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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Stairway to Heaven?

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A few weeks ago, while watching the news, I came across this concern of the former chairman of MMDA that people are crossing the street on EDSA despite overpass bridges present at most bus stops and signages that say “Bawal Tumawid Nakamamatay.”

He said increasing the fine for jaywalking will prevent commuters from crossing the road. I know his objective is to avoid accidents and loss of human lives. Based on the May 4, 2021, article by ABS-CBN News, at least 57,000 pedestrians in the Philippines have been hit by vehicles in the last ten years, according to the Department of Health (DOH). This is an alarming figure, and we need to improve road safety.

An overpass bridge is a unique bridge that goes over another road or railway. It helps cars and trains go over without getting in each other’s way. Overpasses are essential because they keep traffic flowing smoothly and make it safer for everyone. However, the design of the overpass bridges in the country should have considered the people who would use them.

This is evident in the ridiculously sky-high footbridge (once dubbed Mt. Kamuning) along GMA-Kamuning station in Quezon City that cost a whopping P10 million. Aside from its steep incline and 10-meter height, it needs a canopy or roof and repair. It also shows that the government does not consider the pedestrians. These reasons discourage people from using it, especially older people and those with disabilities.

Ergonomics is a unique science that helps make things easier and more comfortable for people using them. It’s all about designing furniture and equipment to fit our bodies and make us feel good. Being an ergonomist, I was amused and, at the same time, disappointed with the solution that MMDA came up with. Increasing fines will not solve the problem of people risking life and limb to cross these busy streets.

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Building such a footbridge with such an unreasonable height penalizes pedestrians and creates an unsurmountable problem for seniors, PWDs and children. Penalties can be seen as a negative approach to solving the problem.

So, how can this issue be addressed? First, our infrastructure planners should understand why commuters cross EDSA, risking their lives instead of using the overpass bridge. Second, instead of overpass bridges that are an eyesore on most roads, why not provide ramps instead of stairs on overpass bridges, elevators and escalators with awnings at bus stops?

Individuals requiring a wheelchair, walker or cane will have an easier time walking up and down ramps where large strides are not needed. Also, a ramp is much safer and easier to use than stairs for anyone with mobility issues and carrying heavy loads. Third, provide a sidewalk for people to prevent them from walking on the road.

I call on the government to be more compassionate to commuters and pedestrians. Let’s make our streets more people-friendly!

October is National Ergonomics Month.

The author is the only Filipino who received the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) Fellow Award for 2023. She is also a Full Professor at the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department of De La Salle University. Dr. Gutierrez is also the president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of the Philippines (HFESP) and former Industrial and Systems Engineering Department chairperson. She can be reached at alma.gutierrez@dlsu.edu.ph

The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.

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