reply would be - it is always at a standstill! Levity aside Mr. President, we can all relate to the traffic mess in Metro Manila that we have to deal with every single day. Words are not enough to describe our frustrations, our agony, how it increases our daily stress and how it affects our lives, albeit negatively. Waze, the GPS-based navigation app, even tagged the metro to have the "worst traffic on earth". Still, that label pales in comparison to how Dan Brown described Manila as the "gates of hell," in his novel, Inferno, with our six-hour traffic jams, poverty, pollution, and sex trade.

For the record, here are the numbers for us to better understand the gravity of the situation.

There are now two million three hundred seventeen thousand and two hundred four (2,317,204) registered vehicles in Metro Manila. This is twenty-six percent (26.6%) of the total registered vehicles in the country, as of 2015. The vehicle density in Metro Manila is three thousand six hundred forty-three per square kilometer (3,643 per km2), higher than Singapore (1,360), Tokyo (967) or New York City (2,504).

Metro Manila has a total road network of four thousand seven hundred fifty-five kilometers (4,755 km). This road network is comprised of one thousand and thirty-two kilometers (1,032 km) of national arterial and secondary roads, and three thousand seven hundred twenty-three kilometers (3,723 km) of local roads. The ideal road network for our situation should be eight thousand kilometers (8,000 km), or almost double of what we currently have.

The volume of vehicles plying EDSA, one of our main thoroughfares, is seven thousand five hundred (7,500) vehicles per hour in one direction, or three hundred sixty thousand (360,000) vehicles per day in both directions. Other estimates place it as high as five hundred twenty thousand (520,000) vehicles per day. Compare this with the vehicle capacity of EDSA, which is only six thousand (6,000) vehicles per hour in one direction, or two hundred eighty-eight thousand (288,000) per day in both directions - it is easy to see that EDSA carries vehicles way beyond its capacity every single day.

Of the total vehicles plying EDSA, three hundred thousand (300,000) or eighty-three percent (83%) are private vehicles, and only about seventeen percent (17%) are public utility vehicles.

As for the mass rail transit, the number of commuters taking the rail on a normal weekday are the following:

Daily Commuters Designed Capacity
LRT1 - 518,600 560,000 per day
LRT2 - 212,000 472,000 per day
MRT (Line 3) - 570,000 350,000 per day

Of the 12 million Metro Manila population, 12.5 million trips are made daily, of which seventeen percent (17%) are to and from work and fifteen percent (15%) are to and from school. About seventy percent (70%) of these trips use public transport, of which thirty-nine percent (39%) use jeepneys, fourteen percent (14%) use the bus, and less than nine percent (9%) account for the rail system.

This grim picture of the horrendous traffic situation in the Metro brings me to an incident last July 25, when the nation was aghast to witness a viral video of another road rage victim. Biker Mark Vincent Garalde was shot in close range by a Hyundai Eon driver, after a traffic altercation resulting in a fistfight. Vincent Garalde died instantly with multiple shots in his body. Another victim, Rosell Bondoc, was also hit by a stray bullet and was seriously injured. The car driver was later identified as Vhon Martin Tanto, an inactive military reservist.

(play video, courtesy of Youtube)

Thankfully, after a few days, Mr. Tanto was arrested in Masbate and is now in jail, facing charges.

I could not rest to let the issue go down as a simple traffic altercation which led to a violent death by a biker, someone who supposedly has a right to share the road with motorists. It cannot be just another number in the statistics of road rage incidents leading to death. There must be a deeper problem to this issue and it begs to be answered.

I realized that the bigger issue here is road-sharing, respecting each other's right to use the road - motorists, bikers, pedestrians, and PWDs alike. It is also about discipline, sensitivity, and consideration for others. We may take to task the LTO or LTFRB for not educating our drivers properly and for issuing drivers licenses indiscriminately, even to psychotics and drug dependents. But that is another issue, deserving of another privilege speech.

But really, how safe, walkable and bike-able are our sidewalks in Metro Manila?

(play video 00:00:09 second start to 00:00:37 second; 00:00:45 to 00:02:39)

(1st set of pics - slideshow)

We see that our sidewalks, supposedly for pedestrians and PWDs, are narrow and crowded with vendors, parked vehicles, electric posts, and plant boxes. Pickpockets, snatchers, and robbers lurking for their next victims make our sidewalks unsafe for pedestrians and bikers alike. In navigating our sidewalks, locals have a term for it - "para kang nakikipag-patintero kay kamatayan, kung hindi sa mga snatchers at hold-uppers." We can even make Olympic athletes for the hurdles event out of our Metro Manila pedestrians.

