What a difference a year makes. When before the pandemic biking in the Philippines was just a sport and a hobby, it has now turned into a real public transportation alternative. Which made this week’s observance of World Bicycle Day even more significant.
In the past 12 months or so, there’s never been so many bike racks, bike lanes and parking spots for bicycles in different parts of the country. No small thanks to biking advocates and their efforts toward more bike-friendly streets, along with some LGUs and businesses opening their eyes and finally accepting that the biking community is a force and its here to stay.
But while we celebrate the wins, we know there’s still room for more bike-friendly streets, along with bike-friendly policies so bike owners feel equally safe as car owners on Manila’s roads. So we asked two biking advocates, Anton Siy and Lester Babiera, to give us their wish lists for the city’s biking community.
Head of Pasig Transport
Bikes daily (“Every single day for almost every trip.”)
1) Lower speed limits. A 30 kph urban speed limit will save lives and make biking easier for everyone. It's a proven way to make urban transportation safer and even faster, and even the United Nations advocated for 30 kph speed limits during UN Global Road Safety Week!
2) More bicycle parking. Parking is what really makes destinations bike-friendly or not — because places cannot be good bike destinations without abundant, safe, and decent bicycle parking racks.
3) Safer intersections and traffic signal treatments for cyclists. A lot of focus is on bike lanes as the main transport infrastructure for cyclists, but we need to re-design intersections for safer street crossing on bike. Just like speed limits, safe intersections will benefit pedestrians and public transport commuters too!
4) Safe long-distance bicycle paths. I think bicycle touring and bikepacking has a lot of potential to be a leading form of tourism in the Philippines. When you're on a bicycle, even the journey becomes part of the adventure!
5) More considerate motorists. I hope drivers understand that a city that is better for cycling is better for everyone, including drivers! Many of them want to bike every day but feel like they can't. Hope to see more of them on the road on bikes soon!
Editor of the Facebook group First Bike Ride
Bikes almost daily (“It’s my main mode of transport now.)
1. Enough, proper and secure bike parking in establishments. Bicycles bring good business and many cyclists in Metro Manila are generous customers—but one of the major considerations in choosing a place to hang out in is if it has a parking spot where their bikes won’t be stolen.
2. Protected bike lanes. While it’s good that there are plenty of painted bike lanes in the metro, it’ll be better if they’re protected with bollards or concrete. A painted bike lane doesn’t do so much especially when motorists start to disrespect it.
3. Proper enforcement of speed limit to motorists. Speed kills and sadly I have observed that a lot of motorists disregard the speed limit of our city roads. I recognize that there are streets that don’t have bike lanes so it makes cyclists and pedestrians unsafe when drivers go fast.
4. More trees in Metro Manila. The past few days have been terribly hot (and I’m pretty sure that it’s not just cyclists who felt it). Streets with lots of trees are cooler and more pleasant to bike in like Quezon City’s Doña Hemady Street and Gilmore Avenue, Pasig’s Doña Julia Vargas Avenue, Marikina River Park and Taguig’s Mckinley Hill Drive.
5. I wish that more people would see bicycles as part of the city and as a legitimate mode of transport. Bicycles are not just for exercise or leisure, it takes people from point A to point B. Recently, groups of cyclists called for everyone to “share the city” because many bikers reported stories of enforcers and establishments tagging cyclists as “obstructions” and “nuisance on the road.”
[For those interested in the kinds of bikes they use, Anton has a Surly Pack Rat “which is a bike oriented for light, fast road touring. It's my bike when I want to go fast. My other bike is a Velo Orange Neutrino, it's a mini-velo which has BMX DNA. I take this bike out for the rain or when I expect to go to tight streets where I need to maneuver easily. I set both my bikes up with fat tires, fenders and baskets for everyday practicality!” As for Lester, it’s a commuter bike from Tern, a Taiwanese brand. “But I upgraded some parts so it can be flexible in different kinds of rides (commutes, long rides, uphills, loading heavy stuff like groceries, etc...).”]