[Blueboard] Pedestrian stoplights, social activism, urbanity, etc.

Czarina Saloma csaloma at ateneo.edu
Thu Apr 22 12:13:19 PHT 2004

Please post. Thank you!

Dear Everyone,

Thank you for your thoughts on my thoughts. I have replied to a number of
you individually but a number of emails were addressed to the blueboard.
As these emails cover almost the same theme, I am writing a single reply
to everyone. My apologies to blueboard list members who do not want
unsolicited letters.  

What prompted me to write to the blueboard two weeks ago is the
realization that in the days following the Gate 3 closure, only one
member (Ms. Lara Mendoza) of the community invoked the principle of the
greater good for the greater number. I did not want this idea to simply
go away. We need activists and concerned citizens to balance (oppose) the
MMDA’s resolve. Activism should however go together with a contextualized
and differentiated analysis of society. There is no such thing as black
or white. What I wrote is based on a sociological principle: to make a
distinction between a personal trouble and a public issue and thereafter
find appropriate solutions. A personal trouble affects one or two
individuals. A public issue affects a greater number. Public issues
require structural solutions, not individual adjustments. When ten people
with knee and limb problems are unable to cross the footbridge, then it
is a social issue which requires structural solution. But this solution
should not burden the wider public  (i.e., halting the traffic at
Katipunan Avenue for hours). 

My point about the footbridge in Gate 3 has to be viewed vis-à-vis the
fact that the rest of Metro Manila has to cross like rats in a maze of
traffic, while we at the Ateneo do have an alternative, the Miriam and
NBS footbridges. And yes, I do hope that the MMDA or DPWH or city
governments would build the footbridges for the rest of Metro Manila (and
not just for Ateneo) soon. This way, Filipinos in Metro Manila can safely
cross streets and do not have to look funny when crossing (e.g., raising
the left/right hand, a gesture to stop oncoming vehicles, while running
to cross the street).

However, footbridges will not work for those who want to climb footbridges
but cannot (e.g., the elderly). Those who are attending consultation
meetings with the MMDA might want to suggest pedestrian stoplights for
Metro Manila. Pedestrians press a button to halt traffic for 30 seconds
(or more, depending on the width of the crossing), while allowing traffic
to flow for 3-5 minutes, or uninterrupted if the button for the
pedestrian stoplight is not pressed. This will allow street-level
crossings while not halting the traffic for long.  

The MMDA will never be perfect and this is because public governance runs
on structures of distant state planning. In providing services, the
distant state simplifies everything and is often incapable of
understanding the everyday realities of people. This is where activists
and concerned citizens can come in with practical suggestions and
solutions (i.e., solutions showing "this way!" and not simply "no way!",
to borrow an idea from a fellow Ateneo community member).

Let us support an idea, not individuals or groups. The idea is about
creating a sense of urbanity – of people living in urban areas behaving
in a manner conducive to urban conditions. Such urban conditions require
that we go beyond our immediate surroundings, interests and concerns in
order to avoid a tragedy of the commons.

Sincerely yours,

Czarina Saloma, Dr.rer.soc. 
Assistant Professor (on leave)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines
Current affiliation:
Visiting Fellow 
Institut Kajian Malaysia dan Antarabangsa
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia 
UKM, 43600 Bangi, Selangor D.E., Malaysia
+60-129746470 (mobile); +60-3-89261022 (fax)

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