Better By Bike - Philippine National Bicycle Day
Today is National Bicycle Day. And today, we assert that it is better by bike.
Better by bike, is a statement that has been echoing across the world, especially this past year and a half. The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to rethink how we live and get around cities. Proper ventilation became our top concern as a way to avoid contracting the virus. As a result, most modes of urban public transport such as taxis, buses and trains were shut down. People switched to one mode that ensured proper ventilation: cycling.
Many people started riding bikes because it allows you to travel in an outdoor environment with plenty of ventilation. Around the Philippine cities, pop-up bike lanes appeared because the growing cycling public demanded recognition and protection on the road. We started seeing more and more people on bikes. When restrictions first started to ease up the number of riders on popular cycling routes soared. The old weekend crowd became the new normal weekday crowd. And on weekends, well let’s just say it becomes a street party.
To be honest, Philippine government actions to promote active transport and protect cyclists during the COVID-19 pandemic were half-assed, at best. However, aside from the need to travel, continued restriction on other forms of recreation and sport pushed many people into riding bikes. Leading to a Filipino bike boom.
Basketball was restricted in 2020 because it is a close contact sport. Other popular sports such as volleyball, football and use of gyms were also restricted. Aside from sports, usual social gatherings at restaurants, bars, clubs or even at homes were also restricted because of the high risk of contracting COVID-19.
And riding bikes was able to fulfill the two human needs: exercise and social interactions, in one outdoor activity. Morning coffee rides around cities became the usual kind of ride. This led small coffee shops popping up almost everywhere, from quiet alleyways to open car trunks along popular bike routes.
More and more people are able to experience the world in a more direct way than if they were sitting in a car. As Ernest Hemingway said, “It is by bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best.” Riding a bike lets you feel every slope on or off the road. It puts you out there in the city or in nature. This pandemic forced many to separate, but now bikes allow people to build connections that would not have been possible before the pandemic.
And this is why we believe that bikes make life better. It connects us with people and places in ways private cars can never do. A landscape built to prioritize private vehicle use only divided us from communities and experiences that improve quality of life. Road widenings have cut down countless trees. And these wide roads only incentivize high speeds which increase the risk for crashes, injuries and death. Overspeeding is the top cause of road deaths in the Philippines. In Metro Manila alone for 2020, there were 14,465 injuries and 337 road fatalities. Would you really want to live in a place where everyday someone dies just because they were trying to get somewhere?
And more than car crashes, fossil fuel combustion from car engines is one of the heaviest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. And this type of pollution has been shown to increase risks of contracting respiratory illnesses in cities.
It is only fitting that the Philippine National Bike Day is one week after the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims; too many lives have been lost as a result of car centrism and poor urban development and riding bikes is one way we can stop the carnage. More cyclists on the road is better for everyone because:
Better traffic flow - Cars require a lot of road space and are less efficient in moving more people, especially in cities. On the other hand, buses, trains and bikes can move more people with even less road space. If we can reduce space for private vehicles and encourage more people to use public transportation and bikes, there will be more road space for everyone.
This is also known as Schrodinger’s Road Space, where taking away space from private cars gives more space for everyone on the road. And the resulting extra space can be turned into bike lanes, wider sidewalks and pocket parks. Narrower roads also force drivers to slow down, reducing the risk of vehicular injuries and fatalities.
Safety and Encouragement - There is safety in numbers, especially for cyclists. Riding in a group feels much safer than riding alone on the open road. And this in turn, encourages more people to start riding a bike.
- Cleaner Air - Lesser carbon emissions and resulting air pollution.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed major flaws in Filipino cities. Now that we are aware of these flaws, we have the chance to fix them. And these three benefits of bikes listed above will make our cities and communities much more livable as we ease out of this pandemic.
Now that the 2022 Philippine General Election is coming, we encourage you to vote for officials who will push for the welfare of cyclists, commuters and of our environment. Policies written by government officials shape our physical environment. As this pandemic has shown, incompetence kills. And decades of incompent governance with our cities have resulted in car-centric infrastructure and policies that have killed so much more.
If we want better cities, we need to fight for it. And it’ll be a huge help for us if we have people in power who share our vision for a sustainable future. The government assigned today as National Bicycle Day. And we should hold them accountable.
Looking to start riding further? Check out Ciclo's Bike Route Guides:
- Bike Routes Near Metro Manila - Nuvali
- Bike Routes Near Metro Manila - Sierra Madre
- Laguna Loop Cycling Route Guide
- Cordilleras Bike Route Guide - Halsema Highway from Baguio City
- Cycling Trip: Quezon City to San Juan La Union
- Five Coffee Ride Destinations Outside Metro Manila – Ciclo
- Cycling Trip: Quezon City to Baler, Aurora
- Cycling Trip to Lake Caliraya, Laguna
- Cycling Aurora's Pacific Coast
- Five Romantic Bike Routes in the Philippine