City officials want equal access to the urban landscape, not only for car owners but also for the carless.
City officials began the week with a breakfast meeting focusing on the constriction of the city’s inherently narrow barangay roads by car and jeepney owners who use these as on-street parking areas.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan said he will take up with barangay captains the need for their councils to designate vacant lots as vehicle parking areas and to clear streets and alleys of these overnight or even day obstructions.
He said even road expansion projects end up as vehicle parking areas, which defeats their original purpose of unclogging traffic snarls.
The increasing number of vehicles availing of on-street parking also appears to render ineffective the requirement of the Land Transportation Office for vehicle owners to submit photographs of their units parked in their private garages as a condition for their units’ registration.
Vehicles clogging passageways prove costly during emergencies. A case in point was an after-operation report of the Baguio fire station which said that its response to a residential fire at Gibraltar Barangay last year was blocked by vehicles obstructing the narrow road.
Over at the city council, the body denied a request of Honeymoon-Holy Ghost Barangay to construct a satellite market along the widened portion of Holy Ghost Road.
The council, on the other hand, is keen on approving a proposed ordinance of Vice mayor Daniel Fariñas regulating street parades and motorcades that worsen traffic woes, especially during rush hours.
The council deferred approval of the same on second reading pending definition, as requested by Councilor Perlita Rondez, of “rush” or “peak hours.” The council likewise agreed to subject the proposal to a public hearing.
“With the volume of vehicles and pedestrian population using the very limited road space especially within the central business district, traffic flow in one section greatly affects other stretches of road and streets, particularly so when vehicles are stalled or roads and streets are closed or are also used for parades and related street activities,” Fariñas said.
On the request of former chancellor Priscilla Macansantos of the University of the Philippines-Baguio to restore the UP Drive into a two-way lane, the city council decided that the present one-way going up route be maintained until the road development project in the area has been completed.
Macansantos and the UP community noted the one-way up scheme imposed on an experimental basis has triggered pollution problems from vehicle exhaust emissions. An alternative, she said, is to reverse the traffic route to one-way down.
Meanwhile, some councilors are beginning to question the wisdom of closing some of the pedestrian lanes along Session Road that, together with the construction of overpasses, makes mobility in the central business district difficult for elderly pedestrians and persons with disabilities.
Ordinance 108 passed in 2008 provides vehicle parking slots and pedestrian lanes for PWDs and Ordinance 32 passed the following year provides additional blue lane pedestrian crossings for Abanao Street, Session Road, Harrison Road, city hall area, Magsaysay Avenue to the city market, and other areas near commercial establishments.
The cue for a shift in priority or orientation comes from Dr. Enrique Peñalosa, one-time mayor of Bogota, Colombia and a fellow on urban planning for New York University who established a busing system called Transmilenio, “so the banker can sit beside the laundrywoman during car-less days.”
Peñalosa designated car-less days, specifically for private vehicles. Private car owners protested but they lost in a referendum as there are more people without cars in Bogota.
“A city is made for people, not for cars,” he said. “Throughout history, there were more people killed by cars than by wild animals in the forest.”
He stressed people without cars have equal right to the urban space as much as those who have. Concretely, he established the longest bicycle lane in any city and some of the longest sidewalks.
Here, commercial establishment owners along Session Road, the city’s main street, are opposed to a plan of the city to convert the inclined main street into a pedestrian’s promenade and free of vehicles.