By Antonio Colina
Cyclists have become a common sight on the roads in downtown Davao as several offices and establishments re-opened after shifting to a less restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ) last May 16 from nearly six weeks of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to cut the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection in the community.
There is, however, a growing frustration among local environmentalists and cycling advocates after their persistent calls to get the Ordinance No. 0409-10 or the “Bicycle Ordinance of Davao City” fully implemented have remained stagnant a decade after it was passed by the City Council of Davao when President Rodrigo R. Duterte was still the mayor and his eldest daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte, the vice mayor.
The Bicycle Ordinance was authored by the late Councilor Leo Avila, one of the city’s green champions.
Davao City-based Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) executive director Chinkie P. Golle said the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) wrote a letter to the mayor last May 18 to remind her of the 10-year old ordinance, which contains a provision on “bicycle lanes, for the safety of the cyclists, many of them laborers and frontline health workers, who prefer to ride bicycles to public utility jeepneys (PUJs) that are unsafe since the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high among passengers because the virus lurks among people who are not tested.”
The ordinance provides that the City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO) shall designate the routes to be considered as “signed shared roadways or signed bike routes” and install signs along the routes to “indicate to the bicycle users that particular advantages exist in using the route, and more importantly, to serve as notice to motorized vehicle drivers that bicycle traffic is present.”
As of May 22, the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Davao City rose to 219. Of this total, 90 are active cases, while 104 have recovered and 25 have died.
CTTMO chief Dionisio Abude said the bicycle lanes might not be feasible as the roads in the city are narrow but the outer lanes, the space eyed for bicycle lanes, are already intended for the loading and unloading of passengers.
“We always compare Davao to other areas. If we look at Davao, our roads are really narrow and problematic. If we create bike lanes, they should be in the outer lane. However, we cannot allocate one lane just for them because we only have two or four lanes,” he said during an interview over DCDR 87.5.
He said the CTTMO has not identified bicycle lanes due to the current limitations of the roads. But he added the cyclists are encouraged to ride their bikes but reminded them to be extra careful knowing fully well the perils they could encounter on the road.
As the country gears up for the “new normal,” Golle believes that the bicycles are a much safer mode of transportation in this time of pandemic, not to mention more environment-friendly alternative, since physical distancing is encouraged to control the spread of COVID-19.
“It is also a safer alternative transportation option during COVID-19 outbreak. I think the local government unit is interested. However, they have waited for the implementation of HPBS (High Priority Bus System). That’s why, it took very long for them to really implement it,” she added.
In its letter addressed to Duterte, the SDM asked the mayor to establish bicycles lanes and devote bicycles hours during which the motorized private vehicles and motorcycles are regulated to give way to a burgeoning community of cyclists in the city.
The local environmental group is a member of SDM, a network of individuals, multi-sectoral organizations and institutions, advocating for a greener and more sustainable Davao City.
Also, the group suggested to declare all Sundays of the quarantine period as “official bicycle days” since there would be fewer motor vehicles plying the streets and to promote bicycling as a recreational activity for Dabawenyos.
The group said the city government would be living up to its “Life is Here” campaign if it makes good on its promise, as contained in the 10-year old Bicycle Ordinance of Davao, to provide bicycles and promote their use during the COVID-19 pandemic.