Surviving “Car-diac Arrest”
Towards Roads Where Many Modes Fit
Keywords:car, good life, Metro Manila, modernity, mobility, policy, road-sharing, traffic
The car dominates the imaginary of urban modernity. Such modernity links the car to living the good life, especially for the growing middle class. However, an environmentalist in my research laments that the unprecedented increase in car volume causes the “car-diac arrest” in our cities. A regime of congestion ensues as too many cars clog our cities’ major arteries. Such situation is a daily experience in Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Although only a tiny minority of the Philippine population owns a car, the lives of millions of Filipinos are impacted by the collective loss of mobility. Through interviews with transport reform advocates and participant observation around Metro Manila, I found that the car has become the ultimate private solution to the public problem of the undesirability of cities. The car creates a one-dimensional world in urban mobility, characterised by its intolerance to other modes of transport. Furthermore, as more cars are added to Manila’s roads, state infrastructure projects and policies highly favour car-centric mobility. This is why walking becomes almost impossible, air pollution worsens, and road traffic crashes take many lives each year. But transport reform advocates are taking action for Metro Manila to survive its “car-diac arrest.” Through pushing for policy reforms, road-sharing initiatives, and partnerships with supportive allies in the government and other sectors of society (called “champions”), they enable the flourishing of alternatives. While they do not see themselves as “anti-car”, they campaign for mobility to prioritise moving people and not just cars. Their ongoing initiatives push for the realisation of “dignified commuting” through a safe, efficient and reliable public transport system and for active transport (i.e. walking and cycling) to thrive. Through the co-existence of these diverse modes of transport, they reimagine roads as spaces where many worlds can fit.
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