Bicycle imports jumped by 112 percent in 2020 to 2.1 million units from 1 million units in 2019, as more people chose cycling as the new mode of transportation amid the pandemic which slowed the land transport sector by more than 30 percent.
The National Economic and Development Authority said the figures were based on the report of the Bureau of Customs. NEDA said promoting cycling and building protected bike lanes could augment public transportation and help people safely get to work during the pandemic.
“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,” said acting Economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua during the Moving As One: Public Private Cooperation on Active Mobility forum on March 5, 2021.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the land transport sector contracted 30.7 percent in 2020, or more than three times worse than the gross domestic product decline of 9.5 percent.
Chua said that because of its large economic linkages, a sharp contraction in transportation could significantly bring down the rest of the economy. He said the reduced vehicle capacities 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.
“As we learn to live with the virus, improving access to mobility in the country is crucial in jump-starting the economy. In the Greater Manila area, only 12.5 percent of households own private cars. Meanwhile, 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.
Moreover, based on the 2020 data from Social Weather Stations and Department of Health, 87 percent of Filipinos agree that roads in cities would be better if public transportation, bikes, and pedestrians were prioritized.
“NEDA supports the initiatives of the Department of Health, 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 said.
Chua said 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,” he said said.
He said that aside from these, companies could also explore provision of incentives and subsidies for cycling, similar to how some businesses provide car plans or shuttle services to employees.
The forum was organized by the DOH, the Makati Business Club and the Move As One Coalition.