Youth, seniors appeal for access

Young and elderly Baguio residents Monday called for greater pedestrian access to the urban space even as traffic scheme planners assured they have the welfare of walkers in mind in their proposal to improve the flow of motor vehicles along the city's main streets.

Police Supt. James Allan Logan of the city's Traffic and Transportation Management Committee made the assurance as he pressed for the permanent reduction to three of the six pedestrian lanes along Session Rd., saying the design was also for the safety of walkers crossing the city's main street.

City councilor Elmer Datuin earlier filed a proposed resolution asking the TTMC "to reopen the three pedestrian lanes which were closed due to the 30-day traffic experiment at Session Road as per Resolution Numbered 276, series of 2011".

His move was supported by Girl Scout Megan Frances Mangali who appeared before the local legislature to also press for approval of a similar resolution she filed as scout city councilor-for-a-day last October.

She said many students spilling out from their campuses after classes have to negotiate circuitous routes while passing through Session Road on their way home because of the closure of three pedestrian lanes.

Joining her at the citizens' panel before the city council, former senior citizen city councilor Herminia Pascua also pressed for implementation of her resolution last year "directing the city engineering office to restore the blue lane crossing under the city's overpasses for the exclusive use of senior citizens and persons with disabilities".

With them was former senior city councilor Flora Balaba who also asked action on her proposed resolution asking the city police to enforce city council Resolution 054-2008 "authorizing senior citizens to use the blue lane pedestrian crossings".

As part of bringing closer local governance to the community, the city officials annually yield their positions for a day to allow chosen girl and boy scouts and senior citizens to serve as such, from mayor, vice-mayor, city councilor and department head.

The cause for pedestrians was further bolstered by a petition and signature campaign submitted to the city council by Peter Puzon of the Citizen's Right Advocacy Center opposing the closure of three pedestrian lanes along Session Road.

Also pending and up for third and final reading at the local legislature is an ordinance authored by councilor Nicasio Aliping designating loading and unloading areas for taxis and private vehicles along Session Road and, contrary to councilor Datuin's proposal, reducing the six pedestrian lanes to three.

The TTMC is seeking an outlay of P65 million for the installation of traffic lights and opening of islands along Session Road which, together with the closure of three pedestrian lanes, it said would improve traffic and also the safety of pedestrians on the main street.

The issue of equal access to and mobility in the urban space was raised by councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda asked the TTMC to factor in the trend in traffic planning that takes into account the right of movement of pedestrians.

Pedestrian access has been advocated for years by Dr. Enrique Penalosa, one-term mayor of Bogota, Colombia and now a visiting fellow on urban planning of New York University.

"A city is made for people, not for cars," Penalosa said. "Throughout history, there were more people killed by cars than by wild animals in the jungle," he told a conference on urban planning in Sweden in 2005.

Penalosa introduced to Bogota a busing system called "Transmilenio" for public mobility as an alternative to car owners and carless residents alike. He established carless days covering private vehicles "so the banker will sit beside the laundrywoman inside the bus", and built some of the longest bicycle lanes and sidewalks. – Ramon Dacawi.

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