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I went to Uptown Mall last Saturday (April 6) morning to try out Grabwheels, E-scooters offered by Grab. They give 2 hours of free ride to any one who dares to try it!

Easy Peasy

It was quite easy to get hold of a Grabwheel. I downloaded the mobile app at one of the four kiosks of Grabwheels located around Uptown Mall and Uptown Parade, left my driver's license with the Grab employee, scanned the QR code on the E-scooter that I intended to ride, and off I went! It was a breeze compared to the experience I had with the shared E-bike that I tried at Stopover Pavillion two years ago.

Riders have to wear a helmet, and they let me wear my own helmet, which was great. Only persons over 18 years old are allowed to borrow the E-scooters.

DOs and DON'Ts

I was told that I could ride anywhere within BGC, but only on sidewalks. There is a long list of do's and don'ts, but in my view, these are the top items.

Ride experience

I am an experienced kick scooter user, so it was very easy for me to ride the Grabwheels. But the control is so simple that I think anyone can ride it any way, once one get comfortable with the start and stop techniques.

The Grabwheels have a top speed of 17 km per hour, which is quite fast for sidewalk traffic, since pedestrians do not expect and cannot hear you coming.

However, it was not easy to confine my ride to the sidewalks, since many sidewalks do not have smooth ramps. There are "ramps" that have a 2-inch curb that a E-scooter cannot ride up. Many sidewalks do not have ramps at all. In addition, some sideways are narrowed by planter boxes or space reserved for planter boxes, and boarded up construction sites.

When there is no ramp, lifting the E-scooter up is not easy. It weighs much more than a regular kick scooter.

Boundary issue?

I was going to ride the Grabwheels in Bonifacio High Street, but after I crossed 32nd Street at the junction with 11th Avenue, I was stopped by a BGC marshall who told me that Grabwheels were not allowed outside Uptown area. I asked what about other E-scooters, and they said other E-scooters were allowed. 

If Grab wants to offer Grabwheel as a paid service, they will need to sort this out with BGC authorities.

[Update: on April 9, I saw two ladies riding Grabwheels in Burgos Circle. They said they crossed 32nd Street from S&R supermarket. Either BGC authorities have changed their policy, or they do not man all entrances to Central BGC.]


What can it be good for?

I enjoyed riding the E-scooter recreationally, and it encouraged me to explore parts of Bonifacio North that I did not bother to go before.

I can imagine people who live within 3 to 6 km of their work place using it to commute, and it could save them time and money (vs. taxi fare), and everyone the air pollution from the traffic otherwise generated. I have seen people riding it daily between McKinly Hill and BGC.

It can probably be used by people to connect between transport hubs, such as going from BGC to Ayala transport terminal during rush hours when buses and taxis are stuck in the peak hour traffic. It has to be allowed to ride on roads as sideways are too narrow and disjoined.

Some training for riders would probably be necessary, as I have seen some dangerous moments when E-scooters get too close to pedestrians, cars or motercycles.

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As a resident of Fort Bonifacio, I enjoy its pedestrian facilities and the diligence in traffic management by the authorities as compared to many other places in Metro Manila. 

However, having been living here since 2013, there are three places where the lack of traffic signs has always bothered me as a private car driver. I share them here to see if it is just my quirk, or there are others who feel the same.

1. Traffic lights at junction of 24th Street and 5th Avenue

If you are going towards 5th Avenue from 24th Street, you are on a one-way street. There are three ways that a vehicle probably can go: (i) turn left into 5th Avenue in the direction of Lawton Avenue, (ii) go straight to Rizal Drive; and (iii) turn right into 5th Avenue in the direction of Bonifacio High Street.

However, there is only one green traffic light, and it is an arrow that points to the left. Does it mean that, when this green light is on, you cannot turn right or go straight?

The red light of this set of traffic light also has a left turn arrow. Does it mean that when this red light is on, we can go straight or turn right?

In reality, the time that I stood at the sidewalk and observe the traffic, the traffic took the green light to mean a general green light, and cars turned left as well as go straight and turn right. Motorists also treated the red left turn arrow like a round red light. When I am at this junction, I will go straight when there is no policeman around, but turn right when nobody else does that and there is a cop nearby, because I am not sure if going straight is allowed or not.

2. Burgos Circle Roundabout

The roundabout (or rotunda) at Burgos Circle has four exits, but only three exits have marking on the floor instructing the direction of the traffic. If you come from 2nd Avenue, you will see two left turn arrows marked on the floor of the two lanes. But if you are following another car, you may miss the markings, and if you are in a hurry, you may think that it is a T junction and make a left turn.

Worse, some cars have driven into the park in the middle of the circle, because the drivers could not see that the road has ended (Yes, they can be that blind). Maybe the authorities do not want to put up signs which could spoil the aesthetics of the park, but there must be some way to make it clear to motorists that Burgos Circle is a roundabout, so they need to turn right!

Bonifacio Global City and McKinley Hill are private real estate developments, so they may not be required to put up traffic signs that follow Philippine traffic codes. If they do choose to do so, they can find signs for roundabout in this LTO guide.

3. Kalayaan Flyover to 2nd Avenue

Are we allowed to turn right into 2nd Avenue when we descent from Kalayaan Flyover into BGC?

One Sunday afternoon, I came back to BGC from Makati and took Kalayaan Flyover. At the foot of Kalayaan Flyover, I slowed down and checked if there were cars going straight along 32nd Avenue and then I proceeded to turn into 2nd Avenue. A big car honked violently from the lane coming from EDSA. I thought I was blocking him going straight, but it turned out he was also turning into 2nd Avenue.

I wondered if I should not have turned into 2nd Avenue from Kalayaan Flyover. The distance between the end of the flyover to 2nd Avenue is admittedly a bit short and can be dangerous if there are fast cars coming from the other lanes. But is it illegal?

I walked to that spot a few days afterwards, and checked. There was no sign or signage that prohibits the turn that I took. In addition, I saw a police van did the same turn. Admittedly, we cannot count on the police here to set the best example in following the law, but at least I can say to them loudly that I am just following what the police does!

I am probably expecting too much from a private real estate development in terms of traffic management. In fact, the lack of traffic signs in McKinley Hill is even worse than in BGC. Yet the traffic marshalls in these places are delegated with the authority to give fines to motorists. So if the traffic signs are not clear, and an accident happens, we the motorists will always be at a disadvantage, fair or not.