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As more areas in the country begin easing quarantine restrictions, the “new normal” dictates that, in the absence of a cure or vaccine to CoViD-19, physical distancing among individuals must still be followed in order to minimize the risk of exposure to the deadly virus. However, this can be difficult to practice in traditional forms of public transports such as buses, trains, trikes and jeepneys.

For those who can afford private vehicles, this won’t be much of a problem. But for those who depend on mass transport systems, the continuing restrictions may force them to resort to buy either a motorized (or electrified) two-wheeler, or a bicycle.

The Department of Transportation has anticipated that more people would use more motorized and non-motorized bikes when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) gets replaced by the general community quarantine (GCQ) in the National Capital Region and in other highly urbanized centers. Recently, it had promoted non-motorized transport (NMT) and personal mobility devices (PMD) as ideal travel modes for social distancing, and further urged the Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to encourage LGUs to provide the necessary facilities—such as dedicated bike lanes or bike-only roads—to enable NMTs and PMDs in their respective areas.

There are existing bike lanes and networks in select portions of Pasig, Quezon City, Taguig, Marikina, Pampanga, Manila, and Iloilo, to name a few.

Last April 7, the Pasig City Transportation Department announced on Twitter that through Executive Order 18 series of 2020, biking is an essential mode of transportation in the city.

Cycling advocate Mia C. Bunao, who heads the advocacy group Kalyetista told Inquirer Motoring Tuesday (May 12) that the MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) Bikelanes Program office helped set up the temporary bollards for the new pop-up bike lanes of Pasig City.

Kalyetista promotes a bicycle culture by encouraging kindness among road users and creating awareness for road safety. The group also gives free reflectorized vests and helmets to riders, and manages the blog spot Explore Your City on a Bicycle-Philippines.

Inquirer Motoring could not reach the MMDA Bikelanes Program Office for comment.

200-km bikeways plan

“In 2009, it was envisioned that cities implement the 200-km bikeways plan of the MMDA,” said Bunao.

Bunao said that it was the late MMDA General Manager Robert Nacianceno who presented the bike lanes in a forum that Bunao organized for Clean Air Asia and the Firefly Brigade in 2009.

“I believe this bikeways plan can be tweaked for the new normal or the better normal, when we now focus on the safety of vulnerable road users as the baseline for kind and safer roads for all” stressed Bunao.

It was in August of 2005, in the midst of soaring oil prices, that the MMDA began mapping out a network of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways.

“The volume of cars is more now but, maybe, reducing vehicle volume to the level of 10 years ago (via work-from-home and other creative schemes) can be a baseline for co-existence with bicycle lanes for the new normal. Traffic calming, volume reduction and driver/cyclist education are key to safer roads. Contrary to popular belief, vehicles and bicycles can co-exist in our roads” said Bunao.

In a May 3 blog entry, Kalyetista said that it was looking forward for the following suggestions to find their way to the national government’s bike programs:

o Immediately install bicycle racks in all public spaces and government offices;

o Mandate all commercial and business establishments to provide parking spaces;

o Establish safe walk-and-bike pathways to schools;

o Bike patrols a key mobility feature for barangays;

o Designate temporary or pop-up bicycle lanes in all major thoroughfares;

o Start an inter-city bicycle network coalition comprised of city planners, engineers and civil society;

o Tesda must create a bicycle mechanics course;

o Bicycle shops must be declared an essential business;

o Bicycle lanes networks must be expanded;

o Bicycle lanes users must be protected from motorists;

o All state universities must establish a bike-share program;

o Guidelines on how to address motorist-bicyclist collisions.

Bunao encouraged other cycling groups and transport advocates to let their voices be heard in the shaping of a new transport landscape in the cities.