Editorial: Make pedestrianization work in Cebu

Editorial: Make pedestrianization work in Cebu
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

Pedestrianization is a mouthful to pronounce but many who love Cebu want the concept to work in the Queen City of the South.

According to atg.com, pedestrianization refers to the process of removing or limiting vehicular traffic to prioritize the access of pedestrians to public areas.

This is carried out through three main schemes. In “full-time pedestrian streets,” vehicles can pass only at the back of public areas. In emergencies, vehicles may enter the zone.

In “part-time pedestrianized streets,” there is a particular day and time when vehicles can have access. In this zone, no parking is allowed, only loading.

In “traffic calming zones,” there is no constraint to vehicle access. Measures are made, though, to reduce the speed of vehicles and enhance the mobility of pedestrians through wider footpaths, minimized parking spaces, and speed limits.

During the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, pedestrianization became a top issue in Europe as a means of introducing social distancing.

In Cebu City, pedestrianization has returned to public discussions as city officials are considering this as a means to boost downtown tourism.

Acting Cebu City Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia announced that pedestrianization is being considered to make Cebu’s historic downtown area more hospitable to tourists.

Transforming downtown into a heritage and culture hub is welcome for Cebuanos who are proud of and concerned that more can be done to protect, preserve, and promote churches, residences, museums, buildings, streets, and other landmarks that attest to local milestones.

A cultural mapping project of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu Philippine Arts (PhilArts I) undergraduate students of Communications professor Trizer Dale Mansueto showed how the tangible aspects of cultural and historical treasures in communities are exposed and vulnerable to traffic, pollution, and reduced financial resources of families to conserve and sustain these landmarks.

During the Pasundayag sa Sugboanong Kabilin (Pasubilin) 2024 last May 24 at UP Cebu’s Lawak Sinehan, the PhilArts I students screened with school and barangay guests their cultural mapping video documentaries of Barangays Parian and Mabolo in Cebu City; Barangay Poblacion, Talisay City; and Barangay Poblacion in Lapu-Lapu City.

The video documentaries emphasized that major obstacle in sustaining heritage is the degradation of public memory of and appreciation for history and culture, which is manifested in civic indifference and official neglect.

Pedestrianization is aimed at reducing or removing vehicular traffic, a leading factor contributing to pollution, structural damage, and road accidents.

Increased pedestrian traffic will not only reduce noise and air pollution for downtown areas designated for pedestrianization; it can only boost economic activities by increasing the rent of private spaces, boosting consumer retail spending, and promoting innovative and participatory activities for culture and tourism.

Yet, Cebu City authorities must plan better for these innovations, consulting and coordinating with stakeholders to implement pedestrianization without marginalizing sectors.

The Garcia administration was heavily criticized by netizens for the installation of lamp posts in hazardous locations along Osmeña Boulevard.

The Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System management team must consider the implications of widening pedestrian and bike lanes, as well as reducing or removing vehicular traffic, for the downtown public.

The older streets in Cebu City are narrow but essential for daily commuters and merchants, not just tourists.

To encourage private commuters to take public transport, the public transport system of Cebu must be efficient and safe.

Pedestrianization is far from being a magic bullet. Yet, if Cebuanos keep communication lines open and flowing, pedestrianization may yet work in our favor for the long term.

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