New ‘New Normal’

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While right in the middle of General Community Quarantine (GCQ), we asked around for prognostications on what life would be like as we transition to the new normal — living with the Covid-19 sword hanging over our heads.

Many of the foretellings seem to be coming true. Work from home is moving from temporary to permanent for many. Online shopping is moving from mere option to default action for the housebound.

Other hoped-for outcomes from easing out from strict quarantine restrictions look like works still in progress. Authorities still have not learned to strike a balance between providing adequate mass public transport and maintaining physical distancing protocols to contain the contagion.

But sadly the pessimistics among us may be right in saying that we don’t have, as we wrote earlier, “enough right-minded private motorist, commuter, government planner, bus and jeepney transport operator that would tip the balance from chaotic and unsafe to orderly and disciplined traffic.”

Still, all is not lost for some wished-for Covid-19 consequences. One is the prayer for fewer fossil fuel guzzling vehicles, especially private cars, on the road so we can still see the mountain ranges behind Metro Manila skylines.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has issued new guidelines for the so-called coding scheme to reduce the number of vehicles back out on the street during the GCQ.

Many hope these guidelines would make the practice of carpooling more prevalent. In essence, all private vehicles will be allowed on the road every day of the work week if they have two or more occupants on board. 

Share rides people! At least four can ride on five-seaters, practicing physical distancing and wearing masks. Theoretically that’s three cars left in garages every day if their owners practice carpooling.

Another prognostication moving toward new reality is the use of bikes and the e-scooters. More and more people are going to work and home using bikes and scooters. Many out of desperation.

Perhaps the MMDA was shamed into action by biking groups that unilaterally took steps to protect bikers on major thoroughfare during rush hours, placing makeshift markers to delineate biking lanes while volunteers marshalled traffic to keep bikers safe.

The MMDA has issued a statement saying it welcomed the establishment of bicycle lanes and promoting the use of bicycle as mode of transportation but called for smoother coordination from cycling advocates.

The MMDA went further by saying it would support the establishment of ‘pop-up bike lanes and elevated bike lanes in Metro Manila.’

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