Over or underpasses should only be used in cases where it is extremely dangerous for pedestrians to cross on the street level. Re-routing pedestrians over and under with the illusion it will improve traffic makes little sense for either party. In Ortigas and Makati central business districts 2 lane and 4 lane passages use over or underpasses with the false understanding that it will help traffic move more smoothly. All it does is inconvenience people who walk, especially when the escalators are broken- which I've encountered at least once during every trip. Here's 2/5 which were down on my walk down Ayala Ave going to Greebelt :
The EastWest Bank celebrated its anniversary with a traveling mini-fiesta complete with a truck full of a marching band and dancers to be deployed outside several of its branches across Metro Manila. The band played from the back of the truck and the performers on the sidewalk just outside the bank in Escolta where I spotted it today. The vendors, neighborhood kids, and passersby all stopped to enjoy it for the brief time it popped-up. A moveable pop-up fiesta is a fun, low-cost, low-commitment way to shake up the street.
In Poblacion, Makati each barangay turns the street into a pop-stage and display for worship and celebration around Easter.
I love the grounds in FEU- huge trees hugged by inviting benches for people to sit. It is noticeably cooler and more quiet once you walk into this space from the steamy pollution just outside these walls. The use of bougainvilla is also smart because it grows quickly and takes little water and maintanence. It's beautiful when shaped as a tree as opposed to a wall vine. Simple, effective, calming for all the senses.
Facebook reminded me that 3 years ago I decided to plant new seeds and give a home to struggling house plants in this abandoned flower bed on my block. Today it's a towering mass of trees, vines, and other growth. It's been blocked off by construction materials so I can't see it fully but I haven't watered it in 2.5 years and yet it flourishes with new additions still finding their way there, maybe through birds dropping seeds or species spreading from the surrounding area? The bottom line is that we should be planting stuff everywhere because in this climate it will proliferate with very little care.
There should be more covered streets like this one in Binondo, Manila. A series of covered streets could provide an instant pedestrian network feeding people to markets, schools, and other neighborhood destinations.
DIY solutions to anchor fish poles along Manila Bay. Thinking I should get the bike holster- could use it for an umbrella, tether ball pole, tent...so many pop-up possibilities!
On a sunny Sunday this March 29, 2015 over 100 bike enthusiasts flocked to Intramuros for the first Open House Bike Tour of the Walled City. Viva Manila helped coordinate the tour along with local businesses BamBike and The Manila Collectibles Co. and with the generous assistance of the Intramuros Administration.
Participants met at the BamBike shop in Plaza San Luis. Those without bikes were able to rent one of the bamboo bicycles from this awarded company which aims to utilize sustainable materials and processes, generate livelihood, and promote historic Manila. The coordinators expected 40 participants and were overwhelmed with the final audience numbers. The kalesa drivers were more than willing to fill in the gap, accommodating extra people on the traditional horse drawn carriages, while others opted to simply walk or hop on the back of each other’s bikes. The diverse group included families, students, and residents from around Metro Manila both local and foreign.
The tour covered Intramuros as it is today. Rather than focus on Intramuros of the past, the tour showed participants how it has evolved since its destruction during World War II, with a particular focus on the changes before and after the institutionalization of the Intramuros Administration in 1979.
Many participants did not realize Intramuros has grown into its own city. They had only visited on a tour or as a student, but few had wandered its streets beyond the designated tourist sites. They were surprised to find the Walled City has numerous green pockets, a grid network of streets, and numerous eateries and businesses. They learned about Intramuros as an university town as well as the home to long-term, transient, and informal residents. Participants asked a lot of questions about the architectural regulations and the potential for redevelopment of abandoned or vacant properties. Charisse Tugade-Aquino of TMCC shared insight on the adaptive reuse of one of the chambers in Fort Santiago with assistance from Escuela Taller, inspiring visitors to think about how local business, culture, and heritage can work together for a uniquely Intramuros commercial venture.
Thanks to the Intramuros Administration we were granted special permission to enter the St. Ignacious Church, currently under reconstruction. Few participants had prior knowledge of the former church and were delighted to learn that the Intramuros Administration is bringing back one of the city’s lost churches as a museum for religious relics. Participants were also treated to free entrance of the lesser visited Baluarte de San Diego. Foreigners who had been living in Manila already for several years said they often brought visitors to Fort Santiago but had never visited the Baluarte before.
Everyone remarked how easy it is to bike around Intramuros, how clean the air is inside the Walled City, and how overall it felt like an escape and respite from the outside chaos.
As we all sat together on the walls overlooking the golf course and the City of Manila beyond, the general feeling was one of reflection. Many came to the tour expecting to get a lesson in history, but were pleasantly surprised to be presented with a set of questions rather than answers.
Understanding the challenges which face Intramuros today are similar to those found around Metro Manila, showed people that Intramuros is far from forgotten; it has experienced much renovation, restoration, and redevelopment since 1979 and continues to slowly grow into its own.
Ultimately, participants were left inspired by Intramuros’s potential as a vibrant, historical urban landscape, an effort many would like to now be part of after exploring the Walled City.
In other areas of urban life we are becoming more flexible and temporary and customized to individual needs yet our living situations remain the same. Why is it that I still have to sign a year lease, get all my own furniture, and nest? I, like many others, am a consultant and a collaborator on various projects. My work takes me to many parts of the city, yet I return to the same place at night.
This trip I worked from the road and slept in different cities. Thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and strangers I didn't have to return home. I worked from my phone, which was admittedly difficult at times, and I carried all my things for the week in my backpack.
Granted, if I needed to go to a formal event I would have been in a bind- my wardrobe was limited to biking and casual clothes. It's hard to prepare for multiple situations with one tiny backpack.
My limits were tested one day when a best friend who had just given birth invited me to the hospital to meet her newborn. When I received her text I was on the bangka in Laguna de Bay, filthy from the day's ride and drenched in lake water. I couldn't meet a newborn like that.
I biked into BGC and started looking for spas with shower facilities. None would take me unless I bought a massage or spa service. Eventually a friend answered my plea and let me into the pool house of his fancy condo compound; a wall of towers surrounding a tennis court, playground, and pool. I was able to get a quick shower in there before biking to St. Luke's to greet the gorgeous new mom and her beautiful new son.
I've been a backpacker while traveling to other countries, but never in my own city and it was eye opening. It was good to have a homebase when I needed to use my computer (I didn't bring it with me on the road in case of damage or theft) for extensive work assignments or switch out clothes or take a day off, but other than that, I was happy moving about from place to place.
My homestays were especially comfortable and reminded me of my first travels at age 15 when I went abroad to study Spanish and lived with local families in Spain and Costa Rica. Air BNB is helping meet this market, but I wonder if there's a way to make more of a homestay out of it, where it's not so expensive and could be utilized by day laborers, transient workers, students, or just business commuters avoiding traffic by traveling after rush hour and spending the night in preparation for an early meeting the next day.
My stay in Z Hostel was the first time I stayed in a hostel mere miles from my own bed. It is true to its motto "a luxury hostel for the smart traveler". It is the nicest hostel I've ever stayed in and granted it may seem expensive for a hostel, it's a fraction of the hotel rates in the area and it's not much more expensive than much less swanky hostels in other parts of Manila.
If Z Hostel had branches in every city and they let me have a membership to access dorm rooms in each with a main homebase in one, I would be the first to sign up. Why are places like Z Hostel for "travel" and not for regular urban life? We have apps to pick us up in private cars, to book us reservations in restaurants, to find us dates at a moment's notice, but I do not have flexible, affordable, safe rooms to rent in my own city to replace the traditional rental model. Z Hostel, at its current per night costs, would not be competitive at a monthly rate, but if paired with co-lab/share space/maker space working models it might be doable and become the ultimate freelancer hybrid. I would love to be able to live and work in any of the business districts in Metro Manila any day of the week to cut down on commute times, increase networks, and access more collaborations. At Z Hostel's Wednesday night rooftop party I met a handful of new, interesting people, something which is always appreciated when you've lived in a place for several years.
Of course, this type of living would only work for a certain age and marital status- aka single- and probably for only so long. Eventually we want to settle down. But meanwhile, we should have more options.
Muntinlupa and Taguig cities share large borders with Laguna de Bay; in both cities, the lake front is a different world from the rest of the urban area. After taking the PNR to Sucat in Muntinlupa I bike just 10 minutes along a coastal road called Quezon until I see signs for the Lake Front, 500 M ahead. Along the lakeside of the road are houses and other structures so it's hard to see where the access road is at first, but turning into the side street I see a fountain in the distance and come upon a large plaza with concrete kubos, a small government office, and plenty of bayfront seating on ledges where couples spend time together, fishermen fish, and students hang out after school. People walk or bike there; a few motorcycles are parked outside where there is an open air basketball court. It's a wonderful waterfront park that should be replicated along the length of the bay.
The following day I biked back to the lake front but on the Taguig side. There I found a new jogging and bike path that is being built ride on the edge, offering an uninterrupted view of the fishponds, houses, and mountains on the other side. I asked one of the fishermen to take me out for a short "pasyal" (stroll- but in this case tour). We rode through the dense water hyacinth through some narrow fishnets where a man was in the water scaring the fish into the nets by slapping the water, an old trick of the trade, and onwards to visit Tatang Mimi, a local leader among the fishermen.
Later I biked just 30 minutes into BGC, the leading Central Business District in Metro Manila. To be on the lake with fishermen and then half and hour later in the center of "modern" Metro Manila is a fascinating prospect; few other cities possess geography to have fishponds in such proximity to downtowns. Laguna de Bay has a large role to play for Muntinlupa and especially Taguig given the close distance to world-class hospitals, offices, and fast growing residential areas, in terms of public space, food sustainability, and recreational amenities, as long as they are developed within the appropriate disaster resilience framework. These possibilities should be explored and fostered to ensure the sustainable development of these areas in harmony and partnership with one another. If this is done, connecting Laguna de Bay with the rest of the city will be an innovative, mutually beneficial approach for both cities.
I've heard about the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat Ecotourism Area from bird watching friends and it's been on my "to-explore" list for years. I set out on Monday to try and reach it by bicycle, not having any idea what a task this would be! I passed Roxas Boulevard, to Mall of Asia and through Macapagal Ave until I hit Cavitex, the coastal road highway. There were no gates and no guards and as I almost entered the highway a security guard came running out from behind some trees blowing his whistle in a panic. It was then I noticed a large sign with an icon of a guy on a motorcycle, a large "no" circle with a line through it, and the words: no motorcycles below 400 CCs, which likely meant bicycles weren't allowed either.
The guard redirects me to a service road that leads me under a bridge where I can already see the Ecotourism area in sight. From afar I see flocks of birds undulating over what seems to be dense, lush greenery. I'm psyched.
I'm glad to be kicked off Cavitex because the ride takes me into Paranaque to Quirino Avenue where I find quaint churches, small government offices and a typical provincial style main road where everything spills out ride to the last centimeter of the narrow road. I find an abandoned house which I need to find out more about and side streets that require stickers for cars to enter-sweet.
I see on my map that I'm already parallel to the ecotourism area, but again I am separated from it by the coast highway.
I approach another gate to the highway and the security guard is already becoming nervous as I approach. I explain I'm trying to reach the other side and he directs me to a service road and a pedestrian overpass- he has no idea about the ecotourism area.
At this point it is almost noon, I'm burning up. I take off my backpack from the rack and hoist my bike over my shoulder to climb the stairs to the overpass. This is my second...third (?) time having to do this this trip and each time I think...streets are for people! Why am I the one forced to climb over???
On the other side is a guard who is aghast as to why I am there, but he points me in the direction of the entrance to the protected island area. At the next security gate, the guards are having lunch, what seems to be delicious fish and crabs. They ask if I have a permit from the DENR to enter the park. I insist it's a tourism area and I've biked all the way from Paco just to see the birds, will they please let me just take a quick look? It's a hot day, they are eating delicious crabs, and definitely don't want to be bothered with a determined girl speaking English.
The area is extremely under developed. It's high noon so there aren't too many birds to see, sunrise and sunset are the ideal times for bird sighting. Although it is underwhelming I am completely awestruck with the possibilities this ecotourism area embodies. The air is cool off the water, the shorefront is expansive, and native, bay brush covers the entire area. I can only imagine how special it is when the birds are out.
There is a fork in the road (isn't there always?) and I choose the Long Island trail over the Freedom Trail. I find a shaded area to take a rest and have some of my packed snacks- trail mix and organic jerky and I'm feeling very expedition-like. Too bad the trail mix had a ziplock because I would have loved to use my pocket knife to open it.
I am alone, it is quiet, and the shine from the water feels energizing. An electric blue bird flints across my path; I swear it's the same mystery bird I saw in Coloong, Valenzuela at one of the fish ponds. I need to find out what this bird is because it is likely my spirit animal.
With a couple of large funding infusions this place could be a unique bay park- programs for environmental preservation/conservation/rehabilitation; park design like benches, lights, walkways; a beach clean up; information displays, audio guides; recreation programs; better access for people on foot and by bike and this place is a REAL DREAM (still being hard on the City of Dreams)
This place is magical. In other cities, they are building man-made islands or extensions to riverfronts like this for urban citizens to enjoy a bit of waterfront greenery and a natural habitat in the city. We already have one; it exists, we just need to give it some TLC
I'm heavily obsessed with Bikers Cafe on Seaside Blvd at Mall of Asia. The cafe has FREE very clean showers for dining customers, bike parking with complimentary locks, all day breakfast, and community boards to share info on upcoming events. Add a few dorm rooms and then multiply this business all over Metro Manila and more people could bike to work. Local businessses like these should get government grants to expand since they help make biking a feasible transportation option.
I came out on Sunday, Feb. 15 to support the first car-free Roxas Boulevard day in Manila. The National Bicycle Organization with the Share the Road Movement and the partnering LGUs opened the bayside of Roxas Boulevard from 5am-11am on Feb. 15 to people on foot and people on bikes. This will continue every Sunday. This is a welcome development and builds on a bike and exercise culture that has been becoming more popular on Sunday mornings in this area. Various bike groups came out to inaugurate the car-free day. One of the organizers told me that their facebook posts received 50,000 views and 600 shares. The launch of the Sunday event was shared with the launch of the Bayanihan sa Daan (Share the Road Movement) campaign which hopes to get 10 million signatures by April 2016 in support of more bike and pedestrian friendly roads across the country.
I arrived late to Pasig City just as the sun was about to set. I caught some beautiful light as I entered the downtown area by City Hall. I have only previously been to the Pasig City on the other side of the Floodway and E.Rodriguez Ave. There are two cities in Pasig, the one on the City Hall side where there is a "Rainforest" theme park, the old church, the city market, and older neighborhoods, and the city on the Shaw Blvd. side where there is the burgeoning creative district of Kapitolyo, the central business district of Ortigas, and the new suburban/urban outdoor mall developments like Capital Commons. Pasig City seems to have a little bit of it all.
This man made river is referred to as the Manggahan Floodway. It connects Laguna Lake, Marikina River, and Napindan tributaries and was constructed in 1986 as an overflow basin to prevent flooding. It is supposed to be a protected area and should not be inhabited because it is a flood zone, but people still live along the floodway at certain points.
Crossing the Marikina bridge from Aurora Blvd in Quezon City I am immediately met by a bike lane. Turning off the bridge, I find another bike lane connecting to the expansive waterfront which is one large public highway. Marikina is the closest to a city built for people who want to walk, use bikes, or other non-motorized modes of transport that we have in Metro Manila. With several years of this approach under its belt, it is possible to see the effect- active public spaces, a large biking population, and a connected network of communities.
