Transforming universities into sustainable campuses, one pedal at a time

Keisha Mayuga, Nestor Tiglao, Derlie Mateo-Babiano, Sheilah Gaabucayan-Napalang, Roselle Rivera
Transforming universities into sustainable campuses, one pedal at a time
Here are some points to consider on how university campuses can achieve sustainable mobility culture

Aside from “Ikot” and “Toki” public utility jeepneys, two wheels are getting traction as a form of transportation in the country’s premier state university — a step forward to sustainable urban mobility.

While the University of the Philippines houses the last of the few green areas at the heart of the polluted metro, it is also one of the few areas in the nation’s capital to have a dedicated cycling and walking lane at the Academic oval. (READ: 4 more reasons why we need protected bike lanes now)

Walking is an option for the Iskolars ng Bayan, but at times, tight schedules are hard to reconcile with buildings kilometers away from each other.

In this case, encouraging the use of bicycles can be a solution. UP Bike Share, a non-profit student advocacy group, is leading the way. UP Bike Share received funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to support the first fourth-generation bike sharing service in the Philippines. (READ: Here’s what bike-sharing programs need to succeed)

As part of advocating bicycle use, the organization conducted a survey to identify behavioral gaps in bicycle use. The poll showed around 83% of the students surveyed want to cycle, but only a meager 17% did so. (READ: Biking to work? Here’s what you should know)

Studies show higher education institutions in both international and local contexts, have led the way towards creating greener university campuses.

Here are some points to consider on how university campuses can achieve sustainable mobility culture:

Creation of a sustainable campus office

A dedicated office to implement policies related to sustainability, including encouraging sustainable transport such as walking and cycling, will help maintain the project long-term, as well as in developing a strategic university-led transport plan at par with imminent universities.

In UP Diliman, a non-motorized mobility (NMM) subcommittee composed of an interdisciplinary team of UP Diliman faculty members was formed and works closely with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs (OVCCA) to encourage sustainable urban mobility within the UP Diliman campus through the implementation of policies and social marketing.

Transforming streets to living streets

A “living street” means pathways which have more pedestrians and bicycles instead of cars. The idea behind this is to make our streets social spaces where people can meet, mingle, and chat, and where children can play safely.

Inside the university, the creation of living streets will encourage and sustain a conducive academic environment as in many of the best universities in the world. The university becomes a place where beautiful minds can think, exchange ideas and insights, interact safely with diverse people, without the distractions of the noise and adverse effect of pollution from speeding motorized vehicles or parking on sidewalks meant for people. (READ: Freeing up the huge areas set aside for parking can transform our cities)

The basic idea of a living street or shared zone is that pedestrians, people on bicycle and motorized traffic have the same rights to the use of road space, but priority is given to its more vulnerable members – pedestrians and people on bicycles.

This also entails changing the speed limit within shared zones to 10 to 15 kilometers per hour. A very fast pedestrian can walk 9 kilometers per hour on average.

Changing mindset

Traffic has long been a problem in Metro Manila, as well as in other cities. Deliberate consideration of cycling and walking will provide options for people, other than the use of motorized transport, thereby improving transport equity on our streets.

Understanding the benefits of active transport will certainly help change mindsets and get community buy in, winning hearts and minds of people to further support bikesharing.

A Danish urban designer, Jan Gehl, said if we plan our cities for cars and traffic, we will certainly get cars and traffic, but if we plan our cities for people and places, for sure, we will have happier people and more liveable places.

The step towards a more sustainable urban transportation, however, should not stop inside the university. Instead, it should be a training ground for a wider implementation in key cities where traffic is a problem. –

A transport planner and educator, Dr. Derlie Mateo-Babiano is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne and 2017 Department of Science and Technology Balik Scientist Program Awardee. 

Professor Roselle Leah K Rivera is an Associate Professor of College of Social Work and Community Development at the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been a sustainable transport activist for more than 2 decades.

Dr. Ma. Sheilah Gaabucayan-Napalang is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning and a fellow at the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines. 

Professor Nestor Michael Tiglao is Project Leader for DOST-funded Design and Development of UP Bike Share. He is Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute and the Edgar & Agnes Paynor EE Centennial Professorial Chair.

Ms. Keisha Mayuga is Project Development Officer of the DOST-funded Design and Development of UP Bike Share and a master’s student at the University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning.

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