Planning a Walkable and Bicycle-Friendly City (Local Government Unit)

Imagine our parents, children, students, women, wheel-chair bound persons with disability (PWD), and the people of a city/municipality in general enjoying and safely using their sidewalks, walkways, and bicycle lanes in their neighborhood. Close your eyes and picture this – Students having fun walking or biking to schools or playgrounds, employees safely biking to work, people going to malls and markets in their bicycles, our senior citizens walking safely to parks, and persons in wheelchair greeting each other in an accessible and safe pedestrian space. As planners, what can we do to somehow come close to this ideal place?

The City Government of Santa Rosa formulated its Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan (PBMP). The aims of the PBMP is to improve safety and accessibility of other road users by strategically providing quality walkway and bikeway network spaces and infrastructure for the people in the City.

The City of Santa Rosa hired an expert consultant to assist in the formulation of the PBMP. The Mayor created a Technical Working Groups (TWG) composed of members from the government, private sectors, and non-government organizations to work together in the formulation of the master plan. The objective of the city in formulating the plan is to check if the PBMP is technically feasible, acceptable and sustainable in Santa Rosa.

The strategies identified in the plan are the identification and establishment of dedicated or segregated lanes, hybrid or shared lanes, and facilitating short cuts or secondary networks.

The study revealed that the PBMP is feasible, acceptable and sustainable to the city. National government policies are also aligned with the PBMP aims and objectives.

The PBMP is aligned with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-100 (July 17, 2020) Guidelines for the Establishment of a Network of Cycling Lanes and Walking Paths to Support People’s Mobility and the Department of Public Works and Highways Department Order No. 88 series of 2020 (September 29, 2020) Prescribing Guidelines on the Design of Bicycle Facilities along national Roads.

The plan also supports the achievement of the eleven (11) of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as follows:

a. Goal No. 1: End Poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Biking and walking are affordable and simple modes of transport enabling access to education, jobs, markets, and community activities. Biking and walking for some are the only affordable technical means of transport for people and goods thus lowering the expenses of the household.

b. Goal No. 2: End hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Biking and walking, in particular for the poor, help ensure access to food supplies, increasing their nutrition options and ensuring the sustainable transportation of food products.

c. Goal No. 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages.

Biking and walking generate healthy and non-air-polluting lifestyles.

d. Goal No. 5: Achieve Gender Equality and empower all women and girls.

Biking and walking encourage governments to provide safe spaces/access for women and girls to schools, markets, and jobs.

e. Goal No. 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Biking and walking improve the energy efficiency of transport systems as it uses renewable human power in the most efficient way to move people and goods.

f. Goal No. 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

Biking and walking will open up a culture which will provide a very high potential for biking tourism and other healthy leisure activities.

g. Goal No. 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Biking and walking enable people to switch from the use of individual motorized transport to a combination of active mobility (walking and biking) and public transport. Biking and walking will make it easier for the government to build resilient infrastructure and sustainable transport systems for economic development and human well-being, with focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

h. Goal No. 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Biking and walking are affordable, safe, non-polluting, healthy, and promote a sustainable economy. Biking promotes a sustainable transport system.

i. Goal No. 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Biking and walking offer people the opportunity to move around in a sustainable way. Some goods can be delivered using bicycles. Possible increase in biking tourism will create more options for people to choose sustainable tourism.

j. Goal No. 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Walking/biking facilities are strong symbols of decarbonizing transport and communities; it offers immediate climate action.

k. Goal No. 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Biking and walking advocacy may promote effective public, private and civil society partnerships.

As early as 2007, Mayor Arlene Arcillas together with the Rotary Club of Sta. Rosa and Toyota Autoparts Philippines, Inc. launched the “Road Safety Academy” which is the first in the Philippines. Its objective is to educate students, drivers, operators, homeowners, etc. on the importance of following traffic regulations through a series of traffic seminars/orientations. The PBMP is a document plan that promotes Road Safety of all road users.

The PBMP ensures that the responsible people of Santa Rosa have the infrastructure and policy support in terms of ensuring a safe and connected bicycle and pathway system in the City.

The identified strategies and initiatives in the Santa Rosa Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan addresses the Santa Rosa’s call to promulgate the use of bicycle and walking as an alternative forms of travel not only because of its health benefits, but also its effect on the environment such as environmental protection, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while connecting communities the natural way.

The City of Santa Rosa PBMP was approved and adopted by the City via Sangguniang Panlungsod Resolution No. 0025 on March 2, 2020. Mayor Danilo Fernandez (2016-2019) continued the objective of Mayor Arlene Arcillas (2007 – 2016) on making sure that all road users in the city (including pedestrians and cyclists) can safely access important public spaces such as roads and streets. Mayor Arlene Arcillas (2019 – present) is again the Mayor of the City. Through the strong leadership of the Mayor, the policies of the National Government, the commitment of the city to the SDGs, and the programs, projects, and activities identified in the PBMP; it will only be a matter of time to appreciate Santa Rosa as a walkable and bicycle-friendly LGU.

