MANILA -- Movies made us believe the future would be full of silver suits and flying cars — but as it turns out its face masks, personal protective equipment, and bicycles taking over the streets.
When the government suspended all public utility vehicles (PUVs) from the roads at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, thousands of Filipinos without private vehicles turned to pedal power for mobility.
According to the study the iPrice Group conducted, in the Philippines, Google searches for bicycles in 2020 grew by 163 percent compared to the previous year.
The data gathered revealed interest for the two-wheeler began to peak in March, the same month the strict enhanced community quarantine took effect. The search volume, however, nearly tripled in June when authorities began easing the lockdown restrictions, allowing more industries to resume operations — consequently requiring more Filipinos to go back to work.
“Since the shift to GCQ, the interest in bicycles has been on a steep upward trajectory,” Isabelle Romualdez, iPrice Group content marketing executive said.
At present, although most mass transportations have returned to their normal routes, they may only operate at a 50 percent capacity to abide by the physical distancing guidelines.
Due to the limited availability of PUVs, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases along with the Department of Transportation encouraged the public to use bicycles as a primary mode of transport, during the general community quarantine (GCQ).
Health experts, meanwhile, argued that compared to public transport, it is easier to observe physical distance when cycling, reducing the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
iPrice recorded the Google search volume the keywords bicycles and cycling, as well as each type of bicycle in the Philippines and found thay these the types of pedals Filipinos are interested in the most online:
The iPrice Group reported mountain bikes to be the top choice for Filipinos. According to the meta-search website, the bicycle accounted for 42 percent of the total Google searches in the country.
As its name suggests, the said bike was built to endure the most rugged and steep off-road terrain. The tires of mountain bikes are designed to be able to grip on almost any surface and provide better suspension compared to other two-wheelers, giving the rider better control regardless of the finish.
Bicyles are one of the few fitness mediums unaffected by the pandemic. The World Health Organization even urged more people to turn to the no-contact sport as a way of staying healthy throughout the COVID-19 crisis. With numerous nature trails near the capital, mountain biking has always been a popular sport among Filipinos -- and to be able to enjoy these scenic routes, mountain bikes are the recommended (and safest) set of wheels to use.
While the off-road bikes are the best mode two-wheel transport out of cities, it is also suitable for city riding.
Although heavier than road bikes, requiring more effort in pedalling when cruising through tarmac and climbing uphill, they prompt a more relaxed riding position.
“People living outside Metro Manila prefer mountain bikes since it can easily be used in off-road routes. This doesn’t discount the fact that mountain bikes are used to get around the city as well,” Romualdez theorized based on the available data.
Romualdez also suggested the public preferred mountain bikes since there are many “poorly maintained” roads in the country.
“Cycling in Metro Manila can be a bumpy ride… Its versatility is probably what made it the top choice,” she reasoned.
Since, the Department of the Interior and Local Government only ordered the local government units to allot bike lanes for cyclists in June, many riders also opt to ride on sidewalks (which are not always designed to have a smooth surface) or go off-road.
Consisting of 25 percent of the total searches, road bikes came in second as the most sought-after bicycle online.
Its light frame, slim tires, and dropped handlebars allow the cyclist to achieve maximum speed with minimum effort making it an ideal ride for smooth pavements and tarmac.
“Given that Metro Manila had one of the most stringent measures in movement control by limiting public transportation, it makes sense that people coast through roads via, well, road bicycles,” Romualdez explained.
However, since road bikes were designed for the cyclist to have an aerodynamic riding position, the “over the handlebar" posture can become uncomfortable and strenuous particularly the neck and wrist for some riders.
Moreover, in contrast to the chunky wheels and tires of mountain bikes, the lighter set of road bicycles are more likely to be damaged from potholes and rough surfaces.
BICYCLE MOTOCROSS (BMX)
The bicycle motocross (BMX), an off-road bike typically used for racing and stunt riding, was the third most searched keyword (12 percent) by Filipinos.
“Surprisingly, bicycle motocross is still ‘in’ as it’s the Filipinos’ third choice,” Romualdez shared.
BMX, as it is more widely known, was launched in the early 1970s, targeting kids interested in motocross. The immense popularity it received, however, led to it becoming an official sport certified under theInternational Cycling Union and recognized by the Olympic Committee.
While often generalized, BMX consists of three types: the (true) BMX, the freestyle bike and the jump (or dirt jumper) bike.
The BMX is a versatile bike with knobby tires and a lightweight frame making it suitable for city riding, short off-road trips and even dirt-track racing. The freestyle, on the other hand, which has a beefier frame and wheels compared to the former, is ideal for doing stunts and tricks on flatland. Meanwhile, the jump (or dirt jump), as it names suggests, is optimal for taking flight from both man-made ramps and dirt mounds.
“Its light weight and speed are probably why many Filipinos choose this bicycle to get around,” Romualdez said. “It is also worthy to note that some people may just have picked up freestyle riding as a quarantine sport,” she further suggested.
Folding bicycles followed closely, making up 11 percent of the total bicycle0-related searches.
A high-quality folding bicycle is said to be almost comparable with conventional bikes. Although the bicycle is more sensitive to potholes and road bumps — the said bicycle’s ability to collapse makes it a popular choice among commuters and apartment dwellers.
Unlike other bikes, the portable two wheeler can be boarded inside PUVs such as trains and buses. Moreover, they have a lower risk of being stolen as it is compact enough to be carried easily or stored under a desk or table when a commuter enters a building, an office, or a restaurant.
Its size also makes it a practical choice for those living in smaller spaces as it can be kept in a cabinet or be hung to the wall without causing obstruction.
Although folding bikes are more expensive, it has a stronger second-hand resale market compared to other types of bicycles not only because it os popular, but its resale value depreciates less in contrast to other types of bicycles.
OTHER MODES OF TRANSPORTATION
Aside from manual pedal power, Filipinos are also exploring other modern ways of single-person vehicles.
According to the data gathered by the iPrice Group, the Google search volume of e-bikes increased by 189 percent in May, while e-scooters increased by 151 percent.
To avoid accidents, authorities such as the Manila Police District Traffic reminded cyclists to use bike lanes when available, always wear a reflectorized vest and helmet, and equip their bikes with lights.
While pedaling certainly has many perks and health benefits, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, on the other hand, cautioned riders from biking in scorching weather, after a cyclist collapsed and died in EDSA in Makati City during the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine in May.
To help prevent heat-related illnesses, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges riders to limit intense exercise in hot weather, use “lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing,” wear sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection, rest in shaded areas, avoid drinking alcohol and beverages high in sugar, stay hydrated, and informed for extreme heat alerts.
For the full report, click here.