What to do with the bike lanes?


James Deakin

They say be careful what you wish for, because it may come true. And for the cycling community in Metro Manila, this is exactly what happened when the government created make-shift bike lanes across various main roads within the capital region last June of 2020. At first it was a reason to rejoice, but once the traffic started to return after loosening lockdown restrictions, it didn’t take long before cyclists realized that the only thing separating them from speeding weapons of mass destruction, was either a soft rubber orange cone or an ankle height concrete divider that was as effective as an ashtray on a motorcycle — which in turn, forced the cyclists to stop (or never start) using them.

Speaking of motorcycles, they seem to be the only ones that seem to find that half lane useful. Which is yet another reason why our cyclists refuse to use the bike lanes. One might say its a case of the chicken and the egg (the motorcycles only used it because the bikers refused, while the bikers only refused because the motorcycles were already there) but regardless of how you look at it, it’s fair to say the experiment failed and we must now rethink the entire program.

Now there are three ways to tackle this.

1.) Redesign the whole thing as a proper bike lane that is truly segregated and safe and connects to a cycling network that doesn't leave cyclists running out of lanes on a busy road because there’s no more space for it.

2.) Scrap the whole idea and give that half lane back to the cars.

3.) Make it a dedicated motorcycle lane. After all, they are already gravitating towards it and using it even when told they are not allowed — which tells you that this may be the path of least resistance.

Now before I go on, let me just make it clear that I do support the need for cycling lanes and I really wish this was it. As a cyclist myself, I’ve advocated for this for over a decade now. But this is not how we want the lanes to be, and forcing us to use this is like painting on a bullet proof vest. It provides a false sense of security and one that will most likely cost us our life. So we either build it to standard or not at all.

Which brings us to the second option. Given a choice between a bike lane or claiming it back for cars, under the current design, I would give it back to the cars. Because as it stands, neither are getting good use out of it.

That leaves us with option three, which may very well be the only logical choice left. I say that because the mere fact that the motorcycles are risking fines and apprehension already by using it already tells you that this could work. Or at very least, it should be studied. Because with the volume of motorcycles on our roads now, we really should start looking at giving them their own lanes like they do in China and Taiwan.

Again, this is not a personal choice. This is just trying to salvage what is left of what may have been a good idea in intent and principle, but failed in real world application. No hate. No shade. It’s just an observation. We tried and failed. No biggie. We move on. Because that is already a victory over those who have never tried at all; but regardless of how good the intent is, we owe it to ourselves to not double down on a fundamentally flawed concept simply out of pride, but to either do it properly or repurpose it to something else. Because you know what they say about the road to hell, right? It's paved with good intentions.