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Bike lanes are for bicyclists. Period

Bike lanes are for bicyclists. Period

Tessa R. Salazar

The most developed and progressive societies don’t flood their roads with cars. Mobility—especially the sustainable and inclusive one—must always have an efficient mass transport system at its core, then propped up by people-centric and environment-friendly modes of travel (conducive to bicycles, walking, and other forms of personal transport). Green spaces must be preserved or developed, even in the busiest urban settings.

The harsh reality is far from this ideal. Our roads—especially in the cities—are filled with cars. Yet, only about 6 percent of Filipino households own cars. The vast majority of Filipinos are non-car owners who depend on public transport and other modes of travel to get around.

This disproportionate picture of road usage was brought up by Robert Siy Jr, co-convenor of transport advocacy group Move As One Coalition, during yesterday’s stakeholders meeting at the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) New Building in Pasig.

The meeting tackled, among other issues, the looming plan to allow motorcycles to use the bicycle lanes along the entire length of Metro Manila’s busiest road, the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). Siy and his group contend that bikes and motorbikes cannot share the bike lane due to safety, weight and speed.

Cycling advocate Mia “Kalyetista” Bunao, who was at yesterday’s meeting, said, “The 1.31.6m bike lanes (less than the 2.44m standard) can no longer be shared. It goes against the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan.”

She reasoned: “Do motorcycles and bicycles share the same weight category? No. That’s 100 to 1000 pounds versus 15 to 60 pounds; Do motorcycles and bicycles share the same average speed? No. Will there be less serious road crashes between motorcycles and bicycles when the lane is shared? No. Will bike lane sharing ascribe to the basic principles of the recently launched Philippine Road Safety Action Plan? No. Will bike lane sharing be kind to differently abled people on bicycles or on PMDs (personal mobility devices such as electric kick-scooters)? No. Will lane sharing be safer for the youth on bicycles? No. Will lane sharing keep women on bicycles safe? No. Will lane sharing encourage more women, youth and elderly, to ride their bicycles? No.”

Bunao added: “Bicycle lanes are disappearing in some parts of the Metro already. Sharing the lane with motorized vehicles will not help build our bicycle culture, (a culture) we should all aspire for if we are going to make the Active Mobility Program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) work.”

Siy said that the cycling community, and the culture, is growing steadily. “Already, millions of Filipinos are using bicycles every day. This is borne out in different surveys of social weather stations. Today, the number of households with bicycles outnumber the number of households with cars by a factor of 4 to 1.”

Jobert Bolanos, chair of the Motorcycle Rights Organization, said: “The problem (on the road) is a shared problem. Not just bicycles, cars and public transport. The biggest problem is discipline. We are of the belief that where one’s right ends, the other’s begins. Our call is that while we respect road sharing, we also should recognize the need to designate lanes used solely for motorized and public utility vehicles, and a lane used solely by cyclists and other non-motorized transport. Let’s focus on safety and protecting lives.”

Another motorcycle advocate, Atoy Sta. Cruz, director for Administration of the Motorcycle Philippines Federation, shared: “When bicycle lanes were started, we were consulted by the DOTr. We told them, if you’re going to designate a lane for bicycles, it should be for bicycles only. Is there anywhere in the world where motorcycles and bicycles share one lane? None. Bicycle lanes are exclusively for bicyclists. Why? Because of safety.”

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Siy said: “During the pandemic, there was a tremendous increase in the purchase of bicycles. Today, so many people rely on bicycles because of the shortage of public transport. We need to find a way to protect our cyclists. They are vulnerable road users. It’s the same principle with pedestrians. The sidewalk provides pedestrians a safe pathway so that they will not mix in the same space with motor vehicles. Like sidewalks, bike lanes must not disappear.”

Siy concluded, “Our appeal to the MMDA is to develop genuine road sharing. When MMDA established an exclusive lane for buses along EDSA, the bus route became more efficient. We need to apply the same principle here. If a lane is dedicated to bicycles, walking or public transport or even motorcycles, they will move more people than a lane devoted for mixed traffic. This, in the long run, is the best solution for our road congestion.”

Bunao added that the problem of enforcement of the bike lanes persists. MMDA Chair Romando Artes laments that there are only 200 patrollers assigned to the bike lane program. “How do we spread out 200 (along Metro Manila’s numerous bike lanes)? It’s a cat-and-mouse situation. If motorists see enforcers, they stay away from bike lanes, but if no law enforcers (are in sight), they use the bike lanes.”

“Let us promote pakikipagkapwa (camaraderie) on the road. We hope that motorcycles also get their lanes, but not at the expense of the bicycle lanes,” Bunao quipped.