Bikelanes and green pedestrian spaces are now being incorporated in road projects. Pilot areas are identified for establishment of bikelanes. I can see that more people are using their bicycles in their daily activities such as going to work or the market and leisurely during weekends and holidays. A culture of people using alternative and sustainable modes of transport such as biking and walking is inevitable to develop in the City of Santa Rosa. The City should continue to be aggressive in providing accessible and safe spaces to match the demand/need of our bikers and pedestrians.

How walkable / bicycle-friendly is your city/municipality?

Related Topics:

Addressing Traffic Issues without Building New Roads (but through Urban Planning)

NYC and LA – A Tale of Two Cities – Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright

Pyrolysis in Integrated Solid Waste Management in Local Government Units (LGUs)

As a City Planner, there are local projects that I am personally excited to see accomplished. Some of these projects are the City Community College, City eco-tourism Park, and the City Pyrolysis facility, among others.

For this blog, I’ll focus on our on-going City Pyrolysis facility project.

Santa Rosa is a medium sized progressive city in the Philippines. The population growth rate of the city is higher than the population growth rate of the Philippines, CALABARZON region, and the Province of Laguna. This means that more people are attracted to live, study, or work in the City. The continuous increase in population also increases the waste specifically solid wastes output of the city. The city does not have its own dumpsite. Even if the city would want to establish its dumpsite it is no longer feasible. Hence, the city brings its solid wastes to its neighbouring city’s private dumpsite which at present is almost at its maximum capacity. The Solid Waste Management Plan of the City identified strategies to reduce, reuse, and recycle our solid wastes. One of the identified strategies of the city is the establishment of a Pyrolysis facility.

Pyrolysis is the heating of both organic and non-organic materials using very high temperature, in the absence of oxygen.  Pyrolysis of organic materials produces three products: one liquid (bio-oil), one solid (bio-char) and one gaseous (syngas) while pyrolysis of non-organic materials also produces solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. This means that the solid wastes of the city would not be dumped in dumpsites located in other local government units. It will be processed within the city in its pyrolysis facility. The products of the facility can be stored and used as recycled energy source. The city may also opt to promote the facility as one of its economic enterprises wherein solid wastes of other cities will be processed in the city for a fixed fee/payment. The earnings may be further used to fund its environmental programs.

I believe that one of the important events that influenced the City in establishing its own Pyrolysis facility was our Study Tour for the NEXUS Project “Waste Water Management and Energy Recovery of Biogenic Wastes” in Berlin, Germany on March 18 -23, 2014. The trip was sponsored by Deutsche Gesellschaft fűr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The objective of the study trip is to promote institutional and personnel local capacities for Integrated Resource Management sustainably in selected Asian cities. Hon. Arlene B. Arcillas our City Mayor, Engr. Maria Amor A. Salandanan  from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, Mr. Celso Catindig from the City General Services Office, and I participated in the study tour.

Nexus Project

The Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities: the Urban NEXUS rationale is to prepare pilot cities (including Santa Rosa) in the growing demand for water, energy and food by more than 50% by 2050. The increase in demand is due to rapid urbanization in Asian cities, high migration rates, and increasing supply problems. The Nexus Approach is to introduce new technologies to increase water, energy and food production efficiency. It is an integrated holistic urban planning and management of resources that promotes cross-sectorial planning thus breaking down the said “silos”. The identified Metropolitan Solutions are the following: establishment of energy efficiency of buildings; adjustment of  tariffs (consumption oriented and cost covering); strengthening of building codes and energy labeling for increased transparency; application of subsidies and price signals to incentivize energy-efficient investments; use of integrated design approaches and innovations; development and application of advanced technology to enable energy-saving; strengthening of workforce capacity for energy saving; and  mobilization of a culture of energy-awareness.

2014 Study Tour for the NEXUS Project “Waste Water Management and Energy Recovery of Biogenic Wastes”

The itinerary of the study tour includes learning visit to three major waste facilities: a modern recycling sorting plant, a sewage treatment plant, and a biogas and waste incineration plant.

First is we visited the ALBA Sorting Plant at Alt-Mahlsdorf 123,12623 Berlin. The theme of the visit is “Recycling at the source and further processing”. The visit includes an introduction to the system and a guided walk tour of the sorting plant. The ALBA sorting was commissioned in 2005 and is – even on an international scale – the most modern of its kind. We saw in the facility how waste packaging and other items made of plastic composites, tinplate and aluminum are being sorted.

