"In an ideal situation, people should really be able to ride a bike safely on public roads anytime they want."
One thing that the lockdown has done is to increase the use of bicycles because of the lack or non-availability of public transportation. As a consequence, bicycles stores and repair shops have reported increased demand for bicycles and spare parts. Whether this will continue even when public transportation situation gets back to normal is another matter. Nonetheless, the cycling community saw an opportunity and sprang into action. Now, there is talk of increasing government investments on walkways and bike lanes. Even the Metro Manila Development Authority General Manager seem to be convinced that bicycles have a future in a post-pandemic Metro Manila.
Arthur Tugade, the Secretary of Transportation, also said that a bike lane will be allowed along EDSA and perhaps some other roads. In an ideal situation, people should really be able to ride a bike safely on public roads anytime they want.
The situation in the Metro area, however, is anything but ideal. Because of the competition for the limited road space, everything is stuck against the widespread use of bicycles to move people either for leisure or work. Let us try to consider what is at hand. The land area of the National Capital Region is only about 619 square kilometers, with a population of 13 million people. This makes the NCR one of the most congested metropolitan centers in the world. The total length of its road network, both public and private, according to what I have been able find out, is about 5,000 kilometers. I do not think this is accurate, though. Unfortunately, I cannot get hold of any Department of Public Works and Highways office to get the latest correct data so I will assume that this figure is near the truth.
As for motor vehicle registration in the NCR, Land Transportation Office data suggest a figure of around 2,800,000 vehicles of various classifications as of December 2019. Vehicle density therefore is about 560 vehicles per kilometer of road. This basically explains why traffic in the Metro area is virtually not moving. It takes an average of 4.9 minutes to travel one kilometer. Nonetheless, even with all these difficulties and without waiting to see what will happen when public transportation normalizes, the DOTr and MMDA have decided to allow bicycles lanes along EDSA and other selected roads. This will virtually removes one lane out of the five lanes which will in turn reduce the load capacity of EDSA by up to 2,800 vehicles per hour for the two lanes going north and south. Even if the peak is not reached and gets to only 1,100 per hour per lane, this still adds up to 52,800 vehicles that will supposedly be replaced by bicycles a day.
Will there be that many bicycles using EDSA in any given day? I doubt it very much but regardless, this is perhaps as good a time as any to put a bike lane along what is arguably one of the busiest streets on earth to see if it will work or not.
Curiously, our transport and traffic authorities will allow motor cycles and bicycles to share the bike lane which is not a good idea. This is one of the reasons why I am skeptical about the long-term success of this bike lane program along EDSA. As long as the NCR remains an urban center with a very limited road network that is not enough to accommodate all the vehicles, riding bicycles will remain dangerous to the riders.
I do hope that the DOTr and MMDA have something in their sleeves to make this project work because bike enthusiasts do not seem to be satisfied with sharing a lane with motor cycle’s riders. They want a separate protected lane exclusively for bicycles. Good luck.
The Department of Health is trying to split hairs in reporting new COVID-19 infections because the increase over the past week is alarming a lot of people. DOH keeps on changing rules when what are needed are direct, clear and uncomplicated answers. People are not stupid. They know if the DOH is not being forthright. DOH has now two new categories. New cases are those validated test results by accredited laboratories reported within three days and old cases are those that are four days or older. The question is – what is the big difference between a case reported on the third day and a case reported on the fourth day?
The DOH has gone to great lengths in explaining that since the increase in '”new” cases is low, this gives a better appreciation of the situation. This statement does not seem to give so much importance to the much bigger increase in “old” cases which are really not that old. An increase is still an increase, regardless whether it is three or four days old.
The DOH is also saying that the situation is now actually better because there are now more beds available to treat patients, and there are fewer deaths. The spread of infection is now one to one instead of one COVID-19 positive person infecting three or four. This may all be true but the benchmark in which a country is judged whether it has been successful in the fight against COVID-19 is still whether infections have decreased and not whether there are more beds for patients and fewer deaths.
Unfortunately in our case, the infections have increased alarmingly in the past week and the DOH owes it to the public to explain in plain language why infections are increasing and not decreasing when the long lockdown should have controlled and brought down the infection rate.