Killer avenue, deadly U-turn
WE ARE in shock, we are angry, we feel the loss.
After university professor, media colleague and friend Lourdes “Chit” Estella Simbulan died in a vehicular crash on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City last Friday afternoon, there are, again, these hasty moves by authorities to find solutions to prevent more of such accidents.
Chit was not the first one to lose her life on that killer highway, said to be the widest in the Philippines. It is about 12-kilometers long, but—hold your breath—it is wider (nine lanes on each side on some parts) than the regular expressways where motorists pay toll, where there are no traffic lights and no loading and unloading.
The problem with Commonwealth Avenue is that it functions like a regular road where public vehicles can load and unload passengers on certain spots—or, heck, anywhere for that matter—but because it is so very spacious, many motorists do not observe speed limits (despite their being recently imposed). In other words, this avenue that functions like any city road is being used like a super highway.
Chit happened to be a known media person and so the wide uproar over her untimely passing. So was the Makati regional trial court judge who perished with his wife last December while they were on their way to an early dawn Mass. The culprits in both cases were over-speeding bus drivers.
But countless others have lost their lives on that killer avenue. Among the reasons: not enough safeguards, warnings and penalties to prevent homicidal bus drivers from sending their passengers, pedestrians, jaywalkers and small vehicles to the hills beyond. And nothing significant has been done about the avenue’s wideness. Why so wide, pray tell?
A friend of mine said that once she timed her bus ride from the España-Quezon Avenue rotunda to way after the Tandang Sora overpass on Commonweath Avenue, a distance of about 15 kms. She got to her destination in 10 heart-pounding minutes.
Chit was aboard a taxi that was veering slightly right toward the Ayala Technohub along Commonwealth Avenue when a bus rammed the taxi from behind. Another bus had nicked the taxi moments before. The questions being asked are: Were these two buses trying to beat each other to waiting passengers? Will regular monthly wages for bus drivers, as is being proposed, instead of the “boundary” system, solve the problem of speeding?
Chit was supposed to have dinner with friends at the UP-Ayala Land Technohub. The place is an information technology center, some kind of Silicon Valley, jointly developed by the University of the Philippines Diliman and Ayala Land. It sits on a sprawling 20-hectare portion within the 37.5 hectares of the UP North Science and Technology Park.
The dining places are up front, surrounding a fountain. But it is the cool, verdant areas at the back and the gurgling stream that I find inviting. I’ve been there a number of times. Now I dread going there.
If you are coming from the QC Memorial Circle and going to the hub which is on the left side of the killer highway, you do not make a U-turn on the first slot, the signs tell you to go all the way to the Tandang Sora underpass, several kilometers away, to make a U-turn. You’re safer that way, but, oh, the gas.
But there’s a problem if you are coming from UP’s University Avenue and going out to QC circle/Philcoa. You no longer go safely through an intersection with a traffic light. The intersection has been blocked and the light disabled years ago. You have to make a sharp right turn on Commonwealth Avenue and make a death-defying diagonal path toward a deadly U-turn slot. Say your prayers and have one eye on your left side-view mirror. A rampaging bus, undeterred by a traffic light, can hit you right on the driver’s seat.
Who removed the traffic light at the end of University Avenue? And why? UP authorities should look into this for the safety of the students, faculty and staff.
I asked a friend who teaches in UP to provide me with a safer alternate route. Here it is: If you’re on University Avenue going toward QC Circle/Philcoa, avoid Commonwealth by turning left on CP Garcia. Go straight and turn right on Maginhawa. Take two more short right turns until you hit the main Maginhawa Street. Go straight and turn left on Mayaman Street. Go straight again until you hit Kalayaan Avenue. Turn right on Kalayaan, go straight until you hit QC Circle.
If Mayaman is closed after 10 p.m., continue along Maginhawa till the end. Turn left and then right on Maharlika. At the end is QC Circle.
When I went to view Chit’s remains, I didn’t have enough words to say to her husband, UP professor Roland Simbulan. I just sobbed because I remembered…
I met Chit while I was working with a church-based human rights group and she was with the National Secretariat of Social Action (Nassa) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The year was 1979. Chit and I were together when about six or seven—maybe a dozen—armed military men in civilian clothes seized us along Kamagong Street in Makati. I was driving and my car was loaded with “subversive” booklets that we had just picked up from the press that night. The publication was “Iron Hand, Velvet Glove,” a report on the military abuses under the Marcos dictatorship, co-published by both our organizations.
We were being taken to Camp Crame (where we could be detained for who knows how long), but we refused to go with the armed men because the ASSO (Arrest Seize and Seizure Order) they carried was for Al Senturias. We insisted that we drive back to the press where we negotiated and bluffed our way until Nassa executive secretary Fr. Ralph Salazar and Sr. Christine Tan RGS came to our rescue.
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