“We got used to the road hierarchy of “Car is king” and anything that’s not a car is considered a second-class transport.”

Filipinos suffer everyday in commuting because of the traffic congestion in Metro Manila. Philippines is ranked the most congested city out of all 278 cities in developing Asia.

Vehicles are crammed into one main road, making highways into parking lots. Pollution fills the air, damaging the environment and the traffic takes away people’s precious time with their families. Everyday people use UVs, jeeps, trains and buses to get to work. People rush to squeeze into whatever space they can inside public vehicles, as trains break down during rush hours.

To stray away from the stress of public transportation, some choose instead to ride their bicycles, scooters, or even walk. However, the city of Metro Manila isn’t built to provide for these types of personal transportation.

In 2015, 26 bike riders died because of road crashes and at least 962 people were injured. There are numerous reports of fatalities and injuries because of the lack of cycling lanes around Metro Manila.

The Philippines is not cycle friendly

27-year-old, self-employed, Joshua Maligaya used to ride his bicycle as a form of transportation. He stopped riding his bike because of the traffic congestion and inaccessible bike lanes as he explains how those lanes tend to be ignored by motorists, making it unsafe.

Rush hour lines for buses and trains reach ridiculous magnitudes, some lines reaching multiple streets from the point of boarding making daily commutes take 2-3 times longer than they should be,” he says.

He believes that if bike lanes were enforced and maintained, and businesses will install bike racks for their employees, then there’s a good chance more people would opt to bike to and from work everyday.

25-year-old, Kristian Guevera a Technopreneur who developed “Bisikleta Spaces,” believes that roads were designed to only accommodate cars, citing the “Car is King” mentality.

“We got used to the road hierarchy of “Car is king” and anything that’s not a car is considered a second-class transport,” he told OffCrowd. “Our roads aren’t built for micro-mobility so cyclists tend to pass by in the middle lane if the sides aren’t passable. It’s not just cyclists but pedestrians as well.”

Guevara adds that the community needs to change their way of thinking towards cycling in the Philippines, and that the government should provide more initiatives that increase pedestrian and cyclist safety to provide for better mobility.

“The common impression is “cycling is dangerous”. In fact, anything can be dangerous when used improperly. There are already existing movements that encourage people to cycle so the only thing left is support,” he said.

“There should be laws that protect pedestrians and cyclists, in which they should be given more consideration when on the road, as well as adding decent bicycle parking on most/all establishments.”

Cycling Around The World

Around the world people can use their bicycles without the fear many Filipinos have. This is mostly because of excellent urban planning to provide proper bike lanes.

Singapore is on the road to establishing a “National Cycling Plan.” They want to use a more human-centric approach, which promotes cycling and walking. The first neighbourhood in Singapore to have a cycling path network is Tampine. There are paths that connects residents to nearby amenities, making it convenient to lessen the use of cars.

Copenhagen has already started promoting the use of bicycles with their city-wide network of bicycle lanes. They have also allowed commuters to bring their bikes on trains, as well as built pavements that cross side lanes.

Promoting more cyclists can not only reduce the traffic but also makes it safer for everyone. In England, Wales and Scotland the crashes decreased by 29%, because of the increase of cyclists.

Japan and Thailand rank second and third in terms of bike ownership. Then in China 17 percent own cars, while 65 percent own bikes. China has a bike-sharing scheme, with about 170 bike sharing systems. Taiwan believes that riding bikes can be a “major sustainability” driver and are considered to be “Asia’s cycling hub.”

In a survey from Pew Research, they surveyed 44 countries around the world. They found that Germany, Japan (78%), Thailand (74%), and Poland (70%) have the most bike owners. Then in Vietnam, Chile, China, and Indonesia, two-thirds of the residents own bicycles. The countries with the lowest bicycle ownerships are Lebanon and Jordan.

From the survey we can see that it is more common for countries in Asia, Europe and the U.S. Bicycle ownership is more common in advanced economies than in emerging markets. It can help contribute to a sound environment, social cohesion and economic development.

What are we doing?

The Philippines is stepping up to join other cities around the world in encouraging more people to use their bike. An event was held by PRU LIFE to promote cycling to help decongest the roads and for a healthier lifestyle for everyone.

Last year in 2018, “a group of clean air advocates” led bike riders from Baguio to Tacloban. They rode their bikes from Baguio to MetroManila, Bicol region and then crossed over to Eastern Visayas. They did this to promote safety for  bikers and to help people observe traffic rules. The group worked with the government to enforce road safety laws and bicycle lanes.

According to the president of the Firefly Brigade, Jack Yabut, he decided to do a “trans-Philippine” or “trans-country ride connecting all the major island and all the major cities and towns and provinces and region through biking.”

Guevara’s app, “Bisikleta” Spaces”, which he developed in 72-hours encourages and educates more cyclist like him around Metro Manila and the rest of the Philippines.

“The goal is to help cyclists around the Philippines to look for bike parking spaces. One of the struggles when cycling is the certainty of where to leave your bike,” he said.

They now don’t have to worry about where they can leave their bikes because the app shows them the best place to leave their bikes and available slots. “There are even photos, reviews, parking fees, open-close times, and informs users if slots are shaded.”

Not only does the Philippine have groups or organizations doing their part in promoting cycling, The government has a bill which recognizes cycling as a “cheap alternative means of transportation and encourages friendly modes of transportation.”

This bill is known as the “Bicycle Act of 2016.” It gives rights to build the proper infrastructure for the safety of cyclists and to ensure that cyclists are also following their rights, duties and obligations at all times. However, the knowledge of this bill’s existence needs to reach those of higher power to enact upon its laws.

Urbanization is meant to be met with proper mobilization, as seen in data distributed by countries that have implemented proper efforts to reduce congestion as well as CO2 emissions. What else should be done to drive the city into this structure?

OffCrowd is a platform to report working solutions as well as discuss concepts and ideas to nourish solutions among all individuals.
Let us know the groups or individuals already working towards these, let us know existing policies if we’ve missed any, and discuss in the comments.

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