“‘Going green’ in terms of transportation will benefit commuters on many levels, including relieving the pressure of high fuel prices and easing the air pollution problem”
With the traffic problem nowhere near solved, and a transportation crisis linked to the high cost of petroleum products exacerbated by the weakest peso to dollar rate in history (which hit one centavo shy of Php57 to $1 as of yesterday), what’s the government doing to get public transportation solutions on track?
One idea that has been in the throes of development — or at the very least wishful thinking — for years is the creation of a bike riding culture in the Philippines.
Some strides have been made toward creating dedicated bike lanes in the PH, particularly under the last administration. Then Public Works Sec. Mark Villar issued a policy prescribing the standard design of bike lanes along national highways.
To help protect cyclists, the Land Transportation Office issued Memorandum Circular 2021-2267 in May 2021, a list of guidelines for motorists.
The first guideline forbids motor vehicles from crossing or parking on bicycle and pedestrian lanes. However, many violations of this rule related to the encroachment of cars and motorcycles onto bike lanes make bike riders feel unsafe.
One lady biker’s story
There is also the problem of crimes against bikers.
Just last month, a friend who works in the CCP area, and bikes to and from her home in Cavite, had her mobile phone snatched when she stopped at a streetlight to use her phone. This frightened her so badly that she slept at her office that night.
However, she is still biking and hasn’t given up on it despite the risk because the alternative — public transportation situation on jeepneys, buses, and the like — is horrendous on a daily basis.
She started commute biking in the first place when she found it difficult to get rides at PITX.
Sometimes she would get home in the wee hours of the morning, sleep a few hours, and wake up early again for the slog to work. When she bikes, though, it takes her less than two hours to go the distance, and she looks very fit and healthy now.
Why can’t the government – and I am speaking of past administrations over decades in addition to the current one – get its act together on this fairly simple matter?
If we need a benchmarking and best practices model, there’s always The Netherlands, which many consider to be the premier biking country of the world.
They have tons of information on the subject. For one, check out the website run by nonprofit group Dutch Cycling Embassy that exists for the purpose of sharing information about the Dutch bike culture with the rest of the world.
Dutch infrastructure supports biking to a great extent, with dedicated bike lanes that are so safe parents feel secure enough to take their babies and toddlers on ‘bakfeitsen,’ cargo bikes with a huge holdall in between the wheels.
Bicycle Act of 2022
This year, Villar, now a senator, filed the Bicycle Act of 2022, that provides for the creation of a Local Bikeway Office (LBO) to be supervised by city and municipal engineering offices.
A similar bill – the Bicycle Act of 2020 – was filed around December of that year by Mark Villar’s sister Camille Villar-Genuino as Las Piñas representative. That law contains many of the same provisions in yet another previous iteration filed by their father Manny Villar in 2011 when he was a senator.
The LBO will manage the “construction and maintenance of a bikeway network” that will incorporate safety features into its design to protect cyclists.
It also enumerates many rights, responsibilities, and obligations of cyclists, including adhering to the proper speed, wearing a helmet with chin strap at all times, no riding on crosswalks or sidewalks, and the like.
This set of rules right off the bat riled some cyclists who commented: come up with the actual bikeways first before telling cyclists what to do and not to do!
It’s interesting to see how this particularly political family has not given up on getting their Bike Act passed. In any case, if passed it would be a leap forward for the biking community as it gives commuters a healthier and cheaper option for going places.
However, I suggest checking in with the cycling community again via a consultation or focus group discussion regarding the inclusion of some provisions which some may find objectionable or unnecessary.
Let the goal be the creation and implementation of a biking environment similar to that of The Netherlands. “Going green” in terms of transportation will benefit commuters on many levels, including relieving the pressure of high fuel prices and easing the air pollution problem.
What’s needed to get this done sooner rather than later is political will, not only at the lawmaker level but also at the local government level, as LGUs will be responsible for creating and maintaining proper bikeways in their areas.
*** FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO