The Philippines is known to be a country where traffic is the norm. Almost anywhere you go, you can expect traffic to have a medium-to-heavy flow. Some people say that the reason for this is the number of cars traveling the road, while some think that it is because of the discipline of both pedestrians and drivers. While either could be true, the heavy congestion of vehicles is not the only problem the Philippines has.
If you have not been noticing, accidents happen every now and then, if not, every day. It may not be fatal accidents but simple accidents like a few car dents, broken tires along highways, and other problems usually occur in major highways in the country. What could be the cause of this? Could this very well fit the “discipline” issue some people are accusing drivers of?
Recently, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is trying to find a way to promote safer roads. Their idea? – to make lanes smaller. I know what you’re thinking, how can smaller lanes be safer? But in fact, that is what the case is usually.
Celine Pialago, MMDA spokesperson, said that the current lanes in EDSA are 3.4 meters wide. Their plan is to shrink it to just 2.8 meters. Furthermore, she said that this proposal is already on the tables of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
According to Pialago, they got this idea from the data provided by the World Resources Institute (WRI) about road safety.
It is our proposal submitted ro DPWH. We patterned it to the study of World Resources Institute (WRI) stating that roads with max speeds of 60 km/h should have 2.8 meters width per lane or per direction while highways with max speeds of 80 km/h can have 3.4 meters width per lane.”
So, it is in the plans that the roads in major highways to be shrunk and be smaller in size because it is safer.
But why are smaller lanes are safer?
It is a common misinterpretation that wider lanes are safer due to the fact that vehicles can maneuver and move more with wider lanes, vehicles can be faster due to the extra space it gives, but that is actually few of the reasons why it is the contrary.
As per the WRI, having massive roads can influence a driver to go fast and to be a little bit careless. Thus, increases the chances of cars crashing and injuries. However, if the lanes are narrower, drivers will be more careful in taking those roads because the chances of accidents occurring are heightened.
In addition to that, data and observations from the WRI show that places and cities who utilize 2.8 to 3.25 meter-lanes have better and fewer crash records than cities that are 3.3 to 3.6 meters wide. This information is per 100,000 residents.
If you are unaware, cities that utilize narrower roads include: Paris, Tokyo, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Toronto. In contrary, cities like New York, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, New Delhi, and our Manila, use 3.25 to 3.6 meter-wide lanes. Our EDSA is currently at 3.4 and it’s close to the brim, making it one of the few cities that have higher chances of accidents. So,the WRI says that it has been a common incorrect idea of engineers and that it has been now straightened.
For decades, transport engineers and planners have considered wider lanes safer, as they provided higher maneuvering space within the lane and were said to help prevent sideswipes among cars. Yet, in an urban setting, this means cars may go faster, and, when cars go faster, the likelihood of injuries, accidents, and crashes increases.”
Having that said, can wider lanes aid in reducing congestion in roads?
Another common misconception is that road-widening is the key to avoid, or better yet, to eliminate congestion. Back in the year 1963, Lewis Mumford, an American historian said:
“Increasing road width to reduce congestion is the same as loosening your belt to fight obesity.”
Why? Because people have the mindset that they can be invincible if the roads are wide, long, and spacious. There are various researches that show that roads that are 3 meters wide have at least a 93 percent of its current road capacity of 3.6 meter lanes which can generate more vehicles and worse traffic.
But how did smaller lanes get safer?
Road dieting is a specific technique of shrinking or narrowing the width of lanes in order for other travelers (pedestrians, cyclists, commuters) to have safer and better environments. In addition, smaller lanes are safer for both pedestrians and drivers so it’s a no-brainer. If cities welcome narrower and smaller lanes, then vast possibilities for renovating and redesigning cities are open.
The WRI provided different scenarios that can be done if road dieting is done by cities. One scenario is that smaller lanes can provide more space for pedestrians to walk on. It is safer for them now to walk rather than taking any other form of transport.
Another is that motorcycle and bicycle lanes can be installed in order for the pollution to be lessened. More so, people who prefer using motorcycles and bicycles have the freedom and the safety to do so.
Last but not the least, smaller lanes are safer because pedestrians can have wider sidewalks. People can walk more and cars traveling will be safer and lesser because of the many ways to travel.
What is the current status of our roads here in the country?
Since Pialago said that their aim is to amend EDSA, EDSA is currently 3.4 meters wide and they are looking to shrink it to just 2.8 meters. This is almost a meter long in narrowing and can make a big difference especially for drivers who usually take this path to get from one point to another.
This can be the cue and the beginning of change of traffic here in our country. This can start as a matter of safety but can progress to solve the nationwide traffic that we are experiencing.
Now, we know that smaller lanes are safer. Are you in favor of this? Based on the data an international institution has about road dieting, would you think that it will be deemed effective by our country?