However, the non-motorized transport or NMT users such as bikers and pedestrians are still struggling to claim their own share in road space. Thus, there are those who advocate for the designation of a lane in our major roads for bikers and pedestrians. This is in line with the concept of inclusive mobility. If there is inclusive growth in the country's development goals, there is inclusive mobility in transport planning.

The Philippines' Inclusive Mobility Network, a multi-sectoral coalition of over 20 organizations and agencies advocating inclusive mobility in the country, provide this definition - Inclusive mobility is "a transport system that works for the poor and vulnerable. To move around the city, every person should be able to carry himself, if not all the way, then part of the way. Everyone who can, must walk, bike, commute, and only as a last resort, take the car." With our roads becoming the virtually the longest parking lots in the world, such clamor to designate a lane for bikers and pedestrians seems to be wishful thinking. We keep expanding our roads, many times even taking space from our sidewalks, with motorists as our primary consideration and with total disregard for non-motorized transport.

In the last APEC meeting in Manila, the Philippines was successful in pushing for the approval by the APEC Transportation Ministers of a framework that will promote inclusive mobility in the region, to ensure that all sectors of society have access to safe and efficient transport systems. The inclusive mobility framework espoused by the Philippines is now covered by the Joint Ministerial Statement that will be the roadmap for the APEC to work on for the next two years. In the joint statement, the APEC's transport ministers endorsed the initiative to create an inclusive mobility framework for the region, as "such would increase productivity and support acceleration of economic growth." Under the Philippines' proposal, the inclusive mobility framework means that access to safe and efficient transport shall be provided to all sectors, especially the less privileged, persons with disability, women, children, and the elderly. How then can we promote accessibility of our transport systems for non-motorized transport or pedestrians, bikers and even persons with disability? How can we transform our cities into walkable and bike-able communities that promote safer and healthier mobility for our citizens? How can we implement inclusive mobility? This brings me to a business trip I had in Shanghai, China. I saw their elevated walkways, interconnected to business districts, offices and shopping malls.

(play video 00:02:40 to 00:02:50)

With our roads turning into total gridlock many hours of the day, I believe that the elevated walkway and bike lane are ripe for implementation in Metro Manila. This scheme will answer our inclusive mobility programs for the metro and other highly-urbanized cities in the country. It will promote health among our citizens and provide a safer transport system for all.

For a start, we can put several kilometers of this along EDSA, from the Ortigas business district to Ayala in Makati. These elevated walkways and bike lanes can be interconnected with the existing footbridges in these commercial and business districts, providing a seamless, well-connected and accessible transport system. These elevated walkways should be covered or roofed to encourage people to use them even during the rainy season or under the midday sun. These should be well-lighted at night, and equipped with CCTVs and roving security.

This will provide our commuters with the option to use bikes to and from their offices or schools, or walk if their destination is within walking distance, especially in between work hours if one is going to a meeting. This will make our cities and urban areas truly walkable communities. This can even become the main transport system for metro commuters when our streets are flooded during stormy weather or monsoon rains.

I understand that the City of Manila has been constructing several footbridges over its major intersections and commercial districts at no cost to the city government. These footbridges are covered, equipped with CCTVs, and provided with security guards. We also have a similar system in the Makati central business district along Dela Rosa Street all the way to Greenbelt area.

(2nd set of pics - slideshow)

If we can widen these footbridges to accommodate bike lanes and stretch them along EDSA and other major thoroughfares, we can easily have a safe and efficient alternative mode of transport.

(play video 00:02:51 onwards, with no audio)

I will not belabor the engineering design or budget for this program, as the government agencies concerned can provide them in hearings to be conducted. But I enjoin my distinguished colleagues to also bear in mind the debilitating economic cost of traffic in Metro Manila, which according to a *2012 JICA study is about 2.4 Billion Pesos daily. Former NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan actually pegs it at a conservative estimate of 3 Billion Pesos daily in 2015.

With the enormity of the traffic problem in Metro Manila, and maybe soon in Metro Cebu or Metro Davao, solving it would require a multi-pronged or multi-disciplinary approach. Inclusive mobility through elevated walkways and bike lanes is my humble contribution to the discussion. I ask this august body to join me in requesting our executive agencies to seriously consider this approach.

Thank you very much.

*JICA's P2.4 billion a day figure includes lost work hours, lost business opportunities due to delays and missed deadlines and wasted fuel.

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