A Walkable City for Juan

I used to commute a lot back in my college years. I remember rushing to take a bus ride and facing the awful rush of the Jeepney ride back home. Often times, the distances were not that far, really. Some parts would have been an easy walk. The only problem – THERE WERE NO WALKWAYS, NO SIDEWALKS! Walking was a death-defying activity!

I remember ranting to my family and friends that one of the simple problems we had yet, it took forever to solve was having DECENT, WELL-LIT COVERED WALKWAYS!

They used to find me really weird. They used to say, “Oh, Koleen, the things you notice!”

30 YEARS FAST FORWARD…. WE ARE FINALLY ALL NOTICING IT!

WHY CAN’T JUAN WALK?

Every time I used to rant that we needed to walk and bike more, everyone would tell me that we cannot do it because it was HOT! But now, I think Singapore has proven that it can be done. And TREES AND PLANTS provide a solution for that.

See, the whole idea of being sustainable is figuring out the answer to this question: HOW CAN WE THRIVE, not just SURVIVE, given our NATURAL ENVIRONS and ECONOMIC LIMITATIONS?

Through the years, here are some ideas I have always had in my mind – saved in a folder somewhere on how JUAN CAN FINALLY WALK AND BIKE as a RELIABLE ALTERNATIVE FOR MOBILITY.

1. Let’s Build a Network of Elevated Covered WalkWays – not just one but like highways of walkways in the sky.

More and more Filipinos are seeing the value of connectivity and mobility. The demand for integrated or mix-used city centers are on the rise. People want to be accessible to their place of work, their families and lifestyle choices. The biggest developers in the country have incorporated network of walkways in their designs.

SM Mall Of Asia Complex built beautiful and sturdy walkways
Photo credit: Patrickroque01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0
Ayala Network of Elevated Walkways
Photo credit: Walkabilityasia.org
Ortigas Network of Elevated Walkways
Photo credit: newsinthephilippines.org

Yet, majority of the pedestrians living in Metro Manila rely on public walkways, most of which do not provide protection from the heat and the rain.

Photo credit: walkabilityasia.org
Photo credit: Top Gear

To help Juan’s mobility in a heavily populated city, it may be good to consider having a concerted effort in creating a sophisticated and comprehensive network of covered elevated walkways that connect to train stations, buildings and bus stops.

2. Let’s make the elevated walkways wide enough to serve as BIKE LANES

It is my dream to bike to everywhere! I do not know if that would every happen in our lifetime in our country. But many countries are beginning to prove it can be done. Here is a great example of a network of elevated bike lines from one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world, Amsterdam.

Bicycle Elevated Roundabout
Photo credit: Zachary Shahan, http://www.treehugger.com

3. Vertical Gardens with beautiful bougainvilleas

Now, I know what you are thinking. Again, with the heat! In this situation, it is not google that presents to be our best friend, but the good old plants and trees that provide shade, absorb carbon dioxide, absorb water and lower temperatures.

Bougainvilleas love the sun! We can surround our dream network of elevated walkways and bike lanes with this very beautiful and low maintenance plant, the bougainvilleas.

Singapore bike friendly city routes
Photo credit: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/in-pictures-flowering-trees-and-shrubs-in-singapore

Will Juan ever walk the talk? Or will this forever be a dream that will simply fade away?

We have no choice but to thrive amidst the effects of climate change. We have no choice but to improve the mobility of more than 12M Filipinos living in the very congested Metro Manila.

With more than half of the population dependent on our currently inadequate public transportation system as their primary avenue for mobility, it is critical to provide healthy, environmentally and economically friendly alternatives.

There are many organizations and government initiatives that are now pushing for walkways. It seems that there are a lot of us who are thinking of the same things. Here are some links you may check out:

1. WalkabilityAsia.org – they measure which cities in Asia are walkable and even have a mobile App that you can download.

2.Globaldesigningcities.org – they help design cities that provide adequate mobility options.

3. Government Initiatives – Senate Majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is pushing for the construction of elevated walkways and bike lanes on EDSA according to Top Gear’s Report: http://www.topgear.com.ph/news/motoring-news/elevated-walkways-bike-lanes-Edsa-a4354-20190814

4. Private Sector Urban Design Initiatives – Architect and Urban Planner Jun Palafox proposes that one-third of the spaces should be allotted to pedestrians and bikes, one-third for trees and the other their for moving traffic lanes.

I know that for now my blog is simply trying to raise awareness on this issue. But hopefully, in my own very little way, with a lot of talking, we can start to walk the talk!

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