Mall rat

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I SMELL a rat and the parking policies of the malls really stink.

A few weeks ago, I finally had the nerve to brave the streets and cycled my way to Abreeza Mall. Albeit a little sweaty, my travel time was almost the same had I used my car. I was able to breeze through long vehicle queues while smiling as a law abiding citizen with a speed limit of not more than 30 kph.

I finally had the opportunity to park in its basement parking since dark clouds were looming overhead but was denied entry by the security guards citing the all motorcycles AND bicycles should park outside and only four-wheeled vehicles are allowed to park in the basement. I called some people for clarification but finally had to grudgingly park my bike outside despite the rains.

Examining my experience, there really is discrimination going on in the mall policies. Why are we affording basement parking only for the rich and let those who may not afford a four-wheeled vehicle suffer the rains and heat outside? Another angle is that motorcycles are viewed as a security risk so they are best confined outside the mall to avoid criminal intent. Just because some crimes or maybe acts of terrorism were committed by some bad people riding motorcycles does not warrant for an all-out ban on motorcycles to use basement parking facilities.

So what about us cyclists? Why the **** are we cyclists lumped with motorcyclists when clearly we have different vehicles? Reckless motorcyclists can kill and severely injure pedestrians but have you heard of an accident involving the death of a pedestrian because s/he was bumped by a cyclist? Have you heard of a drive-by shooting done by a cyclist?

Clearly Abreeza and other malls are overacting on its ban on cyclists to use its basement parking. Participating in the Earth Hour event by merely turning off the lights for an hour is mere tokenism – if you really are serious in reducing greenhouse gases to mitigate climate change then start supporting cycling as a mode of transportation. If you want to be really environment-friendly then support cycling as a solution to traffic congestion and pollution. Having all those mass aerobic exercises at the mall is fun but by providing biking facilities in the mall will further make mall-goers healthier. Bike your talk please.

Victoria Plaza in my opinion is the most bike-friendly and most egalitarian in terms of parking allocation. One can easily chain a bike to its numerous lampposts or on the motorcycle parking fence. All vehicles are equally parked under the sun. Gaisano Mall does not have a bike friendly parking space since they have elevated parking facilities and do not have any facilities to chain your bike.

While I am at it, all malls are guilty of discrimination between income classes by their vehicle inspection policies. Have you ever noticed that swanky, heavily tinted SUVs and AUVs (of the rich) are never thoroughly inspected by the security guards while sedan type vehicles (of the middle class) are scrutinized almost by the inch for any material that may be used for crime and terrorism? Every time I enter a mall like SM with my car, I am always advised to open my trunk so it can be inspected. I always point out to the guards on why did they not inspect the luggage compartment of the SUV before me? The usual answer is that they were advised by the management to only check the luggage compartments of sedan-type vehicles. My usual retort is my trunk space may be able hold a few firearms but it is tiny compared to the trunk space of SUVS and AUVs which can hold an armory. All I get from the guard is a frown or a smirk. Seriously, if this is the security practice of malls then all the bad elements would have to do is carnap an SUV or AUV so that they can sneak in whatever they want to smuggle inside the parking lot of the malls. I hope the public safety officers can review the inspection policies so that all will undergo the same inspection without discrimination.

Sad to say, but discrimination is really blatant in the parking policies of our malls and the city. Malls provide parking spaces for their moneyed shoppers but forget the parking needs of their workers and other not so moneyed clients. They discriminate in their vehicle inspection policies by targeting the middle class but being lenient on the rich.

In the public realm, vehicle parking spaces are provided for free to the rich and middle class but the poor people using bicycles have to look for a post or a fence where they can chain their bikes on. Vehicles are allowed to park on the streets while bicycle lanes are denied from the people.

We also have the DPWH to thank for building the best parking spaces in the Philippines. They widen the roads and highways by concreting and asphalting these so these can be conveniently used as parking spaces by vehicles.

The drive against discrimination especially in road and parking usage is an issue. If we are to be a world-class city then the recognition of the use of bicycles as part and parcel of urban transportation is a must. Road space, infrastructure and facilities must be made available for cyclists especially those who use it daily. Policies must be reviewed so that there will be no discrimination against cyclists but perhaps even preferential treatment be given to those who use safe, healthy, environment-friendly and affordable modes of transportation.

And mall operators and developers can start clearing the stink of gasoline fumes in their parking lots by setting up bike racks. rpalabado@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 10, 2014.

Opinion

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