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Makati defers conversion of bike lanes after furor

Makati defers conversion of bike lanes after furor

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By Jane Bautista

Cyclists and transport advocates welcomed the decision of Makati City authorities to defer the conversion of the Ayala Avenue bike lanes into shared lanes or “sharrows,” following objections from various groups.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the Make It Safer Makati coalition said “official representatives from Ayala have reached out to us to say they will be deferring any changes to the Ayala Avenue Bike Lanes until they have collected feedback and engaged in a dialogue with the biking community to exchange ideas and best practices.”

Representatives of the Makati City local government, Ayala Land Inc. and Makati Commercial Estate Association Inc., earlier issued an advisory saying “the Biking Community is an important part of the commuters we serve and we value their sentiments. We have noted all constructive comments regarding the conversion of Ayala Avenue bike lanes, particularly those that are related to safety.”

“We agree that the safety of all road users should be given utmost importance. As such, we will enhance measures to further protect bikers. To give us ample time to implement these enhancements, the conversion of bike lanes will be deferred to March 6, 2023,” they said in a post on their Facebook page, “Make It Makati.”

Better lanes

Cyclists on Sunday staged a protest activity opposing the conversion, calling it a “massive step backward” that could endanger both bikers and motorists.

“The removal of what used to be the gold standard for protected bike lane width has dashed the hopes of many road users for safer streets in our cities,” they said in a joint statement, which as of Wednesday had gained the support of 42 organizations and 216 individuals.

Shared lanes or sharrows are marked by road signs showing a bicycle under two wide arrows, indicating that the space can be used both by bikers and motorists.

“This initiative is being done to better serve the commuting public and in preparation for the provision of more and bigger transit sheds along Ayala Avenue,” Make It Makati said in a Feb. 10 post.

But cyclists, scooters, active mobility users and delivery riders reiterated their need for wider, protected lanes, citing cases of injuries and deaths caused by the lack of well-maintained infrastructure.

“We feel we have been neglected for so long even when, according to the [Social Weather Stations survey], we outnumber car-owning households four to one,” they said.

‘Death traps’

Data from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) showed that 130 people died and 6,405 were injured from 2017 to 2021 while biking in Metro Manila.

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The Move as One Coalition said Metro Manila streets had become “death traps” for bikers, and that for the past five years an average of 26 people on bicycles had died and 1,281 had suffered injuries annually.

Jilbrix Kyle Magno, a college senior and member of biking group Tiklop Society Philippines, said that in his four years of commuting by bike, he frequently encountered aggressive drivers.

In November, he recalled, he was even assaulted by a tricycle driver whom he had called out for going counterflow.

“That was so unjust, but the authorities didn’t do anything about it,” Magno said during Sunday’s protest action held at Makati Freedom Park.

Proper spacing

In their statement, the transport advocates maintained that “sharrows will not keep us safer. There are design options to keep all of us safe and keep public transport moving without taking space away from our most vulnerable road users.”

They also called on the Department of Transportation and the MMDA to immediately implement active transportation projects, and on the Department of Public Works and Highways to comply with the required allocation of at least 50 percent of road space for public transport, pedestrians and bicycles. INQ