SUMMER is now officially over. Rains are back and of course so is the normal urban traffic congestion.

Educational institutions are a strong contributor to the local economy of any city. Students from nearby municipalities and provinces provide income to the locals who rent out rooms, labandera to wash their uniforms, karinderia for their daily meals, malls for their recreational activities and shopping needs. Exactly the same in Davao City – even condominium sales are influenced by the availability of high quality tertiary education institutions.

With all of these local economic activities derived from these institutions, there is bound to be negative impacts. Most of our commuters would agree that traffic congestion is always horrendous around schools and universities of the private sector. As far as I know UP Mindanao and Usep have well placed universities that are of some distance from the national highways therefore minimizing traffic congestion. The largest university - University of Mindanao caters to the middle to lower income groups seeking quality education therefore many of their students use the public transportation system. This now leaves us with private schools and universities that have strategic locations but disrupt traffic flow due to the large volume of private vehicles used by parents and students.

Let us not allow these schools to rely on public roads, shoulders and sidewalks to be part of their parking slots, these are public goods and should not be used for their own private use. Some may say that a parking ban is too drastic, ok then let us have a 20 pesos per hour parking fee in roads surrounding these traffic generators. Let us do every incentive and disincentive scheme to force the students to shift to carpooling, school buses and public utility vehicle commuting to and from the school. I hope that the Building Official will be very thorough in reviewing the parking slots of these universities as well as enforce a traffic impact assessment to new large developments in the city. Better architectural design is the solution and not pushing these developments to locate outside the downtown area.

Next should be the traffic flow, these schools must have the conscience to minimize traffic flow disruption in public roads by allowing private cars to get off public streets and then unload or load their students within their premises. A no-left turn scheme can be imposed to minimize the conflicts in the traffic flow in narrow streets. This may be effective in Davao Christian School along V. Mapa for example.

Next time another university or school builds or expands, let them build a loading and unloading facility within their private lot. You owe it to the general public to reduce your negative impact on society and the environment. We teach our students to save the environment but by encouraging private cars and traffic congestion you are contributing to climate change and air pollution.

While I am at it, we are a child-friendly city but this will not amount to anything if we are not going to enforce the national laws governing speed limits. We have tens of thousands of school children who are at risk of being involved in road accidents everyday. It is a must that the national law speed limit of 20 kph in school zones must be enforced as well.

School zone is not just the area fronting the school gates but encompasses the entire area of the school fronting the road. Schools and universities along the national highways or main thoroughfares really pose a risk for their students when they have to cross the wide highways of the city.

Proper road signages must be installed in every school fronting busy streets. A road signage about 20 meters before the start of the school property can have a slow down sign then on the start of the school property can be a school zone signage indicating 20kph speed limit then another road signage indicating stop, school children crossing can be placed about 5 meters before the painted pedestrian lane.

Of course, the frontage of schools must be unloading and loading area only and not a parking area. This will allow drivers a full view of the road width so they can see the school children crossing.

This will be an expensive endeavor but what is cost if we are talking of the road accidents we will prevent. The local government or maybe the parents and teachers associations can raise the funds needed for such or maybe some kind corporation can provide the signages needed (provided that the signs are of national and international standard and advertising is not more than 1/3 of the total size of the warning sign). The traffic management group or center must make available the standard sizing and designs of these road signs so that they will conform to international standards.

Why are we not enforcing the motorcycle helmet ordinance? Go to Mintal, Calinan, Tibungco, Panacan and Toril and you will see what I am talking about.

It is really not my business anymore since the driver and adult passengers have their own minds to decide that their heads are harder than the concrete pavement. I am more concerned of the schoolchildren and infants who ride with their irresponsible parents. The bodies of children below 10 years old is so fragile that even helmets will not save them if they are involved in an accident. This is why they are not allowed to ride the motorcycle even if they wear helmets. Of course the economic reason will again be raised to save on commuting cost… are the lives of our children so cheap that we rather risk their lives rather that give them a chance to grow old? Childrens’ rights advocates, Bantay Bata where art thou?

Schools and universities are where our young develop their citizenship. If we install and enforce safety and discipline within their environment then we can perhaps be assured that future citizens will be more concerned of road safety and discipline.