The health crisis has turned many urban dwellers into cyclists. Bikes make it easier to just step out of the house for a grocery or medicine run—without having to worry about access to public transport. For many who don’t have the privilege of working from home, bikes have also become the only means to get to their workplace.
With more and more bikers out on the roads, you’d think more and more establishments—resting stops like cafes and restaurants, for example, and the buildings they’re attached to—will welcome bikers and allot space for them and their rides. Provide decent and safe parking, in short. But while it seems like we do have a growing biking culture, we’re likely not at that point of maturity yet—as Kim Atienza’s Facebook post Thursday illustrates.
The post has the bikes and art collector asking his followers to stay away from the Tim Hortons branch in Five E-Com Mall of Asia because “Tim Hortons is anti-cyclist.” Kim says that after he and his friend parked their bikes against a wall, they were told by the guards to put them 300 meters away instead, in a public parking spot. “That place is under the sun and unguarded,” adds Kim.
Kim has since taken the Facebook post down, however. "Tim Hortons explained to me that they want to attract bikers,” Kim tells ANCX. It turns out it’s the SM and E-Commerce guards who were being unfriendly, says Kim, and he's sorry for putting Tim Hortons in a bad light. “That's the reason I put down the post. I was barking up the wrong tree. Kawawa na pala sila...they are closing down so many stores worldwide." ANCX reached out to Tim Hortons on Facebook for comments. They replied that they're investigating what happened and will be releasing a statement soon.
It's all about parking
That area of MoA where the E-Commerce Building is located has become sort of a new center of cycling. “There’s a two-kilometer loop that’s relatively safe by the sea,” says Kim, explaining the attraction to the place. “Okada opened the road to cyclists and it’s a continuous 4km loop.” The spot attracts hundreds of cyclists daily. Which doesn’t explain the unfriendly attitude of building owners. “They should attract the cyclists and make good business,” adds Kim.
Biking complaints like Kim’s usually boil down to one thing: the issue of parking. “I don't think it was a ‘we don't serve your kind here’ situation,” says Pasig Transport Head Anton Siy. “Cyclists understand bike-friendly places as places where they can park their bike safely. Either they let you bring the bike inside or there's decent parking in front or nearby, in view of the guard.” It’s the same thing with motorcycle and car drivers, adds Anton. “You wouldn’t drive somewhere that treated car parking like that.”
While the Philippines still has a long way to go when it comes to having a real biking culture—a concept that’s only really hit people as necessary in the last five months—simple measures can be done by establishments to accommodate bikers. After all, cafes and restaurants do need the business. And they have to realize it’s not only hobbyists now that use bikes to move around the city—it’s healthcare workers, various frontliners, BPO employees with shifts that don’t give them access to public transport. A good number of them are most likely already their business’ patrons— it’s just now they drive bikes.
“It's really just a matter of building admins being flexible and knowing when to ease their rules,” says restaurateur Elbert Cuenca (Elbert’s Pizzeria, Metronome, Elbert’s Diner) in a Facebook post following Kim’s. He relates a personal story which kind of echoes Kim’s experience—although Elbert’s happened at Toby’s Estate in Salcedo, and he and his friends were told to use the basement parking. Long story short, the management of Toby’s spoke with the building administration. The result: dining customers were given the freedom to park their bikes in front of the establishment they’re patronizing. “We returned the following Sunday and were able to park our bikes by our tables,” adds Elbert.
How we can change
Elbert’s example illustrates how a simple effort can lead to a win-win situation: bike-owners ensure their bikes’ safety, and the restaurants get their business.
Kim’s suggestions to establishments sound as uncomplicated: 1) “Friendly security people who do not drive away cyclists” and 2) Installing bike racks in front of the resto where owners can watch their bikes. “There are many bike thieves now,” he says.
Despite these suggestions sounding quite basic, it would be good to observe bike parking standards, says Anton Siy. “It would be nice if the rack was shaped so it's actually usable—artsy racks tend to suck,” he says. There should also be enough of these racks, Anton adds, and they should be in view of security personnel, “and not located in, say, Basement 3 next to the trash/tambakan.”
Basement 3 and near the trash was where Capitol Commons used to have its bike racks installed, according to the Pasig Transport Chief. But the people from the mixed-use development welcomed the feedback from Anton’s office and have since added a lot of street-level bike racks—“which is the best place to put them.” Another example of big business listening to reason and adjusting to real needs.
Where the friendly people are
Just as there are places who don’t like bikes cramming their space, there are also bike-friendly spots. The Starbucks in Conrad is one, says Kim, “depending on the mood of the Conrad or SM guards.”
Anton says Pares Retiro is another. Very friendly to bikers. “Because you can kind of just leave your bike next to them while you eat and no one gives you trouble.” Being in an old neighborhood is a plus, says Rob.
“There are some places that are better not only because of a developer who gets it but also because they're just in older neighborhoods where more people get around by bike and which are easier to bike to,” Anton offers. Megaworld is an example of a developer, according to him, who gets it.
And then of course you have places that really cater to bikers, like Biker’s Cafe which has a branch at the MoA complex and several other locations around the city. “It is the friendliest,” says Kim. “All bikers welcome. May shower pa for an extra 100 pesos.”
Whether big businesses like it or not, bike-riding is becoming the new normal and money from bikers could only contribute to cafes and restaurants staying afloat in the present economy. “At the end of the day din kasi no one likes going to a restaurant and being told they don't want your business,” says Anton, “That's kind of how it is when you show up on a bike and they don't care how you park or secure it.”