Cyclotourism in the Philippines

Published December 1, 2020, 11:15 PM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

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Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

The his­tory of cyclotourism or cycle tou­rism began at the start of the 20th cen­tury with the emerging youth move­ment which popu­la­ri­zed cycle tou­ring. Added to this was the popu­la­rity of cycle racing and the growth of recrea­ti­o­nal cycling in the labor move­ment of the time (“fel­low­ship among cyclists,” “nature-lovers”). In the 1950s and 60s it was above all young peo­ple who went on cycle tours, stay­ing at youth hos­tels or camp­si­tes along the way. From the 1970s onwards, cycle tou­ring began to change. Now it was incre­a­sin­gly middle-aged and older peo­ple who went on cycle tours las­ting several days with the aim of immer­sing them­sel­ves in the natu­ral world and its lands­ca­pes and get­ting heal­thy exer­cise at the same time. (https://www.200jahre-fahrrad.de/en/the-bicycle-in-the-spotlight/the-historical-development-of-cycle-tourism).

Cyclotourism is described as “a way to maintain and promote health and sustainable transport, imposes itself increasingly lately both locally, nationally and internationally, in the context of a pressing economic crisis, of an increasing fuels price, of the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and, not least, of the increasing levels of obesity.

In the Philippines, there have been cyclists who have been cycling all over the country for decades.  Riding the countryside and discovering the beauty of the Philippines on a bicycle. In 2006, we took it a step further when we partnered with the Department of Tourism, then headed by Sec. Ace Durano, himself an avid cyclist, and worked together for the Terry Larrazabal Bike Festival (TLBF) in promoting cyclotourism.  That year, we invited Hans “No Way” Rey, a pioneer in mountain bike trials and extreme mountain biking, also known as Freeride/Freeriding, to the Philippines for the TLBF.  But before going to Ormoc City for the bike festival, together with Marco Toniolo who flew in from Germany, we travelled to Batad and Sagada and took some amazing shots.  Hans Rey also rode with friends to Taal Volcano.  His trip to the Philippines was featured in about a dozen international cycling magazines, which encouraged a lot of foreign cyclists to visit the Philippines.  It also boosted the growth of the cycling community in the Philippines.   You can read his trip summary here: https://hansrey.com/philippines-6/

Hans Rey came back again the year after, this time with multiple world champion Brian Lopes and they rode up the side of Mount Mayon.

But when you talk about cyclotourism, it’s not limited to riding a bicycle down a mountain, or cycling from Baguio to Davao, like what my friends Jack Yabut and Ed Leunbenger did a couple of years agao (Ed is probably the first person to ride a gravel bicycle from Luzon to Mindanao). Cyclotourism can be as simple as riding a bicycle around an urban area.   To explain further, cyclotourism, as a tourism segment, has two sub-segments: urban cycling tourism (the use of a bicycle for short tourist trips, like cycling around Intramuros) and cycle trips (the use of a bicycle as the main means of transport throughout the trip – like cycling through provinces and regions).  When you see people cycling around Metro Manila for a few hours, passing tourist destinations, taking pictures, enjoying the local delicacies along the way, that’s already cyclotourism.  In the time of a pandemic, there’s been a resurgence of the use of a bicycle for mobility.  More and more people are using a bicycle not only to get to work, but also to get around safely.  I have some friends who have been cycling regularly around Metro Manila. This is the urban cyclotourism which many have been doing lately.  It’s a safe way of getting around and discovering places.

Cyclotourism can be further encouraged not only with better public infrastructure, but by also developing and improving the infrastructure in the hospitality and catering industry services.  What this means is that business establishments are encouraged to provide facilities to make them biker-friendly. Allowing them to park their bicycles safely, providing facilities to encourage cyclists to patronize their restaurants.  For malls and other big establishments, this also includes, safe parking spaces, with adequate security. There are many other enhancements that can be done, as I wrote in previous articles.

Based on the statement of experts, this health crisis will be here for years.  Cyclotourism is one way to help people safely get around, jumpstart the economy, and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.  Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.

 
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