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by Gideon Lasco, MD, MSc

How can we make Manila a walkable city? Having established the “Walk Manila” advocacy, the time has come to articulate our directions moving forward, and in this piece I outline a five-point agenda as a blueprint for the future.

1. RESEARCH

First, we need multi-disciplinary research to help make a solid case for walkability, and how we can operationalize it. We need economists on board to tell us about cost-effectiveness; we need transportation experts to give us an estimate on how much traffic walkability in Manila can reduce. We also need landscape architects and urban planners to tell us about the ideal widths of sidewalks. We need anthropologists to study the cultural factors that are at play in Filipinos’ attitudes towards walkability, and we need inputs on how to mitigate concerns such as pollution, heat, etc.

Finally, we need blueprints and proposals from landscape architects, urban planners, and artists in imagining and conceptualising what a walkable Manila could look like.

Some of these researches are already there. For instance, Thinking Machines last year published some data about the rates of road accidents that involve pedestrians – and we can use this to bolster our case for the need for pedestrian safety.

2. LEGISLATIVE AND EXEUCTIVE AGENDA

One of the greatest ironies in the Philippines is that in many aspects we have great laws – but very poor implementation. We need to identify existing laws – including local ordinances – and use them to legitimize our demands for action. Where there are gaps, we can push for pedestrian-friendly ordinances and laws.

We also need to interface with the executive branch and encourage them not just to implement laws but also to embark on projects that favor walkability and inclusive mobility. We can point out specific areas that can be acted upon in partnership with private companies and academic institutions. One possibility is the establishment of a Katipunan Walkway from UP Diliman to LRT- Katipunan passing through Miriam College and Ateneo.

3. EVALUATION

To encourage LGUs to move towards walkability, we can rate streets for walkability by coming up with a walkability score or walkability index. To balance our identification of problems, we can also celebrate best practices by recognizing the “pedestrian-friendly cities” within Metro Manila, perhaps in cooperation with the DENR and/or the MMDA.

Evaluating walkability will also entain crowdsourcing information. By encouraging feedback – including photos – from people, we can identify problematic areas and bring them to the public’s attention.

4. PROMOTION AND AWARENESS

#WalkEDSA succeeded because it was something dramatic – most people will never dream of walking the entire stretch of EDSA. We can continue doing walks in EDSA but with specific objectives: i.e. walking with women to highlight women’s safety, walking with PWDs to highlight inclusive mobility. We can also organise walks in other major streets (Taft, Roxas, etc.).

We can invite influencers and public figures to be “Walkability Champions” and show people that walkability is possible, safe, healthy, and fun. In our website, we can feature stories of people who walk to work or school, the health benefits of walking, and other material that can encourage people to consider walkability. All this will help build awareness among the public about the potential of walking to solve many of our urban problems.

5. SYNERGY AND COMMUNITY BUILDING

Finally, we need build a community of advocates for walkability, by encouraging people coming from different fields to come together and “talk the walk” – then “walk the talk”. Towards this end, we will be holding informal “#WalkWednesdays” every first Wednesday of the month and invite advocates to join us.

Once we reach a critical mass, we can convene a Walkability Summit to gather various experts to talk about challenges and best practices – engaging the government, the media, and the private sector in the process.

Written by Gideon Lasco

Gideon Lasco is a medical doctor, anthropologist, writer, and environmental advocate.

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