Bicycles As A Safer Form Of Transportation During The "New Normal": Is Metro Manila Ready?
Transportation During A Pandemic
The reality is that the virus is still very much present here. As much as we want for things to return to “normal”, there’s still no vaccine nor cure to make that happen. Social distancing must still be fully enforced, and mass gatherings are to be avoided. Sadly, such conditions are hard to fulfil when taking public transportation.
With limited mass transportation in place (as mandated by the government), mobility for most has become a daily struggle. Without a private vehicle, one can only reach a few kilometres by walking, especially under the scorching heat of the sun.
The Rise Of Cycling
In the midst of COVID-19 and the lockdown, slowly, the streets have been filled with cyclists who are out and about to shop for essentials. As more and more bring out their bicycles out from their garages (or begin investing in one), riding bikes has become a promising solution to the metro's transit problem. It allows one to go great distances—as far as 10 to 15 kilometres, as well as maintain distance from other commuters. Moreover, it is a great way to help the environment as it eliminates pollution that a car or a bus may produce. And while most of us have enjoyed a sedimentary lifestyle with our work-from-home arrangements, riding a bike everyday would give our bodies the exercise it needs.
New Infrastructures Needed
To further accommodate this growing mode of transportation, there is a need for safety infrastructures to be implemented in the cities, especially along national highways where cars and buses reign supreme. It can be intimidating and scary for a beginner cyclist to pedal along EDSA beside a fast-running car. Last year alone, MMDA recorded more than 1000 bicycle-related injuries and accidents, 20 of which were fatal.
Last May, the Pasig City government began expanding their designated bike lanes, including that of Ortigas, to accommodate the bulk of cyclists in the area. Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto also plans to put in place a "high priority bicycle corridor" and add more bike racks for easier parking.
Following suit, the local government of Quezon City expressed their plans of extending their bicycle lanes to 161 kilometres from the existing 55 kilometres. Additional barriers, markers, and signages are also to be installed as part of the project.
Phase 1 of the pop-up bike lanes has also been installed in San Juan, starting N. Domingo Street, continuing along Ortigas Avenue until the corner of Connecticut Street. The bike lanes will pass through major establishments such as hospitals, San Juan City Hall, and Greenhills Shopping Centre.
A bill that champions the nationwide implementation of safer cycling lanes is also now on its way to Congress. The 'Safe Pathways Act' aims to unify all local government units as well as the Department of Transportation in building pop-up bicycle lanes and emergency pathways that are "people-oriented and pedestrian-friendly".
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The problem now is connecting these in-city bike lanes to national roads like EDSA, Commonwealth, Roxas Blvd., and more. Majority of the professionals who opted to use bicycles still have to pass through major roads to get to work. National agencies as well as the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority needs to work hand and hand to make roads a safer place for cyclists.