The second facility we visited was the Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant at Muhlenbeckerstrasse, Berliner Wasserbetriebe, Neue Judenstrare 1, 10179 Berlin, 16348 Wandlitz. The visit deepened our understanding of sewage treatment thru concrete demonstration of methods for extracting energy from the sewage sludge and the use of fermented waste for farming in the sewage treatment plant.  Schonerlinde cleans 105,000m3 of wastewater daily. The tour included a theoretical introduction to the wastewater reclamation and biogas recovery and a walking tour around the sewage treatment plant.

Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant in Berlin, Germany

The third and last facility we visited was the Biogas Plant and Waste Incineration Plant, Ruhleben at  Freiheit 24 – 25, 13597 Berlin. The topic of the visit is the recycling of biological solid wastes for energy production and the fermented waste for farming (fertilizers, composting). The 60,000 tons of organic waste from the Berlin households are processed into biogas per year. The system works on the principle of dry fermentation process. The micro-organisms liberate biogas from the organic waste. Biogas can be used for various purposes. Cleaned, processed and concentrated, it is 98 percent of methane and is therefore chemically identical to natural gas and can be fed into the city gas network.

The Waste Incineration Plant Thermal waste treatment is an important part of a functioning waste management of the waste incineration plant (MHKW) in Ruhleben and is the core of the safe disposal in Berlin. It combines efficiency with consistent environmental orientation. Theoretical introduction to thermal waste treatment and management over the waste to energy plant were also discussed during our visit.

I realized from the Study Tour that theWaste Management System of Berlin has been implemented through years of continuous improvement. The population of Berlin and the huge amount of its waste generated necessitate the establishment of these big and advance waste management plants. Its population is mainly composed of the middle class who can pay waste management services. It greatly differs from the Santa Rosa context.

In comparison with Berlin, the City of Santa Rosa is an infant city. Our population is only around 300,000 in 2014 (during the visit) compared to millions of people living in Berlin, Germany. It is not yet recommended for our city to put up similar plants that will entail huge capital investments in 2014. If pursued, budget for other services such as social services will be affected. However, just like in Berlin, our city should start small or pilot projects similar to the concepts learned from the visited plants.

During that time, I believe that a possible application of the knowledge learned from the study trip in 2014 was the establishment of a small space dedicated to biomass facility in the city. It would be similar to the Schonerlinde Sewage Treatment Plant which uses wind energy (if feasible) to power the plant. The small biomass facility can be promoted by providing power to support its own operation and lighting streetlights within its vicinity for people to quickly appreciate the benefits of converting waste to energy.

I thought of small or pilot project applications in 2014. I was wrong. After seven years, the application is not small nor a pilot project. It is bigger and better.

2021 City Pyrolysis Facility

I believe that the Study Trip influenced the decision and strategy of our City Mayor Arlene Arcillas to establish the City Pyrolysis Facility. This will address the impending solid waste management problem, hospital wastes, etc. in the City of Santa Rosa.

The population of the city grew from 300,000 in 2014 to around 500,000 in 2021. The establishment of the pyrolysis facility is now cost-effective as compared in 2014 in terms of economies of scale (solid waste production).

The city implemented the following steps to ensure the availability of resources for the project. First, the city allocated fund for the purchase of land and land development for the pyrolysis facility site. Second, the city applied and was approved for a loan (2021) from a national government bank to fund the machines needed for the facility. Third and last, the city also prepositioned manpower to take care of the day to day operation of the facility.

The Santa Rosa Pyrolysis Plant Facility will be one of the first local government-established and managed pyrolysis facilities in the country. We are fortunate in the City of Santa Rosa because we are being led by a progressive thinking Mayor (Arlene Arcillas).

I am grateful to GIZ for including Santa Rosa as one of its NEXUS pilot cities. Our eyes and minds were opened to exciting alternatives in dealing with solid waste problems (especially during the study tour). I firmly believe that the establishment of our city’s pyrolysis facility is an offshoot of the NEXUS project.

Exciting times in the City of Santa Rosa!!

How is the solid waste management system in your city?

How to Localize and Mainstream SDGs at the City Level

It is said that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were crafted using the bottom-up approach. Does this mean that the plans/goals came from City and Community levels? Or only at the Nation level? Is it safe to assume that there is a high understanding and commitment to the attainment of the SDGs at the Local Government Units (LGUs) level? Are the SDGs operationalize in its sense as an actual guide in local development planning and budgeting? How can Cities and Municipalities localized and even mainstream these SDGs?

SDGs are Global Goals enacted and adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015. SDGs are geared on universal call to action to end poverty, protection of the planet and ensures peace and prosperity to all people by 2030. The precursor of the SDGs is the Millennium Development Goals (MGs) 2000 – 2015.

