MANILA - Several senators on Wednesday criticized the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for imposing a fine against a group that placed temporary barriers to protect bicycle riders along Commonwealth Avenue during the general community quarantine.
MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago earlier said the agency will sue Bikers United Marshalls for obstruction, and impose a P1,000-fine against each member of the group.
"This is too harsh and severe a penalty for our cyclists, fellow travelers in the road, who only wanted to make the roads a safer place for them to travel, in the absence of an established bike lane in Commonwealth," said Sen. Francis Tolentino, who served as MMDA's chief before he was elected as a senator.
Last month, Tolentino authored Senate Resolution No. 411urging MMDA, and other agencies to improve bike lanes in Metro Manila as several Filipinos shift to biking due to the limited operations of public utility vehicles under the general community quarantine.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros slammed MMDA, noting that the group had to put up the barrier because the agency failed to do its job of creating bike lanes along Commonwealth Avenue.
"So pwede bang ang MMDA na ang maglagay ng bike lane protectors? Wala na ngang masakyan ang publiko, paparusahan pa natin yung mga bikers," she said in a tweet.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, a cyclist and a triathlete, sponsored a bill in plenary that seeks to institutionalize the creation of "a network of pop-up bicycle lanes" that would protect Filipinos who cycle or walk to and from work.
"Sustainable transportation is now part of the new normal, and we welcome this change in people's mindset, but we cannot simply put cyclists and pedestrians on the road without ensuring their safety," Cayetano said in her sponsorship speech.
"We need to be able to support them with the right infrastructure, which we sadly lack in our car-centric streets," she said.
Under Cayetano's proposal, there will be a "permanent lane that separates these bike lanes from the road used by motor vehicles for protection."
"The bike lane is also separate from the pedestrian sidewalk," she said.
Bikers United Marshalls earlier reminded the MMDA that the agency has yet to deliver on its years-long promise to put up bicycle infrastructure across the metro.
"MMDA keeps on promising bicycle infrastructure and to hear them say that it will take time before they take action to protect bikers is utterly disappointing," the group said in a statement.
"Contrary to the allegation that our actions pose a danger to people, our actions as volunteer marshalls actually protect people. The fact that volunteer marshalls are signaling bikers to remain in the rightmost lane and motorists to share the road creates a much safer road," the group said.
"Doing nothing is more fatal."
MMDA penalized the bikers' group on June 3, World Bicycle Day.