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Sharing the road together

Sharing the road together

Botchi Santos

The past weekend saw the two-wheeled bicycle community go up in arms over the removal of dedicated bicycle lanes in Bonifacio Global City and Makati City, being replaced instead with shared lanes for both PUVs and bicycles. While many might think that bicycles are now a minority in the daily commute composed of PUV’s and private passenger cars, the numbers might be surprising for most.

The Metro Manila Development Authority says that the total number of cars that ply EDSA alone (the busiest thoroughfare in the Metropolis) is over 400,000 cars per day, (an estimated 440,000 with face-to-face classes resumption) while a recent study that the MMDA undertook in 2021 saw 77,484 bicyclists on EDSA, counted in just nine intersections. This doesn’t include other busy intersections or sections on EDSA where counting was not made, and crucially, does not include other inner city roads in the metropolis. That accounts for nearly 18% of the total number of vehicles on EDSA. Isn’t that an amount sizeable enough for both the local and national government to give attention to?

To put things in even greater perspective, an estimated 2 million bicycles a year were imported during the pandemic years, not counting locally-manufactured bicycles. While the numbers may have gone down significantly, that’s still worlds apart from the 425,000-plus cars the industry ever sold in 2017, its best year ever, spurned on by fears of the impending TRAIN Law which was to be implemented a year later that promised higher taxes for many vehicles. My point? The two-wheeled bicycle revolution that started during the pandemic is here to stay. With difficulty in finding affordable, reliable and consistent public transportation, an increase in fuel prices, the volatile exchange rate causing fuel prices to seesaw in price at the pumps weekly, and the general difficulty of finding affordable parking for the vast majority of the capital’s millions of workforce and students, bikes truly are a very attractive option for daily commuting.

So why are the powers-that-be seem to be taking multiple steps backwards, rather than forward, to at least providing safe and dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists? And it isn’t just for bicyclists, but for pedestrians and even PWDs, as well, with so much focus simply on cars, and private passenger cars at that. There is a need for a massive rethink of the infrastructure development in our country which will not only improve vehicular traffic, but accessibility and safety for all types of commuters.

Some concerned individuals are taking this further. These are individuals who are both bicyclists and motorists. One of them, a friend and colleague, urban planning fan, transport specialist, and road safety advocate, not to mention avid bicyclist, Anton Siy reached out to me with an urgent plea for assistance in getting the word out that both the two-wheeled bicycle community and car-riding public (be it private or PUV), along with the motorcycle, plus of course, pedestrians, all need to get along, to share the road together respectfully and harmoniously. Aside from lip-service and infrastructure, the government must enact laws to protect the rights of all, and provide for the safety of everyone, not just the mobility biggest segment, but for all sectors of mobility. Crucially, these laws must penalize those who fail to observe and respect the rights of other road users.

Here is their plea for all who ply our roads:

A Unity Statement from Motorists for Safe and Sustainable Transportation

We are a group of car owners and drivers who advocate for safer streets and for responsible car ownership in the Philippines.

We believe that:

1. Good car owners are responsible car owners. We who have the machinery also have the responsibility of operating them safely.

2. For motoring to be enjoyable, we need safer streets where motorists, cyclists, commuters, and pedestrians know their place on the road.

3. Every Filipino deserves the chance to move around their city or municipality, whether by driving or commuting, with freedom of choice, ease, and peace of mind.

We advocate for a future where:

1. Streets are safe for our children, our parents and grandparents, persons with disability (PWDs), cyclists and bikers, pedestrians, and us car drivers, alike.

2. Motoring is not forced on people out of necessity and is a transport choice freely made by people who have the option of decent public transport, biking, and/or walking.

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3. Our cities become clean, friendly, and accessible neighborhoods as a result of harmony and mutual respect between car users, commuters, pedestrians, and other street users.

We unite based on the following principles:

1. We support the opening of streets to non-car users, who comprise the majority of Filipinos. This means prioritizing public transport, protected bike lanes, and sufficient sidewalks in terms of sharing street space.

2. We support the continuous improvement of the public transportation system.

3. We recognize that we also need safer speed limits on our streets, especially in cities, to make our vision a reality.

Their plea for unity and safety is reasonable, respectful, and crucially, provides for all, not just for cars, not just for bicyclists, not just pedestrians, nor any one single sector of the mobile society, but for all. Road safety in the Philippines has a very long way to go, and it can only improve if both the government (local and national), as well as the private sector, join hands to promulgate a safer way moving forward.

I believe that the use of our roads is a privilege. We need to be responsible to use the roads in a safe and legal manner, and we need to respect the other commuters around us, regardless of where they are four-wheeled, two-wheeled, self-powered, walking on foot, and especially persons with disabilities who still need to move in our metro. Especially in this month of love, let’s all learn how to share the road peacefully, mindfully and respectfully.