We begin and end most, if not all, of our travels as pedestrians. You’d think that it only makes sense to design a communal space around that central idea. But no, pedestrians are not the priority. Somehow in the urban “planning” (if one could ever call it that), decision-makers have thought that pedestrians are less valuable than cars. This is evident in the lack of proper sidewalks. By proper, we mean wide enough to fit at least four people standing next to each other; has ramps with reasonable slopes on curbs’ endpoints, for people in wheelchair; and isn’t blocked by any parked vehicle.
Thanks to our friends in developed nations, we’ve developed a knack for cars. And to an extent, it’s understandable. Once you’ve learned how to drive it, a car will take you to places with relative ease, as long as there is road on which the wheels shall roll. Perhaps we have the Western culture to thank for this inevitable outcome.
It’s weird that many people think that having your own car symbolizes success, but it depends.
Those who can afford it will invariably use cars for their errands, regardless of travel distance and/or purpose. To them, it’s only practical to travel in a car.
But is it?
The cost of having a car cannot pay for itself, with all the parking fees, fuel costs, maintenance cost, time lost in traffic jams, environmental cost of burning fuel, let alone the manufacturing of one single unit.
What about electric vehicles (EV)?
Don’t believe it when capitalists shill for EVs. They’re not any better than their combustion counterparts, in that they still require obscene amounts of energy in order to be manufactured and operated.
Where will we get the lithium and other rare earth metals for the battery if not by mining them from the ground?
We don’t transition to clean energy by jumping into electric cars. If anything, we only threaten our forests.1
The focus should not be in adding more roads, but in lessening (private) cars. The former induces demand: as lanes and highways get added, so do the number of people who want to drive on them. The latter, unsurprisingly, has an inversely proportional effect: it makes road conditions more desireable. Less cars also means less traffic-related accidents.
Sure, we can rely on computing and internet to avoid traffic and/or find the shortest route possible, but if you’ve driven and used Waze or Google Maps (or something similar), you’d know that software can only do so much. An important side note: computing adds to the polution, too! Data centers that enable online GPS navigation, among other things, still use massive amounts of electricty from the power grid.
This includes rethinking air and sea travels
For most of us, our travel usually happens on land. However, we face more challenges when dealing with the effects of both air and sea travels.
If you can, please fly less, because aviation—including all of its facilities—use more carbon per passenger than other modes of transport.2 That means reconsider that trip abroad: if it’s for a conference, can it be done through video call instead? If it’s for vacation, why not consider exploring our archipelago first? I’m sure there are lots of beautiful places here that are more than just tourist traps.
Helicopters must only be used during emergencies, when saving lives and/or preventing (more) casualties.
Don’t go on cruise ships. Not only is their very existence an environmental destruction, they are dangerous places, too, where people get food-poisoned, and possibly where a disease might infect trapped passengers, making it a hotbed for a would-be pandemic.3
- Cars are several layers of barrier from the outdoor elements. In order to achieve this individualized comfort, what have we had to sacrifice?
- Try not to buy a car. They cause pollution, directly and indirectly.
- Although details are sparse, only a fraction of the Philippine popoulation owns a car. Yet we allot more of our public spaces for them by building more roads and widening existing ones.
- Traffic are mostly made by private vehicles, many with only one person, the driver, in them.
- Some people dream of riding in Tour de France. Meanwhile, here we zip in and out of cities with bike lanes that are not yet physically separated from roads for cars. And even then, I should be dreaming first of pedestrian-friendly cities before anything else!
- For sea travel, why not sail away?4 Our ancestors did it with their balangays; we can do something similar!
- Try walking if destination is within two kilometers. Depending on your current physique, it’s probably doable up to four. As they say, “Everything is within walking distance.” Reclaim the streets!5
- Try cycling if destination is within four kilometers. Depending on your bike, terrain, traffic, and/or your current physique, it’s probably doable up to eight.
- Use public transportation. We all know that it’s not the best, given our current infrastructure. But it does it’s job okay by having the capability to move a lot of people using only the space required.
- Consider car-pooling with friends, family, and/or neighbors. You can agree beforehand how you can share for fuel and/or toll fees.
- This last one isn’t really radical: if you must buy a car, go for secondhand, and choose reliable models with readily available parts that third-party mechanics can do at a more affordable price.
Transportation overall should be about our mobility. This includes everything and everyone: better infrastructures for pedestrians (including PWDs, of course!); for people on bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and other non-motorized vehicles; and even non-motorized boats.
Effective—as opposed to efficient—mass transport requires us to reimagine our movement in our spaces. Only will we all be safe in our travels when we finally address our collective safety.
We should urge policymakers to improve our mass transportation.6
Or, you know, let’s just do it ourselves.7
Direct action always gets the goods anyway.
Ilagan, K., Lopez, E., Lehren, A., Schecter, A., & Schapiro, R. (2021, December 8). Rise of electric cars threatens Philippine forests. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://pcij.org/article/7649/rise-of-electric-cars-threatens-philippine-forests ↩︎
Alter, L. (2020, January 3). What’s the True Carbon Footprint of Flying? Treehugger. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.treehugger.com/whats-true-carbon-footprint-flying-4853983 ↩︎
Shrikant, A. (2020, March 5). The coronavirus cruise ship quarantines confirm cruises are bad. Vox. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2020/2/25/21152903/coronavirus-cruise-ship-outbreak-cruises-sexual-assault-environment ↩︎
de Decker, K. (2021, May 11). How to Design a Sailing Ship for the 21st Century? LOW←TECH MAGAZINE. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://solar.lowtechmagazine.com/2021/05/how-to-design-a-sailing-ship-for-the-21st-century.html ↩︎
Magsalin, S. (2021, October 19). A Jaywalking Manifesto. Institute for Social Ecology. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://social-ecology.org/wp/2021/10/a-jaywalking-manifesto/ ↩︎
Tan, A. N. O. (2021, November 28). Cycling advocacy groups push for P14-B budget for projects to improve mobility. BusinessWorld Online. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.bworldonline.com/cycling-advocacy-groups-push-for-p14-b-budget-for-projects-to-improve-mobility/ ↩︎
Bagayas, S. (2020, July 26). Filipinos’ bayanihan fills in gaps of Duterte government’s pandemic response. RAPPLER. Retrieved December 28, 2021, from https://www.rappler.com/moveph/filipinos-bayanihan-fills-in-gaps-duterte-government-pandemic-response/#shunning-citizen-led-innovation/ ↩︎