By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – As more people are moving around Davao City under the general community quarantine (GCQ), environmental planner Lemuel Manalo said that bicycles could play an important role in reducing the risk of contracting the highly contagious coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection.
Manalo, who is also the research specialist of Davao City-based Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), said bicycles could help reduce the risk of contagion in public transport, as it comes naturally for cyclists to practice social distancing while on the road.
He said he anticipates more Dabawenyos, many of them workers, to shift to biking to help flatten the curve.
He said his group has been advocating for the full implementation of the 2010 Bicycle Ordinance, as the existing the city and national roads are quite challenging as a consequence of “car-centric” flaws in transport planning, making them unsafe for cyclists.
After the passage of the ordinance a decade ago, Manalo said civil society organizations have been pushing for its full implementation through advocacy such as the Flight of the Eagles, National Bicycle Day, among others, which show that a lot of bikers are clamoring for bike lanes and racks.
Manalo said the use of micro-mobility by the commuters, like bicycles, scooters, and skateboards, will lessen the demand for Public Utility Jeepneys (PUJs), particularly during peak hours, since a one-seat apart policy to maintain physical distancing will reduce the holding capacity of PUJs.
He said using “micro-mobiles” could give the seats on PUJs to the ones who need them more such as the handicapped, elderly, pregnant women, passengers with infants, and frontline health workers.
He said bicycles could complement the inefficient mass public transport which could no longer keep up with the demand of the commuters.
Manalo recommended delineating the lanes for at least 1.8-meter wide for both sides using temporal traffic cones along the roads that are mainly used by the cyclists; biking in groups to encourage more cyclists; and enforcing the bicycle hours and days.
“What we cyclists are appealing for in this pandemic and crisis are temporary bike lanes and not necessarily full infrastructure development. Temporary bike lanes can be delineated by using traffic cones and traffic barriers,” he said.
He added that since frontliners and other workers, many of them inexperienced cyclists, have started riding bicycles under the “new normal,” it is important to establish temporary bike lanes to keep them from harm’s way.
“Most of them are not experienced road cyclists, and the only reason why they choose to ride bicycles is because there is a crisis and public transport is limited. They need this additional safety measure. While I was riding my bike, I saw a frontliner from SPMC, biking in the opposite lane, which is very dangerous. It is because cyclists have no designated lanes to follow, many of them in outer lanes while others in the middle,” he said.
Manalo said the local government could adopt transport-planning strategies such as “road dieting and road-use changes” once the pandemic is over to make the transport system more efficient.
“Road dieting is reducing vehicle lane measurements, for example, from 5 meters to 3.6 meters, to add bicycle lane space while the road-use change is changing the use of road, for example, parallel parking lane or the slow lane to be intended for bicycle lanes or pedestrian walkways,” he added.
He said he had seen a few improvements in the road infrastructure planning, particularly the provisions for bicycle lanes in the P19.8 billion Davao City Coastal Bypass Road Project of the Department of Public Works and Highways.