For some LGUs, SDGs are big technical ideas that add to the increasing responsibilities of local public servants. Perhaps it is so big that a local project won’t even contribute to the said Big Goals. These SDGs requires baseline data that is not readily available and LGUs have difficulty producing exact required data sets given its lack of manpower and resources. It is an additional burden coming from the higher-ups. It is very seldom that we hear local officials include in their speeches and communications the importance of attaining the SDGs. It is best to continue doing business as usual taking care of the city and its populace without worrying about these SDGs. What they don’t realize is that if they are governing their LGUs well they are actually contributing to the attainment of SDGs. They just need to embrace and put to heart the importance and commitment to the SDGs.

In the Philippines, the National Agency assigned to collect data on SDGs is the Philippine Statistical Authority. Several memoranda were also released by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to LGUs regarding SDGs. Workshops were also conducted. Did it translate to the actual localization and mainstreaming of SDGs at the local level? I do not think so. It promoted awareness but not to the point of commitment to the goals.

International Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) also coordinated with LGUs with regards to the promotion of SDGs. However, I observed that the sectors mostly targeted are only the Social Welfare, Health, and Environment at some degree. The attainment of SDGs requires all (majority) stakeholders’ support and commitment. The 17 SDGs are interrelated and interdependent in a way that you cannot isolate one SDG to another SDG. It is good that some sectors are already aware and actually conducting activities to support SDGs but we need to get everybody involved.

I would define localization as the adoption of SDGs by the LGU. Adoption may be in the form of an SDG-related program, plan, or activity. It may be a one-time activity or a series of projects. On the other hand, I define mainstreaming as sustainable adoption of SDGs. SDGs should not only be mentioned in plans and programs. SDG indicators should be embedded in the LGU plans, programs, and activities. These indicators should be monitored regularly. This is mainstreaming. Mainstreaming wherein stakeholders are both aware and supportive of the outcome of the SDG (indicators).

A few years back (2013), the Philippines Climate Change Commission (CCC) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) with the help of WorldBank chose the City of Santa Rosa as one of the pilot cities to mainstream Climate Change Expenditure Tagging (CCET) in its Annual Investment Plan (AIP). The CCET purpose is to identify, prioritize, and tag Climate Change programs, activities, and projects as well as to track and monitor climate change expenditures of LGUs. In 2014, DBM, CCC and DILG released Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2014-01 which encourages LGUs to track their climate expenditures in their AIPs. In 2015, DBM, CCC and DILG released Joint Memorandum Circular 2015-01 which introduced the revised guidelines for tagging and tracking climate change expenditures in the local budget and DBM’s Local Budget Memorandum No. 70 which required LGUs to prepare their AIP using the revised AIP form which include a column under the CCET. These policies made sure that Climate Change activities are mainstreamed in the LGUs.

The Philippines has a good experience of mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) and Gender and Development (GAD) down to the level of cities and municipalities (LGUs). This was brought about by clear national policies and guidelines.

In 2010, the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act No. 10121 “Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010”. The act mandated LGUs to mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change in development processes such as policy formulation, socioeconomic development planning, budgeting, and governance. The act also required LGUs to set aside 5% of its annual budget (Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund – LDRRMF) to support disaster risk management activities.

In 2012, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) – National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) -DBM released Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2012-01 Guidelines for the Preparation of Annual Gender and Development (GAD) Plans and Budgets and Accomplishment Reports to Implement the Magna Carta of Women. The PCW-NEDA-DBM JMC No. 2012-01 mainstreamed gender perspectives by identifying (attributing) GAD-related LGU programs, projects and activities in the AIP. Thus, mainstreaming GAD in local planning and budgeting. The JMC required a minimum of 5% of the total budget to be GAD-related. The budget for gender mainstreaming is a way for agencies to influence the entire agency program, plan and budget

Even without such National Government policies obliging LGUs to clearly mainstream the SDGs, City Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas of Santa Rosa in the Philippines took the initiative to mainstream SDGs in the City AIP. Mayor Arcillas asked the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Planning Head / Director) to conduct an SDG Orientation to all Department Heads and to request them to include the SDG indicators in their Department’s AIP.

Mainstreaming the SDGs in local plans will reinforce local public officials and employees to consciously include SDGs in their regular day to day activities and decision-making. LGUs would also feel that their projects are contributing to the Global Goals (how the small parts fit in the Big Picture). It is also easier to monitor the progress and outcome of projects using the indicators (Monitoring and Evaluation Framework – outcome measurement). Though, not all technical data are readily available at the LGU level, the LGU may start using indicators initially with known data sets. However, absence / inadequate data should not hinder LGUs in pursuing the SDGs. After all, even without acknowledging the SDGs, the LGUs are implementing projects that will directly affect the attainment of the SDGs.

Check your City / Municipality: Are your Local Leaders Localizing and Mainstreaming the SDGs?

Click the AIP SDG Orientation Report Below for Details: