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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

AT THE outset let me be very clear that I welcome President Benigno Aquino III’s approval of Cebu City’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Coming in the wake of the approval of the expansion of Cebu’s international airport, it is quite heartening that the national government should now implement big-item developmental infrastructures for cities other than Metro Manila.

I want to make that clear before I proceed with expressing some misgivings not on the BRT itself but on the inattention paid by local officials to more basic yet smaller, more affordable and environmentally friendly transport subsystems.

The saying goes that those who have less in life should have more in law. Analogous to that is the under-observed principle that those who have less in wheels should have more in roads. The BRT, of course, is consistent with this principle as it provides the non-car-owning public with a central system for the latter’s safe and cheap transport. That has to be the main reason for my elation at the BRT’s approval.


But if the whole idea includes efficient transport without traffic congestion and environmental pollution as collateral damage, there are other cheaper yet more basic transport infrastructures to complement the BRT that would have minimal negative impact on traffic and pollution.

One is the bicycle lane. It will cost very little in money and inconvenience to designate bicycle lanes in at least the city’s main thoroughfares. Just about all forward-looking cities in the world have them. These lanes are not only cheap, they are also healthy because biking is good exercise and bicycles do not require pollutant energy to run.

The other is the sidewalk. Well-paved, even and unobstructed sidewalks for people who would rather walk or are forced to walk for lack of transport fare will cost only a fraction of BRT’s P10.6 billion to construct. Our feet remain the cheapest, healthiest
and least polluting of all means of transport.

Since pedestrians have the least in wheels, they should have more in sidewalk.

Besides, among pedestrians are many who are elderly and with disabilities. The former need stumble-free sidewalks while the latter need even-surfaced sidewalks they can use their wheelchairs on--oftentimes to go to or from a BRT station.

Bicycle lanes don’t need to be constructed but simply designated. The BRT now presents local planners with the opportunity to factor these lanes into the planning for the BRT routes and station stops.

In fairness to the Rama administration it is doing a better job of clearing our sidewalks. Still, since the BRT has designated station stops, maybe the city can focus on improving the sidewalks people will use to get to and from these stations.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 04, 2014.


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