I was supposed to talk today about the preparations needed for the May 9, 2022 national elections. But I’ll set that aside for October 7, and instead, I’d like to talk about something whose time has come, which is, the need to require cyclists to wear a helmet when riding their bicycles.
As background, people have been cycling in the Philippines for decades. In fact, in an analysis done over a decade ago, the Philippines had one of the higher ratios of bicycles per households in the world. Most Filipinos learned to bike when they were young. In the provinces, the bicycle is arguably the most common mode of transportation.
Recently there has been a huge surge of people who use bicycles, specially to commute during the time of ECQ. Frontliners, in particular, resorted to using bicycles as a way to get to their medical facility, since no public transportation was available.
The false notion that it’s too hot or it’s too difficult to ride a bicycle to work was shattered when people tried for themselves to ride a bicycle, and it was actually feasible. In many instances, for short distances, it’s faster to ride a bicycle than ride a vehicle to reach your destination.
But right now, we still see a number of cyclists who ride their bicycles without a helmet. As equally bad, is we unfortunately see some cyclists who do not follow traffic rules and regulations. Properly wearing a helmet is crucial in minimizing head injury in case of an accident or if the cyclist falls from the bicycle. Personally I’ve been saved a couple of times by wearing a helmet when I fell off my bicycle (and in some instances flew from my bicycle). There are countless stories cyclists share when they avoided head injury because they wore a helmet.
In other countries, it is mandatory to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, there is no national law requiring the use of a helmet when riding your bicycle. There have been some LGUs which mandates wearing a helmet. Iloilo City, Makati City, Marikina City, Quezon City, and several others have issued ordinances requiring the use of a bicycle helmet.
There is a law requiring motorcycle riders to wear a helmet – Republic Act 10054. However, there is no national law requiring the same of people who ride a bicycle. I think it’s about time that this is required. With the momentum of the mobility of people around the world shifting towards more environment-friendly modes, like walking and cycling, we expect to see more people on bicycles as the norm, instead of the exception. With more Filipinos now realizing that riding a bicycle is not only for the less privileged or only for leisure, I expect to see more bicycles on the road.
But requiring people to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle is only part of the program. What’s important is what I mentioned before. To promote a cycling culture in the Philippines, education is key. People need to understand that wearing a helmet not going to be a burden, but a health and safety protocol that’s meant to protect the cyclist. A holistic approach is key.
That’s where education comes in. Where students, even in the time of a pandemic, are taught cycling safety procedures. Even at a young age, children are instilled with the knowledge that they will be able to use, even at a later stage of their life. This has to be part of the legislation.
I’ve spoken with several legislators about this, and their response is very encouraging. There are so many legislators who ride bicycles. Some have been riding for decades, while some have just recently re-discovered their love for the sport. I hope this endeavor bears fruition and we’ll have more cyclists SAFELY riding on the road.
Stay Safe. Stay healthy. Wear a helmet properly.