Yesterday I biked with the Mini Velo Club Philippines. One of the members Edwin saw me biking in Valenzuela City yesterday and recognized me from posts being shared on Facebook. He took a photo of me and posted it and it made it to friends of friends who tagged me. Another MVCP member Edmon saw me biking in Quezon City circle, also recognized me from FB posts and stopped to introduce himself. We got in touch and decided to do a night ride meeting at UP Diliman Oblation. Edmon led the ride through secondary roads like Kamuning, Timog, and past ABS CBN. We passed an area called Scout where all the streets named are named after Boy Scouts who died in a plane crash. I think another interesting project would be to map out Metro Manila by the stories of street names. If only there were more hours in the day...if anyone wants to take that on I'll gladly help!
The streets weren't that crowded actually 730-830pm which was surprising. We were joined by another new member to the group, Dail Deri. It was her first night right and it was also her first time biking solo when she met up with us at UP Diliman. She said after reading my blog she was inspired to make the trip alone from her house to the university. I'm so happy to be connecting with other female bikers through this adventure. Dail and I discussed her apprehensions about biking alone, mostly regarding safety. She isn't sure how to bike on crowded roads and is afraid that she will be robbed or worse. These fears are legitimate and I'm not sure what to tell her. I think joining a bike group is a smart way to get comfortable on Manila streets. When I first started biking in Manila I joined the Wednesday night rides with Manila Fixed Gear. They helped me feel confident enough to eventually bike alone.
Last night the MVCP guys were all gentlemen guides, stopping traffic for us, making sure everyone stayed together, and leading the way. It was a welcome break from having to navigate on my own and fend for myself and I was happy that Dail enjoyed her first night ride.
Afterwards we hung out at the Food Truck Park on Maginhawa. I learned that one of the riders bikes Commonwealth Avenue everyday to go to work. I honestly don't know how he does it. I asked them if they would rather have bike lanes on secondary roads or primary roads. They prefer primary roads, even if there's more pollution because pollution is everywhere anyways, and at least on the main roads they reach their destinations more quickly. Aside from protected bike lanes on roads such as Quezon Ave and Commonwealth, they would like to see secure bike parking and showers so they can bike to work. They would be wiling to pay 20 pesos for bike parking in which there is a security guard and they are given a number along with their bike. They choose places like the Food Truck Park to hang out because they can watch their bikes. They would bike to malls if they were allowed to park the bikes in a secure place; currently, the security guards let them park in secluded parts of the garages which they do not trust. They would also like showers. Apparently there is a Bike Cafe near MOA where you can shower if you buy food and they have also paid 50 pesos before for showers at bike race events like the Audax Ride in Subic where the Mango Valley Hotel allowed participants to pay to use the spa facilities.
This is a fascinating idea. There are numerous spas all over Metro Manila; I wonder if they would offer an early morning special for bikers who want to use the facilities to get ready for work? They could also offer bike parking/storage at the spa. Given the price point identified by these bikers, that's at least 70 pesos for shower and parking that each spa could make per customer. It's possible to fit what, 20 bikes in a parking spot? At least? I would spend 150 pesos to be able to park my bike for the day, use the space, and even have a locker to store belongings while I go to work. This is something I'd like to explore.
Thank you Mini Velo Club Philippines also for my club shirt, bike socks, and my pin! I started this trip to better know the city and that includes the people who make it awesome. Thank you for reaching out and welcoming me!
I biked 5.6 km on Commonwealth Avenue to reach La Mesa Eco Park from UP Diliman Campus at 2pm yesterday. It was the longest 20 minutes of my life.
More deaths occur on this 12.4 km stretch of highway than anywhere else In Metro Manila, if not, the entire country. It is 6-18 lanes wide at various points and is flanked by numerous subdivisions, offices, and malls, meaning people aren’t just flying by, they are also turn on and turning off the highway often.
I was accompanied by my friend Joey Alvero of Doppleganger Hub PH. We chose to stay in the Motorsiklo pane, supposedly designated for motorcycles. This lane is 2 lanes in from the right. Photos don’t do the experience justice. One second a flock of motorcycles crosses into the lane from my right. The next second a bus is beeping at my back crossing into the lane from the left. When there is an ebb and flow to this madness, it sort of works, but it’s not hard to imagine the fatal destruction which occurs when ebb meets ebb and flow meets flow. Drivers of all kinds are bursting into lanes blindly; their beeps canceling each other out and a misjudgement costs their life.
