By Mariejo S. Ramos
The cities of San Juan, Pasig, Caloocan, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Quezon City and Taguig have been nominated for the first-ever Mobility Awards, which seeks to recognize role models in instituting bike-friendly policies in Metro Manila.
Also up for the same honors are 10 workplaces and 30 commercial establishments that, just like the local governments, encourage biking and thus allows their employees to cope with limited modes of transportation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Through the Mobility Awards, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), MNL Moves, The Climate Reality Project Philippines and 350 Pilipinas seek to recognize the top three cities, workplaces and commercial establishments in the metropolis that have “stepped up to the plate” in addressing the needs of commuters coming from 88 percent of households that don’t have their own vehicles.
They are the majority that should be prioritized in cities, according to urban planner and MNL Moves founder Aldrin Pelicano.
“Promoting cycling is certainly not the only solution, but protecting the growing number of cyclists and encouraging others to bike is a real step in the right direction,” Pelicano said.
Challenge to ‘laggards’
Aside from recognizing the most bike-friendly cities and businesses in Metro Manila, the Mobility Awards also wants to challenge the “laggards” to respond to commuters’ needs, said ICSC associate for program development Maria Golda Hilario.
“Because of the health restrictions posed by the pandemic, cycling and walking are gaining national prominence as safe, reliable, cost-effective and low carbon transport strategies,” she said.
In June alone, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority counted over 100,000 bikers passing through the six major intersections on Edsa, or an average of 4,000 cyclists daily.
But because the national capital is “still a long way from providing optimal conditions” for people who walk or bike, Hilario said it is crucial to recognize the early actions from local governments and businesses that responded to the growing number of cyclists and pedestrians amid the pandemic.
“At the same time, this poses a challenge to those who need to keep up—we call them laggards—and we want to challenge them that they need to do the same and do more,” she added.
Call for nominations
The organizers launched the Mobility Awards during World Car Free Day on Sept. 22, when several groups went on a leisurely 10-15 kilometers-per-hour bike tour on Edsa, to promote cycling.
For the first leg of the contest, which will run until Oct. 22, the organizers called for nominations among local governments, employers and commercial establishments that launched initiatives for cycling, via the website mobilityawards.ph. Winners will be awarded on Oct. 29. Nominations will be evaluated and ranked according to three criteria: infrastructure, integration and implementation.
The first criteria will look at the presence of physical infrastructure or end-of-trip facilities dedicated to bicycle users. Does the city, workplace or commercial establishment have bike racks or storage areas, as well as water stations, changing rooms and showers for cyclists?
The judges will also look at the proper use and maintenance of these facilities, the enforcement of bicycle-friendly programs and policies, and how these programs promote safety and support the well-being of active mobility commuters.
Promoting cycling and walking, Hilario said, can reap rewards for local governments in terms of healthier citizens and extra savings for their mobility programs.
The local economy may also benefit since “shops, cafes, pharmacies, groceries, sari-sari stores can attract more customers if they are bike or pedestrian-friendly,” she added.
Active transport, or any mode of transport requiring manual or physical power such as walking and cycling, gained momentum as an alternative means of mobility when the pandemic hit the public transport sector.
But even before, Pelicano noted that progressive countries like Singapore had successfully integrated active transport in their urban planning.
Under Singapore’s Land and Transport Authority, the government has its special unit on active transport working on long stretches of protected bike lanes.
“Compared to us here, we have the Land Transportation Office, which unfortunately limits itself to cover only motorized vehicles,” Pelicano said.
In many urban cities in the Philippines like Metro Manila, most roads have been designed, built and maintained by the government to cater to people who drive motor vehicles, he added.
“People who need to travel, who need to move from point A to point B don’t really have many good options,” Pelicano said. “It deprives the commuters of dignity.”
As of Friday last week, there were already about 50 nominees, including 10 local governments—san Juan, Pasig, Caloocan, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Quezon City and Taguig.
Among the 10 nominated workplaces were Gofer, Chinabank Savings (Sen. Gil Puyat Branch, Makati), One Griffinstone Building, Acquire, Grundfos I.S. Support and Operations Centre, Sykes Shaw 500, Security Bank Corp. (Ayala Avenue, Makati), Risque Designs Marikina, The Medical City-ortigas and S&P Global Philippines.
Thirty commercial establishments were also in contention for the awards, namely 10 SM shopping malls (SM City North Edsa Annex, SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia, SM City Sucat, The Podium Ortigas, SM by the Bay, SM BF Parañaque, SM Aura Premier, S Maison and SM Cubao);
Three Ayala malls (Ayala Malls Circuit Makati, Ayala Uptown Mall in Taguig, and UP Town Center in Katipunan); and two Robinsons malls: Robinson’s Galleria Ortigas and Forum Robinsons (Mandaluyong).
Five other malls were also listed: Gateway Araneta City, Greenhills Ortigas, Eton Centris, Fishermall in Quezon Avenue and Ortigas East; and three Decathlon branches in Alabang, Pasig and Tiendesitas.
The rest of the nominees were University of Santo Tomas, Bonifacio Technology Center in Taguig City, 711 United Nations Avenue, UCC Park Café in Ayala Avenue in Makati, Mercury Drugstore Malanday, Pan de Amerikana Katipunan Extension, and Burger King in Frontera Verde.