ILOILO CITY— There should be more bike lanes across the country, Vice President Leni Robredo said Saturday here after biking along the Esplanade with supporters.
Robredo, the opposition standard bearer, and her running mate Sen.Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan rode bikes with their supporters along the Iloilo City Esplanade and stressed the importance of making roads friendlier to bikers, pedestrians, and commuters.
“Kaisa nila ako sa advocacy na ‘yung mga daan natin ay gawing friendly para sa not just for bikers, but for people na gustong maglakad, for regular commuters, kasi hindi lang ito tipid pero nakakabago talaga siya ng pang-araw-araw mong ginagawa,” Robredo said following a kilometer-long ride.
(I am with them in their advocacy to make our roads friendly for bikers, commuters, and for those who wish to walk. Not only does it help people save, it also changes your lifestyle.)
“I am very impressed with what I have seen here and dapat 'yung nangyayari rito, 'pag tayo ay nagkakaisa, buong Pilipinas hanapan natin ng solusyon para lahat may Esplanade (if we unite together, we can have esplanades like this across the country),” Pangilinan said.
Establishing more bike lanes is part of Robredo's plans if elected in 2022, with an envisioned P14-billion allotment to carve out safe lanes for bikers as part of her COVID-19 recovery plan and as a long-term solution to boost mobility among Filipinos.
Bike commuting rose during the pandemic, with Filipinos shifting to bicycles following the suspension of public transport. Many have since taken it on as part of a healthier and greener lifestyle.
“Tayo, kahit sandali [at] malapit lang ‘yung pupuntahan, parati tayong nakasakay kasi hindi friendly ‘yung streets natin for pedestrians. Nakita natin kanina, parang dito sa Iloilo, naging lifestyle na ng mga tao na either nagba-bike o naglalakad dito sa Esplanade dahil may lugar," Robredo said.
"So kung, kung ang ibang lugar mayroon ding ganitong nilaan na space para sa kanila, ay, I’m sure mas maraming maeengganyo,” she said.
(Most of us would commute or take our cars even when our destination is near because our streets are not walkable and friendly to pedestrians. But as we have seen here in Iloilo, walking and biking have become a lifestyle there is space for it. If more spaces like this are created, more people would be encouraged to walk and bike more.)
The country, especially its capital, has long been faced with the issue of congested traffic and limited access to walkable spaces for commuters, pedestrians, and bikers.
In a study published in the internationally peer-reviewed journal of the University of the Philippines Diliman College of of Architecture, a number of factors make navigating Metro Manila by foot difficult, namely:
- Distance and accessibility (fences, not enough to prevent people from seeking short-cuts)
- Lack of shade and cover from harsh climate
- Uneven elevation of existing sidewalks
- Narrow width of the pavement
- Blockade by street elements like utility poles, signage, tree trunks, etc.
- Lack of proper maintenance
- Lack of pleasant ambiance
- Unkept or unmaintained surroundings
"If all these impediments can be addressed, people can be encouraged to walk," the study said.
Despite the construction of footbridges intended for pedestrians in the past years, Robert Siy, co-convenor of the Move as One Coalition, said in May this year that the national government should consider "ground level passageways for pedestrians" as there are several pedestrians who have no capacity to go up or down several steps.
The Department of Health in the same month said that 57,000 pedestrians have been hit by vehicles in 10 years.
In November 2020, urban planning expert Architect Felino "Jun" Palafox proposed to make more "walkable and bikeable" cities while roads are not too clogged due to quarantine restrictions. He said this would be a more practical, and climate-friendly approach to improve mobility in the metro.
"Walking, biking and even motorcycles are the best modes to transportation with social distancing," he said. "It's environment-friendly, democratic and affordable. Everybody can do that."
The Department of Finance (DOF) said April this year that local government units (LGUs) should work to transform the country’s most congested cities into walkable, pedestrian-friendly communities.
The Institute For Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) said that making cities bikeable is possible, as evidenced by the cities of San Juan, Pasig, and Marikina, hailed the most bike-friendly cities in Metro Manila in the first ever Mobility Awards in 2020.
The Mobility Awards hailed Iloilo, Mandaue, and Naga as the most bike-friendly cities this year.
Robredo shared that her advocacy to make cities more accessible to bikers, commuters, and pedestrians began back when she was the Camarines Sur third district representative.
"Dinala ko dito ‘yung city officials ng Naga. Kasi ‘yung center ng city namin sa Naga ay Bicol River. And ‘yung dream ko sana, pareho noong dream nina Sen. Frank [Drilon] dito, na maging sentro din ng buhay ng tao ‘yung river. ‘Yung kulay ng river dito, noong inayos, nag-iba. 'Pag tiningnan natin, hindi na siya, hindi na siya parang murky ngayon pero bluish na siya, at nagkukwento ‘yung mga tao dito na ‘yung mga isda diyan, nabubuhay na ulit ang mga isda, malalaki."
(I brought Naga City officials here. The center of our city is the Bicol River, and reviving it and giving it a larger part in the lives of the residents have been my dream. Here, the river's water has improved, more fish are thriving in it.)
Efforts to revive the Bicol River in Naga have already begun by constructing seawalls to help prevent erosion along its banks.
Robredo is running for president in the national elections next year, with Pangilinan as her runningmate. Other contenders for the top job in next year’s polls include Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, and labor leader Leody De Guzman.