11.08.2007

green bridges



Dear Kuya B,*

When I first heard that QC was building a tunnel so that pedestrians could simply walk from QC Hall to the Quezon Memorial Park, what entered my mind was an underground passage for CARS as they turn from East Ave towards Kalayaan/Philcoa, that would effectively allow the park to extend its green area all the way to front steps of city hall.

Alas(kado), I was obviously dreaming.

But then I thought, if the idea is to accommodate the wishes of park users, couldn't we at least still allow them to cross above ground rather than below? The objective, I would have thought, is not just to allow for some convenience, but rather to actually create space -- open and CONTIGUOUS -- with the ultimate effect of even making pedestrians oblivious to traffic flowing below them. Couldn't we have had something like this instead? (See two attached photos.)

I'm sure the tunnel is already serving its purpose and that many residents are already benefiting from not having to play Frogger on the eight-lane elliptical road. But for future reference -- say, when we start considering linking the Quezon Memorial grounds to Parks and Wildlife (yes, I'm too old to call it Ninoy Aquino) and/or the Heart Center compound on the other sides of the circle -- wouldn't this be a better alternative? Here, for example, you can actually picture yourself biking across.

Wouldn't this have the better desired effect of expanding the one green oasis remaining in the city, rather than simply allowing us all the privilege of tunneling our way to what would still feel like a separate island?

Finally, wouldn't a pedestrian bridge be cheaper than a tunnel? I also imagine there's only so much landscaping you can do undergound, even assuming the tunnel ends up being well-lit, well-maintained, and clear of vendors/snatchers.

Roby

P.S. I took these pictures in Buenos Aires, and that's really what I wanted to tell you.

Dear Roby,

I'm all for your idea. Keeping pedestrians on the ground plane is actually safer as underground tunnels require security. They also cost more as far as maintenance goes (water extraction pumps, lighting, cleaning).

The choice of a tunnel to give pedestrians "safe" access to the circle betrays our elitist bias for the automobile and how behind we are as far as traffic management theory is concerned.

We're learning more and more that the key to efficient roads and road use is to slow down traffic, not speed it up. In fact, lowering the road speed to 30 km/h smooths out traffic and increases road carrying capacity:
Evidence from countries and cities that have introduced a design speed of 30 kilometers per hour (about 18.5 mph) -- as many of the European Union nations are doing -- shows that slower speeds improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

"This surprises many people, although mathematically it's not surprising," Hamilton-Baillie says. "The reason for this is that your speed of journey, the ability of traffic to move smoothly through the built environment, depends on performance of your intersections, not on your speed of flow between intersections." And intersections, he says, work much more efficiently at lower speeds. "At 30 miles per hour, you frequently need control systems like traffic signals, which themselves mean that the intersection is not in use for significant periods of time. Whereas at slower speeds vehicles can move much more closely together and drivers can use eye contact to engage and make decisions. So you get much higher capacity."

Check out this presentation on road diets and urban livability from Parsons-Brinckerhoff (via StreetsBlog).

Your idea of connecting all of QC's parks via a green infrastructure is spot on. And many cities have discovered the power of pedestrian networks in reviving commerce, improving city navigability, enhancing civic pride and creating livable urban environments.

Since, between the two of us, you are the professional journalist/ columnist/ opinion leader, you probably have a better grasp of how we can get these ideas onto the radar of our mayors and our national government.

UDC/BDP

*btw, I only Roby A.'s sweet wife (Joy F.) call me "kuya" -since she was one of my youth campers back in the day.

Image credit: Pedestrian Bridge in
Buenos Aires by Roby Alampay

5 comments:

Peter said...

Why stop there, Manila does not have enough parks and yet we spend so much useless money complying with the parking code,so one idea is to have all parking underground or at least have a public access park on top of the structure, just think of that vast QC hall parking area being turned into a parkor that huge open area in front of megamall or the Makati CBD's "parks and open areas" actually reclaimed and turned into green gardens. That would make Manila a much better place to live.

dave (",) said...

political will is the key. or perhaps some private developer could do it.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

peter,

right on!

dave,

political will or political savvy?

you could put in requirement for public access parks in the zoning codes -and turn it into exactions and incentives. (e.g. - you get five extra floors if you build and maintain an x-sized park on the lot) - of course you will need to be strategic about this.

what we really need is an urban coalition - led by civic and business leaders -that will call for a better, more livable city.

you can't expect the government to lead on this without outside pressure.

Eugene said...

The QC government actually had the option of creating a pedestrian overpass instead on an underpass between QC Hall and the circle. They already did it on the Philcoa intersection with a modern yet elegant overpass (none of those tacky pink and blue MMDA footbridges). But they decided to go with a tunnel because they didn't want to ruin the facade of the QC Hall with an overpass.

Maybe they just need better architects. Hehehe.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

eugene,

anyone have pic of that overpass in Philcoa? I still remember the big wide one from my college days.

This would have been my order of preference:

1) traffic calming measures all along the elliptical circle to smooth traffic to 30kph

2) at grade land bridge (depress the roadway in front of QC hall) - to connect the park to the open space fronting QC hall

3) overpass (maybe something that echoes calatrava) but off set (not directly in front of city hall

4) A very broad exposed pedestrian tunnel with large expanses open to the sky and a gentle descent from either connection

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