I read a lot of rants and angry posts about the traffic in my FB timeline. Yes, there is a humungous traffic problem here in Metro Manila and also Cebu City with no apparent solution in the near or distant future. The thing is, are we contributing to the worsening of this problem or are we helping solve the it?
One of my neighbors goes to the supermarket in her SUV whilst SM Sta. Mesa and Puregold San Juan are within walking distance. Besides, there are also tricycles around. The rich are steep in their ways.
Here are some suggestions to green the streets and somehow ease our woes as commuters and pedestrians.
Walk when your destination is within walking distance, get your recommended 10,000 daily steps, and reduce your personal contribution to air pollution. You do not only save gas, you also have extra grocery money. And you avoid contributing exhaust from your vehicle to smog.
Use your bicycle. A friend in FB posted that yesterday morning she was stuck in traffic while still inside their village. (Everybody in her neighborhood owns one or more cars and so getting out of the village is a traffic ordeal by itself. Every day.) This time, she made a U-turn and went back home, got her bike and merrily passed her neighbors mired in unmoving traffic. At the main road clogged with vehicles, she joined other happy bikers until she got to her office, early and happy. The bonus—she is done with her daily exercise. No need to go to the gym and with time to spare so she could be with her children at home longer. She is looking forward to a relaxing evening with her hubby.
Should you decide to bike to your regular destination, be safe. For example, if you have never seen a cyclist on your normal route to work, look for a bike route with bike lanes and wide shoulders. Ask other cyclists if they consider your route safe.
For the fashion conscious, there are so many stylish biking gears to choose from nowadays, from shoes to clothes to helmets. Otherwise, a simple riding shoes and socks, biking pants and Ts and standard headgear will be fine.
And bikes are of different types, designs and colors.
Join a carpool. Contribute to a fund for gas and maintenance of whoever owns the car or take turns using each other’s car. You not only save, it is also an enjoyable ride with friends. You can all pray and meditate together or learn from each other.
Use public transportation. Where I live, there are all sorts of public transport available—jeepneys, buses, trains, UV Express vans, taxis, Uber, GrabCar, tricycles; but no bike lanes—our sidewalks and parts of the streets are clogged with parked cars and sidewalk vendors or store or karenderia extensions—and so pedestrians walk on the street. I was told that these micro entrepreneurs pay daily Php10 to the baranggay and Php100 to the police. Bikers fight it out with other vehicles, big and small for a space on the street.
Cars are a big drain to our budgets and the environment. The personal cost of having a car consists of: gas, financing, insurance, wear and tear/depreciation, registration including taxes and fees, medical cost of treating asthma and respiratory illnesses, and missed days of work due to air pollution and heavy traffic. And to the government, the cost consists of road construction, road repairs and maintenance, traffic lights and road signage, police enforcement, “free” municipal parking, medical costs of treating asthma and respiratory illnesses (Philhealth) and water runoff abatement.
I sold my car three Decembers ago. First, I am content with taking public transport and, after retirement, I seldom go around often anymore. So my car just stood still either in my garage or the street fronting my house. When I needed to use it, It wouldn’t move because, and my driver would tell me, the car was rusty for non-use.
And, yes, the daily wage of the driver (whether he drove for me the whole day or a fraction of a day, he charged the same fee) plus breakfast, am snacks, lunch, pm snacks and sometimes dinner. Plus, something extra for his sick wife or his child’s school projects or whatever. So, I had a succession of drivers and one of them ran away with a new celfone. Then there was the problem of parking and so I had to provide my driver with a celfone so I could easily call him when I am done with my meeting or workshop. I had a driver once who was high on drugs, I think, we drove over the steel dividers protruding on streets, saying it is the traffic rule. When we reached our destination, I gave him his wage and bus fare and sent him home. Pity my tires!
My misgivings, though, are jeepney drivers who smoke while driving and who play very loud music that could shatter one’s tympanic membrane. Also, passengers who sit as if they are sitting in their sofa at home, unmindful of fellow passengers whose butt barely touches the edge of the seat; and, of course, rude, unkempt, and reeking (body odor). One nightmare is passengers loudly chatting and laughing to their hearts’ delight unmindful of fellow passengers or teenage lovers shamelessly doing public display of affection. Or taxis that are dilapidated and smelling like a polluted canal with rubbish strewn around by uncaring passengers.
Ah, the bonus—a relaxing ride because someone else is at the wheel and, during a heavy traffic, extra time to read, pray and meditate and use my celfone.
More in the next column. Submit your own experience and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org and be part of the solution to our traffic mess.