Editor’s Note: Mirick Paala is a transport planner and advocate. He is a graduate of the Sustainability in Transport program in the University of Leeds and is actively involved in road safety in the Philippines and in the region. Zaxx Abraham is an urban planner working on community development and governance, with a focus on the cross-cutting issues of space, culture, gender, and transportation. She finished her MSc in Social Development Practice at the UCL Bartlett School of Planning as a Chevening scholar. Both are founding members of AltMobility PH.
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Commuters have had enough. To live in the city is to struggle, to be pushed into a corner for the sake of “development”: About 13 kilometers of travel in 3 hours, at least 34 deaths every day due to road crashes, the looming provincial bus ban in EDSA, and the lack of safe and accessible facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and persons-with-disabilities. These are just a few of several mobility issues faced by the everyday commuter. While government is bombarding the news with their grand infrastructure plans monomania and the Build, Build, Build program, this warrants us to question, “for whom is this development for? for whom are we really building the city?” In terms of mobility, clearly, the priority is moving private vehicles.
What we need is to rebalance the streets. With this in mind, transport advocacy group AltMobility PH, together with the Office of Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, has filed “The Magna Carta of Dignified Commuting” last July 24. The proposed bill fights for the rights of the daily commuter defined as someone who travels from one point to another using a combination of transport modes other than private vehicles. The commuter is a pedestrian, a cyclist, and a public transport user. To break it down further, everyone is a pedestrian at some point in the day. We want a life in the Philippines where the streets are for people to walk on, bike, and have a chat with acquaintances we meet along the way.
The bill establishes dignified mobility as a basic human right. Some of the key provisions in the bill include:
1. Right to Adequate Transportation Services. This set of rights requires the State to provide humane public transport services such as the reduction of waiting time at bus stops to 10 minutes during peak hours and the provision of transport stops within 300 meters from each other and walkable from residential areas and other activity centers.
2. Right to Road Safety. The State shall eliminate road crashes and shall promote the safe driving behavior of public transport drivers.
3. Right to Mobility Infrastructure. The State is required to provide at least 2.5 meters of unobstructed walking path for roads with speed limits within 20kph to 60kph. Dedicated and protected bicycle lanes should be installed on roads with speed limits over 60kph. A continuous network of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure should be constructed.
4. Right to Clean Air. Which is to reiterate that commuters have the right to breathe clean air during travel.
5. Right to Participation in Decision-Making Process. Which requires the state to consult all commuters before any decision is made that impacts mobility or public transportation.
Other provisions include compensation for commuters during breakdowns, the right to information for efficient travel, and the creation of a National Office of Commuter Affairs under the Department of Transportation. Buildings will be required to provide bicycle parking. The use of micro-mobility (i.e. electric scooters) will be encouraged. During road works, there should be proper provisions for sidewalks. When roads are renovated, they have to include proper sidewalks and bike lanes.
Cars have long been the priority in urban infrastructure and policy and this has translated to increasing traffic congestion, air pollution, and overall deterioration of quality of life. Our streets have been designed to keep vehicular traffic moving, but not the non-motorized life alongside it. It is only by uplifting the lives of commuters that car users will shift to more sustainable forms of transport. Our cities in the Philippines have been designed with cars in mind, but if we want a future with better living conditions then we must push for our rights to use the street as commuters.
To be clear: “The Magna Carta for Dignified Commuting” is not saying that cars are the enemy. What we are pushing for is the idea of Philippine cities that have the options for its people to walk, bike, ride their public transportation of choice.
Filing the bill is definitely a win for the commuters but there is still a long way to go for it to be passed into a law. A big step, but we have many more steps to do.
We need to lobby and rally hard, discuss the issue with friends, and push our local politicians to support the bill. It is up to everyone to create a sustainable and inclusive future.
To view the bill in its entirety, download “The Magna Carta for Dignified Commuting” here.