MMDA postpones opening, redesigns 'Mt. EDSA' footbridge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 14) — The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has decided to push back the opening of the controversial footbridge across EDSA in Kamuning, Quezon City.

In a text message Tuesday night, MMDA Spokesperson Celine Pialago said the agency will open the footbridge on November 15, and does not plan to redesign it.

However, in a telephone interview on CNN Philippines' Balitaan Wednesday, Pialago retracted her statement, saying the viral footbridge will open on November 27 instead. She added the agency will now modify its structure.

"'Yung footbridge dadagdagan pa natin ng isa pang landing. 'Yung matarik na hagdanan magkakaroon ng parang platform para hindi naman masyadong matarik sa paningin ng ating mga kababayan (We will add another landing platform on the footbridge. We will include another platform on the staircase so that pedestrians will not find it too steep)."

Pialago also revealed there were concerned engineers who sent designs, which the agency considered.

With a 10-million peso budget, the construction of the footbridge, which began in July, is the agency's solution to the problem area that it identified in its 2017 Metro Manila Accident Recording and Analysis System report, Pialago said. The report states the part of EDSA where the structure was built recorded the most cases of road crashes, she added.

A road safety expert asserted the initial structure of the footbridge is not safe for pedestrians.

Rob Mclnerney, CEO of the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), said the pedestrian infrastructure in Quezon City may not be used at all, even if it was designed with integrity. He told this to CNN Philippines in an interview during the World Safety Conference in Bangkok, Thailand on November 6.

"It's ultimately not safe because not many pedestrians will actually use it. It might be a well-designed overpass but, ultimately, if it's not going to be used by pedestrians, then it can't be considered safe," Mclnerney said.

MMDA officials explained it reached that height because there has to be at least 3 to 4 meters of space between the footbridge and the MRT-3's electrical lines.

In the past weeks, photos of the footbridge went viral, and netizens criticized the structure saying it is too steep.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said the footbridge was designed "only for the healthy."

What makes a pedestrian footbridge 'safe?'

Mclnerney explained the main safety standard in evaluating footbridges is its usability.

"The main thing you look at is who is going to use that piece of infrastructure? And is it designed in a way in which people will actually use it, use it well, and use it safely?" he said.

The road safety expert added the structure's inclusivity must be considered in the design process. He said, "If there are so many stairs to climb, that people need to be an Olympic athlete to actually use it, then it is unlikely to be fit for purpose. So, ultimately, you need to know who's using it and design it with them in mind, and make sure it meets their needs--both from the functional perspective and safety perspective."

The iRAP is behind the "Star Rating" for roads. Star Rating is an international road assessment program, which evaluates road safety, not just for vehicle passengers but also for motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Five-star roads are deemed the most safe.

According to iRAP's assessment, in low-income and middle-income countries like the Philippines, about 84 percent of the roads, where pedestrians are present, carry traffic at 40 kilometer per hour and have no footpaths, making pedestrians more vulnerable to injuries and deaths.

While the organization saw a lot of improvements in the star rating of roads in the country, iRAP said there remain many areas of improvement, such as the state of infrastructure for pedestrians.

Everyday, at least 10 pedestrians are involved in road crashes in the country, according to MMDA. In 2016, pedestrians made up the biggest chunk of road user deaths at 195 cases or almost 44 percent, slightly higher than drivers at 194 cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported about 1.24 million traffic-related deaths occur every year. Of the total number of fatalities, more than 270,000 or 22 percent are pedestrians.

WHO experts have said that to help reduce the number of deaths among pedestrians, governments must build safer footpaths and bridges with usability as main criterion.

This story was made possible with support from the ICFJ-WHO Safety 2018 Reporting Fellowship Program and Bloomberg Philanthropies.