Let us be reminded once again of the value of the bicycle, the simple yet efficient means of active transport. The pandemic and its social limitations have thrust bicycles to the forefront as one of the most accessible and possibly safest way to get around the city or neighborhood.
In just over a year, we’ve seen every major city in Metro Manila and Davao rapidly work to create bicycle lanes on some of their busiest roads. In some cases, they’re protected by barriers, poles, or a concrete curb. Others are only separated from cars with a painted line. In either case, we’re also glad traffic authorities are doing the best they can to keep it exclusively for bicycles and other active transport users.
In addition to the bicycle lane itself, the government, through the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), has recently tied up with SM Malls to release a bicycle manual. The small booklet, distributed by SM Malls or downloadable from the web, contains instructions on how to fit the bicycle and person with proper safety equipment, and how to maneuvoer in busy areas or with other cars.
As laudable as these efforts are, the cycling community appears to be plagued by the same problem ailing drivers and motorcycle riders. A short drive anywhere will reveal that there are still a number of cyclists that are either unaware of the road rules or willfully disregard them. A day won’t go by where you don’t see a cyclist pedaling through a red traffic light or heading the wrong way inside or outside the bicycle lane.
Like with car and motorcycle drivers, it’s not for a lack of infrastructure. Bicycle lanes are clearly marked and there has been concerted effort to educate the cycling public about their use. Yet for one thing, it’s the way they’re marked that could be a problem.
All over the world, signs to indicate the bike paths use the universally-understood symbol of a bicycle, portrayed by its side view. Yet glance at the bicycle lane and you’ll periodically see a front view logo of the bicycle which is unique to the Philippines and which many cyclists, at first glance, will not recognize or understand.
The aforementioned handbook does teach cyclists how to navigate the road. It includes many drawings of roads with stoplights. Putting illustrations on the bicycle lanes now prevalent in major cities can add to the information. The manual can also state the need for cyclists to observe traffic lights.
Indeed there’s evident effort to promote cycling as a viable means of transportation. Yet, the bike lane’s form varies from city to city, with different dimensions, signage and markings.
It’s not too late correct these errors, but these lapses should not be left unaddressed.