I got my second Young Blood column published last Tuesday. This piece had been lurking around in my brain for a few months and finally came spilling out after I was almost hit by a bus while walking along EDSA (I just typed this in my phone notes while at the back of a FX shuttle). The title is a reference to Jane Jacobs‘ “ballet on the streets,” but I replaced ballet with patintero (a Filipino street game) which is not only relatable to because it’s local, but because the game is exactly what happens to Pinoys’ behaviour in transit. I guess I just wanted a shoutout for public spaces, mobility, and social behaviour.
Before the next game, let us establish the rules as a team.
Dear drivers, this is about how we park just about anywhere that is convenient. The sidewalk is for the pedestrian. The bike lane—if it exists—is for the cyclist. The street is for fellow drivers who need to use it, even if that street is right in front of your house or your shop. It is not an extension of your property. It is for public use. Park on a parking space, or in your garage. And while we’re at it, mind the lines of parking spaces. Don’t be the jerk taking up the space on which another car can park.
Dear pedestrian, stop jaywalking. Please. The pedestrian lane is for you. Why cross on the wrong part of the street, and why climb over safety rails when we have Ped Xing signs and the pedestrian lane for your use? The footbridge is for you. Why bargain on your life crossing the highway? This isn’t patintero. And don’t just simply raise your hand and cross without taking a look at the incoming cars. Do you know how stressful it is to step on the brakes all too suddenly and worry about a crossing person? It’s so easy to point fingers at drivers and abuse your being a pedestrian. Just because we’re promoting “pedestrian priority” doesn’t mean you get to cross whenever you want to, wherever you want to.
Speaking of which, dear driver, don’t stop over the pedestrian lane just because the red light has flashed. That’s also just arrogant. Don’t wonder why pedestrians give you the dirty look and sometimes bang on your car hood. Prove you deserve your license, prove your driving education.
Now, dear government, can we repaint the pedestrian lanes and road signs? So many aren’t visible anymore. And provide more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure? How can the elderly and persons with disability even use the footbridge when even fit individuals get tired repeatedly crossing the narrow and multiple steps? In many areas, we don’t know where we are supposed to walk. Public utility vehicle drivers still let us alight wherever they feel like it’s proper. Almost everything you build is for the car. Try walking along a sidewalk that’s just a ruler wide, with rust-laden, recycled yero for your wall to the right, and the thick wheels of a zooming bus on the left. Try walking with all the emissions attacking your lungs, and the stench of garbage or sewers clinging to your hair, skin and clothes. This is a common scene in our arterial roads, as well as the rest of the metro.
Or more so, in the rest of the metro.
And to the government’s eyes, ears and hands on the street, dear traffic enforcers, do your job when driver and pedestrian are in violation. Don’t just stand there when we do something wrong. And don’t flag down drivers at random, especially when you target women drivers, making up violations when there aren’t any. You cannot even provide receipts when demanding violation fees. Have some dignity, especially when some of your fellow enforcers are properly doing their jobs.
Dear PUV drivers, you are not the king of the road. Drivers of the jeepney and the FX, there are loading and unloading areas. Don’t stop in the middle of an intersection to wait for a passenger, because you cause so much traffic. Stop speeding and stop being rude to just about anyone who’s outside your vehicle. Dear bus driver, there are designated loading bays. Not the whole of Edsa is for your use, or for your toilet. Dear shuttle drivers, while we thank you for keeping the rules on loading and unloading in proper areas, be reminded to stop swerving. Passengers did not sign up for roller-coaster rides. Dear trike driver, a high-power engine cannot just follow the speed of a tricycle. Blowing the horn doesn’t always mean other drivers are looking down on you or discriminating against the trike you are driving. It’s for your safety. Keep to the right, because there are traffic rules on speed.
Dear vendors, the covered footbridge, the waiting shed, and the sidewalk are for the pedestrians’ use. These aren’t your private stalls, which we have to evade when walking. Sometimes we have to walk on the highway because you’ve taken up almost the entire block, creating new mini marketplaces.
Speaking of this, dear pedestrians, the more we patronize sidewalk goodies, the more the vendors will stay on the space we’re meant to use. It’s up to us if we will stand up for our own space, if we will keep our opinions quiet, or if we will keep complaining.
Dear government vehicle drivers, your red plate does not put you above everyone else, even the police. You are not the ambulance rushing to save a dying person’s life. A violation is a violation, don’t use a politician’s or a government institute’s name to get out of tight spots. Don’t wonder why many hardly trust the government. That includes you, on both sides of the argument.
Dear “car-sharing” companies, the car-sharing philosophy means exactly that. You were meant to ease the volume of traffic, but why is it that every single car-sharing or taxi driver I’ve talked to says that since your advent, there has been a boom of private cars on the streets? While we tremendously thank you for the safety you’ve provided for commuters, we may have to look into the real practice of car-sharing and not duplicating taxi franchising, covered by a different name. The latter has effects opposite your branding, and is something not welcome to the “carmageddon” already in existence.
Lastly, dear yuppie, you want to buy that dream car. Perhaps for convenience, or because it looks cool, or because you can finally afford it after all these years of hardship. Perhaps we can also think twice about this. Your new car helps you, but not the person living on the sidewalk, or the cyclist who is continually pushed to the gutter, or the people who have no choice but to bear the public routes and the traffic your new car can cause. Your success in being able to own a car is fine by itself, but will never be a good thing if by having it, others are reduced to a limited portion of the space we all deserve.
Team, thank you for listening. We’ve been playing this for the longest time with too many consequences. Now that we’ve discussed the rules, we hope for a clean and well-played game—if a game is how we see all of this, anyway.