The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) wants more cycling and building protected bike lanes to augment public transportation and help people safely get to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said that improving access to mobility in the country is crucial in jump-starting the economy as Filipinos learn to live with the coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the economy, especially the transport sector. The community quarantines and physical distancing regulations that help protect lives inadvertently reduced transport supply and resulted in public transport shortages,” Chuasaid.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the land transport sector contracted 30.7 percent in 2020, more than three times worse than overall gross domestic product (GDP).
Chua said that because of its large economic linkages, a sharp contraction in transportation can significantly bring down the rest of the economy.
He added that reduced vehicle capacities have also led to a land transport shortage, leading to a spike in passenger road transport inflation, from 2.6 percent in 2019 to 9.6 percent in 2020.
In the Greater Manila area, Chua said only 12.5 percent of households own private cars, while the rest cannot go to work because of limited public transportation.
“Promoting cycling and other modes of active transportation will provide safe, healthy, and affordable means of participating in the economy,” Chua said.
According to the Bureau of Customs, bicycle imports increased by 112 percent from one million in 2019 to 2.1 million units last year.
This shows that more and more people are choosing cycling as their new mode of transportation, Chua said.
Moreover, based on the 2020 data from Social Weather Stations and Department of Health (DOH), 87 percent of Filipinos agree that roads in cities will be better if public transportation, bikes, and pedestrians are prioritized.
“NEDA supports the initiatives of the DOH, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Department of Interior and Local Government to work together to build protected bike lanes around the National Capital Region,” Chua said.
“We are one with the various national agencies and local government units in their concerted efforts to increase mobility of people as we carefully reopen the economy. The current bike lane design provides significant protection to the growing number of cyclists, myself included,” he added.
Promoting sustainable and inclusive mobility is in line with the National Transport Policy that encourages local government units and national agencies to give priority to development of proper sidewalks and networks of bicycle lanes.
“We are also inviting the private sector to contribute to this alternative transport movement by providing end-of-trip facilities such as bike parking spaces and showers areas for employees who bike or walk to work,” Chua said.
Aside from these, companies can also explore provision of incentives and subsidies for cycling, me businesses provide car plans or shuttle services to employees.