There is a bike lane on part of the sidewalk along Commonwealth, but as you know, I do not advocate bike lanes on sidewalks. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and they are filled with trees and telephone poles and once the sidewalks lane ends it’s challenging to enter onto the road again. You’d have to cross several lanes of jeepneys flying by and then join into traffic already at top speed, unless you can get to a stop light and then cross into the traffic and start with everyone at the same time.
After the first 10 minutes of hustle, we were able to stop at a police check point for a break. We both looked at each other stunned when we realised we still had another 10 minutes to go. And this isn’t even during rush hour; at 2pm the roadway could be considered empty by 5pm standards.
By the time we reach the turn for La Mesa Eco Park, I am sweaty, breathless, and shaking with nerves. I have on both my facemask and another cloth facemask over the industrial one. I remove both for a big gasp of air.
As we enter the subdivision leading to La Mesa Eco Park, it’s suddenly a different world. We are in the suburbs and the streets are named after cigarette companies.
More on the park itself later…
After leaving the park we decide there’s no way we are going back to UP on Commonwealth Ave. I insist that we will find an alternative route back; I refuse to take a cab back no matter how awesome it sounds.
We get back onto Commonwealth for a minute and then turn into a side street. The other side of Commonwealth is malls and suburban style subdivisions; this side is a mix of informal and formal housing but all on a labyrinthian network of unplanned streets. There are no sidewalks, everything is built to the last inch of the road and most lead into dead ends. It takes us more than an hour to work our way back to UP. At times it seems we are back tracking but we are making incremental progress; sometimes we end up back at the same basketball court. The GPS doesn’t update immediately and we are lost within seconds. Google maps isn’t accurate and as we go to make a right turn, that road has already been blocked with a warehouse. Joey suggests we ask a tricycle driver to guide us out, which is a great idea, except I want to prove a point.
We think it’s easier to construct new road space, highways, fly overs, etc, to solve traffic, but if we planned our streets better in the first place, as a system of connecting areas, we’d have more options to get from point A to point B. When we reach Luzon Ave, the only long stretch of road leading to C-5, it is packed, because people gravitate towards the direct route. Without my iPhone or the knowledge of a local, it would be impossible to navigate this maze of streets, most of which are not even named.
We make it out to C-5, ascend the bridge over Commonwealth and roll into UP. The whole journey takes us 4 hours, with only 1 hour of that time actually spent in the park. La Mesa Eco Park is only 5.6 km from UP. It is an invaluable resource in a city like Metro Manila which has few beautiful parks like it. We shouldn’t have to risk our lives to get there.
My 12 hours at SOGO ended at 6:30am and I took off from Monumento towards Valenzuela City. I had a hard time figuring Valenzuela out. It was hilly and the roads were difficult to navigate often winding into dead ends. Tricycles shuttle people around since pedicabs would be challenging with the ascents; they spew exhaust everywhere which fills the narrow streets. Today is the first time I used my face mask. It felt industrial and at least where I biked through, not very dense.
I stopped at the Museo de Valenzuela and had a nice chat with the government employees there who recommend my day's greatest adventure to Coloong, the city among fishing ponds.
The roads weren't too crowded outside of a few congested areas where large trucks struggle to turn through tight bends.
I went from a fishing village to a major highway to industrial back roads to more bridges and onto another major roadway and over a pedestrian bridge until I biked into Quezon Circle.
Biking from the edge of Valenzuela through Caloocan North and into Quezon City it's hard to tell when I left one area and entered another. I didn't stop to take photos once I entered Caloocan, mainly because I think I was tired. The sun is hot, I climbed hills and had to walk a few times because it was hard to breath with my mask which I needed being behind the trucks. Also there wasn't as much street life as the denser areas I traveled through on Day 1. I didn't know where I was half the time; I felt on the edge of a city rather than in it.