MANILA - A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday approved 3 measures seeking to establish a safe network of bicycle lanes and slow streets, as bike commuting has risen amid transport restrictions because of the pandemic.
The House Committee on Transportation agreed to consolidate House Bill Nos. 8598, 8688 and 8697 which were authored by Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, and Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, respectively.
But before this, lawmakers pressed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Department of Public Works and Highways for an explanation on what happened to the bike lane network that was funded under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.
Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano pointed out that only a small part of the bike lane network has been completed even if the law would expire by June.
Transportation Committee chair Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, on the other hand, wanted to find out the proposed location of the 522 kilometers of bike lanes the government wants to build.
The transportation panel will also conduct an inspection of the constructed bike lanes next week.
In a joint statement on Feb. 3, Greenpeace Philippines and several bikers' groups said the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act allotted some P814 million for 306 kilometers of protected bike lanes in Metro Manila, but the group has yet to see any protected bike lanes in the capital region 5 months after the law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The groups expressed disappointment over the absence of the bike lanes, pointing out that the delay is “unacceptable” as more Filipinos took to riding bicycles due to limited public transport amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a slap in the face of hardworking Filipino frontline and essential workers– taxpayers all– who have taken to riding their bicycles to work to cope with the lack of public transport during the lockdown,” the statement read.
The DOTr’s Metro Manila office told lawmakers that the National Capital Region’s bike lane network is only 4.34 percent completed, equivalent to 13.8 kilometers.
A Social Weather Stations survey in November last year commissioned by the health department revealed that a majority of Filipinos or 87 percent want bicycles, pedestrians and public transportation to be prioritized over private vehicles.
- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News