Coronavirus-related restrictions have been prompting more people to pedal their way to work and leisure. On World Bicycle Day, cyclists weigh in if the roads in Metro Manila are now safe for bikers.
In 2020, as the government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, public utility vehicles were also regulated to curb the spread of COVID-19. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos turned to bicycles to take them where they need to go.
Traffic officials have since created bike lanes along roads and highways and establishments are finally allocating parking space for bicycles.
The government has dedicated P1.3 million under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to build a 522.73-kilometer bike lane network on national roads.
However, on March 6, the Department of Transportation said that only 19 percent of bike lanes, pavement markings, and physical separators have been built so far.
What still needs to be done
Arvee Gonzales who started biking during the lockdown, last year said she hopes more establishments would put more bike racks or spaces where cyclists can safely park their bicycles.
Meanwhile, Jodel Ret, who bartered a PlayStation in exchange for a bike, shared he is happy that cities are slowly becoming bike-friendly.
“Hindi pa totally safe ang ibang kalsada para [sa] mga siklista. Pero sa sariling obserbasyon ko, dinadahan-dahan na ang pagiging bike-friendly sa iba’t ibang siyudad. Nabigyan ng pansin ang mga siklista para magkaroon pa ng mas ligtas na bike lanes (Our roads are not yet totally safe for cyclists. But in my own observation, cities are slowly becoming bike-friendly. Cyclists’ needs, such as safer bike lanes, are now being noticed),” he added.
Mountain biker Patrick Garcia added that the pandemic gave rise to the creation of more bike lanes and signages.
“Nagkaroon [din] ng mga additional na bantay sa mga kalsadang maraming nagbi-bike kasi marami pa ring motorists ang nagpapasaway na dumadaan sa bike lanes or pumaparada sa bike lanes (There are now more marshals patrolling on the roads because there are still a lot of motorists who pass through bike lanes or park on bike lanes),” Garcia added.
What it takes for the Philippines to be a ‘biker-friendly’ country?
Latrell Del Rosario, who started biking for health reasons, underscored the importance of bike lanes. He added that putting more bike stalls and poles would also encourage more people, especially those who need to go to work but do not have the means to buy a car, to bike.
“Magbigay sila ng priority sa bike lanes. Kasi ngayon may bike lanes nga pero minsan sobrang nipis, minsan naman kasama ng sidewalk so hindi rin safe kasi umiiwas kami sa tao. Minsan may bike lanes nga, ginagawa namang parkingan (They should give priority to bike lanes. Because there are bike lanes that are sometimes too thin, sometimes along the sidewalk which is not safe because we avoid people. Sometimes there are bike lanes that are being used as parking spaces),” Del Rosario lamented.
“Naniniwala ko na kaming mga cyclist dapat sumusunod din kami sa batas trapiko. So I think para maging biker-friendly, mag-set din sila ng rules sa mga biker para may susundin din sila (I believe that we should also follow the traffic law. So I think for the Philippines to be a bike-friendly country, there should also be a set of rules for bikers),” he added.
While there is still much work to be done regarding road safety for cyclists, Gonzales said cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists should learn how to share the road properly with each other first.
“Sana lahat, pedestrians man o motorista o siklista, marunong mag-share ng kalsada. Kasi kahit maging maayos at marami yung bike lanes, kung di naman lahat aware bakit may bike lanes/bike signals, hindi rin magiging biker-friendly yung lugar (Hopefully everyone, whether pedestrians or motorists, or cyclists, knows how to share the road. Because even if there are many bike lands but many are not aware why there are bike lanes or bike signals, cities will still not be considered biker-friendly),” she stressed.
Ret, on the other hand, pressed for safer bike lanes, bike racks, and a ticketing system for cyclists.
“Tulad sa mga motorista para less nakawan at peace of mind na rin para sa mga siklista (Like the one motorists have to lessen robbery and to give cyclists peace of mind),” he added.
For Garcia, he hopes more breakdown stalls or emergency stops dedicated to cyclists will also be installed along the roads so there are areas cyclists can safely stay at during an emergency.