Cebu road becomes park for a day

By Bernadette Parco

CEBU CITY — It was an environment-conscious Independence Day celebration for  Cebuanos Sunday, as Cebu City’s Osmeña Blvd. stayed free of vehicular traffic for 16 hours.

Road Revolution turned the normally traffic-prone boulevard into a huge park where people took leisurely walks, rode bikes or ran. Younger residents rode their skateboards.

In keeping with the day’s celebration, a prototype train powered by renewable energy was on display, painted red and blue on its sides and with a yellow sun on its hood.

“The feedback is generally positive,” said Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) executive director Rafael Yap during a press conference under the pedestrian overpass between the Department of Health and Robinson’s Department Store.

Citom earlier announced Osmeña Blvd. would be closed from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. from the Capitol building up to Plaza Independencia on Independence Day.

The sight of people walking down Osmeña Blvd. was proof that the event succeeded, said environmentalist-lawyer and Law of Nature president Antonio Oposa Jr.

The daylong activity began with a Freedom Walk from Capitol to Plaza Independencia and a symbolic turnover of a petition asking the Cebu City Council to create an ordinance dividing Osmeña Blvd. into four parts.

Cebu City Councilor Edu Rama represented the council at the ceremony that was also attended by National Youth Council representative Leon Flores and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Executive Director Maximo Dichoso.

The petitioners propose that the existing roads be divided longitudinally into four: 30 percent for all-weather sidewalks and pathways, 30 percent for bicycle lanes, 30 percent for Filipino-made “collective and non-pollutive” transportation systems and 10 percent for gardens.

The people’s petition will be submitted to local government units (LGUs) pursuant to several laws and executive orders, such as the Local Government Code or Republic Act 7160, which gives voters numbering 100 for municipalities and 1,000 for cities the power to submit a petition to the local council to propose legislation.

Based on Climate Change Executive Order 774 of 2008, under the provision on Task Group on Fossil fuels, LGUs and government agencies are called to join the reformation of the road system to favor non-motorized, environment-friendly and collective transportation systems.

The formal turnover of the petition with about 20,000 signatures will be done Monday.

“Road Rev means review, revise and revolutionize the transport system,” said Oposa in an interview.

Yap of Citom said there was moderate to heavy traffic from Legaspi St. to the Basilica del Sto. Niño and along Juana Osmeña St.

“Our aim is to reduce traffic congestion. This (activity) is a very intelligent response to the traffic demand of the city and addresses health (issues) and air pollution,” said Yap.

“We can’t prevent people from using cars but we can reduce the number of cars on the road,” he said.

With the roads safe from vehicles and emissions, Henry Benlot, 42, brought his son for a ride on a customized bicycle.

Three-year-old Maximus Azriel, who was wearing a helmet, sat in a special chair with a seatbelt at the back of his father while his mother, Marichu, rode alongside them.

The family left home in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City to head for Plaza Independencia early Sunday morning.

Henry is an engineer and has been a biking enthusiast long before the Road Revolution program spearheaded by the Law of Nature Foundation was implemented Sunday.

“There is no pollution, the street is safe. Usually we ride the bike on weekends but only at the IT Park because there are only a few cars there,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

“Today, we made the trip because the street is closed for this activity,” he said.

The Road Rev was aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emission in the city and keep the roads free for the people.

Early morning joggers and bikers were seen making their rounds from the Capitol building to Fuente Osmeña. People walked on the streets instead of the sidewalks.

“It is the first time (for me) to experience clean air in the heart of Cebu City,” said Maritoni Corominas of the Federation of Visayas Radio Clubs.

“It is not like on regular days when there is so much smoke,” she said.
Skateboarders were seen speeding down the road.

“Skateboarding is treated as a nuisance; we are always driven away,” said Kay Onozawa, of Rhipstop.

Lawyer Tara Rama, one of the organizers, said the activity brought “clean air, fresh air and quality time for the family.”

Vince Cinches, Country Coordinator, said it was a celebration of independence from fossil fuel. (Sun.Star Cebu)