Tuesday, August 21, 2007

U-Turns

My parents and good old Sesame Street taught me how to cross a street; look left first and then right, cross when it’s (more or less) clear.

Those childhood lessons were valid up to at least three to five years ago when intersections littered the streets; one intersection is found virtually in every crossroad in the city’s highways.

Since X road cannot be in motion at the same time as road Y; thus what could be a steady stream of traffic is cut in regular intervals. Looking left and right was valid because you were sure to get a safe chance to cross. Problem was in the rush hour those regular stops became only one, a traffic jam or jams, since it was a city wide epidemic.


Perhaps going on the reasoning that the accumulation of intersections and incidence of illegal loading and unloading exacerbate the traffic flow, MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando initiated a novel idea of placing U-Turns at major intersections of city roads. The idea was a modified version of a Rotonda; instead of placing circular roads in every intersection you have in place are U-turns. Like a Rotonda, in a U-turn traffic is always in motion albeit chaotic.

The idea worked and soon the former Mayor of Marikina had every intersection closed in places that can be managed; people will now use the U-turns. When before the length of the Quezon Avenue from Edsa to Welcome Rotonda had ten intersections (Welcome, D. Tuazon, Banawe, Araneta, Scout Chuatoco, Roosevelt Avenue, West Avenue, Scout Boromeo, Examiner, and Edsa), it now has only one: Araneta.

Traffic did improve somewhat at least from the roads that I regularly use: Quezon Avenue to Edsa, and from Edsa to Fairview. Even with the regular undisciplined jeepney drivers still stopping at corners, the fact that all transportation was obligated to move constantly helped ease up the congestion.

It is not a perfect solution by any stretch of the imagination. U-turn slots were messy with its roadblocks, and even scary especially those found in the Commonwealth Avenue area. Even as a passenger I find it a frightening prospect trying to get into a five lane highway of cars running at full speed. Well, come to think of it if cars are speeding then maybe the traffic scheme has worked.

Bayani Fernando needs to be complemented for making an effort. Trying to make sweeping changes is not an easy thing to do with a country of undisciplined commuters and drivers.

Unfortunately I am not all praises because the good chairman forgot one important aspect of transportation, traveling, and communicating: some people do walk. People still need to cross the streets but how they could right now with stoplights and intersections.

Fortunately for me the places that I need to go to in the entire length of Q Avenue and Commonwealth Avenueare easy to cross. D Tuazon, Fairview, and Roxas District, though hard to cross, are bearable enough because of its little volume; while Ever Commonwealth and Philcoa have overpasses but not all may be as lucky as I. Not all the points between Welcome Rotonda and Fairviewhave overpasses, and it’s a sure bet that people have lost lives crossing it.

I am the paranoid sort who will not trust the ability of the driver to see me nor will I trust his ability to care for his brake pads; that is why I wait as much as I can for an all clear. Without intersections, all clear, takes a lot of time.

So was it a mistake to establish u-turns? Aesthetically yes; and intersection definitely looks better than a hole in the island of the road; especially those roadblocks that occupy almost the middle of the street. As to whether the traffic truly improved or if safety should be a general concern; a serious transportation study by experts would determine that, scientifically.

But at face value it seems u-turns are a good idea; but, my only wish, maybe me and a few others is to consider the lowly pedestrian. Can we add a few more overpasses or reduce the number of U-turns.

With the state of the road, nowadays, looking left and right before crossing is no help against cars doing 90.