State of Kalayaan

Kalayaan is freedom in Tagalog and this post is about the state of bridge that opened last Independence Day, the Kalayaan bridge.

It’s been more than three months since the Kalayaan bridge opened to motorists and as a runner, I’m curious if it’s now also open for pedestrians.  And so early this week I went to Guadalupe to start my tour on foot.

This tour officially started just after the ferry station.

The skyline along the Pasig River has definitely changed since I was last regularly running the riverside years ago.  Skyscrapers, mostly condominiums, line the horizon.  Back when I used to run regularly from the northern side of the Pasig River to Bonifacio Global City (or vice versa), there were only two bridges nearby that I can use to cross—EDSA and C5—both of which were often swamped by vehicles, often had heavy traffic, too many people, and very bad air quality.  I often save my strength before crossing these bridges as I wanted to pass them as quickly as possible.  I used to wish that there’s an alternative bridge I can use so when I heard the news of a new bridge to cross the Pasig River, I was really thankful.

Fast forward to 2021 as the bridge neared opening, pictures of it emerged on social media—utilitarian, no frills, no decorations, just a simple concrete bridge.  But I noticed from the photos that it seemed to be missing sidewalks from the Makati side.  I hoped that it’s just because the bridge just wasn’t finished yet and not being elitist.

The main span of the Kalayaan bridge. I like how straightforward it is.

And then I got to see the bridge in person.  My fears were right.

This is the span over J.P. Rizal Ext, facing Bonifacio Global City (BGC). I guess they’d paint those rusty beams later on?
This is where the sidewalks end on the Makati side—stairs! This is probably a four or five-story climb or descend, depending on where you’re coming from. There’s another one on the other side but both of them are still closed as of the time of writing.
The underside of the bridge and the ramps servicing Kalayaan Ave. The bridge continues all the way to BGC and terminates near Uptown. This extension is still under construction.

This reminds me of the Makati-Mandaluyong bridge—a bridge that has sidewalks on top but end on staircases high above the ground.  As there’s a huge demand on that bridge, people just used the outer side of the ramps to get up the bridge, even if it’s quite dangerous to do so.  Imagine how frustrating it is to use this bridge if you’re pulling luggage or a PWD.  I guess nobody’s paying attention and repeated it with the Kalayaan bridge.

Needless to say, this bridge is not for everyone. “Light vehicles only”.
And yes, I was checking if there’s any chance I can cross using the ramp but “No pedestrians”. 😦
The view of the ramp towards Mandaluyong.

It’s such a waste that the designers of this bridge had the chance to create a solution for both cars and people, but only did it halfway.

Is it too much to ask for pedestrians to be able to also use the bridge conveniently?  Do they plan to create a pedestrian-only bridge that’s why it was designed prioritizing vehicles?  How significant is the added cost of extending sidewalks all the way to the ground?

Designing a bridge focusing mainly on vehicles (and light ones I may add) when there are no nearby alternatives for pedestrians is like designing a car that runs well on pavement but struggle on dirt roads.  It would’ve encouraged a lot of people living on the other side of the bridge to just walk across, but because of those high stairs, people may just opt to get a ride.

Hopefully, someone thinks about making this bridge inclusive in the future, and may future public works stop being car-centric and be pro-pedestrians!  It’s not like every household in the Philippines has at least one car.  But as far as I know, every household pay taxes, directly or indirectly, so we should all benefit from them.  Nonetheless, I’m glad that there’s another way of crossing the Pasig River.

As my plan to cross the bridge on foot failed, I just continued my tour inside BGC (but that’s for another story!).

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