Quezon City – Cycling advocates urged national and local governments to make urban transport more reliable, sustainable and inclusive during the 17th episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled “Cycling Towards a Sustainable Future: How to Use The Power of Bicycles to Mobilize Action.”

“On average, about 80 percent of road space is allocated for cars. Twenty percent, most of the time even less because there are no sidewalks, is allocated for ordinary commuters, pedestrians, and cyclists. The whopping majority are made to squeeze in a small amount of space,” said Ira Cruz of AltMobility PH, a group that advocates for better policies to improve mobility in Philippine cities.

Cruz is referring to a 2015 study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which revealed that 88 percent of Filipino households in Metro Manila do not own private cars and are affected daily by the inadequate and unresponsive transport system in the capital region caused by the government’s car-centric approach to urban planning.

“Building roads, widening existing roads, removing sidewalks, and proposing an expressway in the middle of a river [tend to] increase what we call car dependence. It makes it very difficult for people to walk, bike, and take public transportation,” Cruz added as he explained induced demand in the context of road infrastructure, which refers to the situation where increasing roadway capacity encourages more people to drive which leads to worsened traffic congestion.

Opposition to PAREx

In line with this, Cruz shared the current efforts of AltMobility PH to oppose the proposed Pasig River Expressway (PAREx), which is deemed not only to induce car demand and therefore increase congestion in the long run but also to negatively impact heritage, environment, and public health.

On September 21, the Toll Regulatory Board and San Miguel Corp. signed the supplemental toll operations agreement for PAREx. Cruz, however, said that the fight continues. “It is not too late. Join us in this appeal to say no to PAREx. Petition the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] to deny the issuance of an ECC [Environmental Compliance Certificate] and appeal to local government units to deny local permits,” he said as he encouraged viewers to also sign their petition.

Mobility Awards

Maria Golda Hilario of the international climate and energy policy group Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) agreed with Cruz on the need for government to make urban mobility systems more optimal for every Filipino commuter.

“Roads are a very glaring manifestation of commons. If we want to make democracy work, it should be by the people and that would mean it’s not only the government. It’s you and me, every citizen, because mobility is a right. In this context, the citizens have a big role to play. It is in this context that we organized the Mobility Awards,” Hilario said.

The Mobility Awards is a platform organized by ICSC, Climate Reality Philippines, MNL Moves, 350.org Pilipinas, and Pinay Bike Commuter Community to recognize acts of leadership to promote cycling as a reliable, efficient, and sustainable mode of transport.

According to Hilario, anyone could nominate the Most Bike-Friendly Cities, Workplaces, and Establishments in the country through bit.ly/MAnomination until November 05, 2021. This round will exclude cities, workplaces, and establishments in Metro Manila because they were already covered by the inaugural run of Mobility Awards last year.

Nominees will be evaluated and ranked according to the 5 I’s that are consistent in making great places for bicycling: (1) infrastructure (presence of physical infrastructure or end-of-trip facilities dedicated to bicycle users; (2) integration (programs, policies, and plans that enable cycling, promote safety, and support the well-being of active mobility commuters); (3) implementation (rollout of and policies that maintain the safety and well-being of cyclists); (4) innovation (creative solutions and approaches solutions that promote active cycling and walking); and (5) inclusivity (extent of how accessible the bike-friendly infrastructure and programs are to inexperienced cyclists, persons with disabilities, children, women, and the elderly).

Cycling for disaster response, women empowerment, and other social actions

Aside from efforts to empower more Filipinos to take cycling as a mobility option, the episode also featured initiatives to frame cycling as a tool for disaster response, women empowerment, and heritage conservation.

Myles Delfin of Bike Scouts Philippines shared how their group has been providing volunteer bicycle messenger service for disaster-stricken communities. Our members provide access to communication, as well as supplies, during disasters,” he said, noting that they are developing a social platform and disaster reporting app.

Jaramia Amarnani of Pinay Bike Commuter Community, meanwhile, shared the efforts of her group to provide a safe space for practicing and aspiring women cyclists to exchange tips and share their experiences on cycling as their mode of mobility.

“Biking has always been a gendered activity. It has always been biased toward one gender. For so many years, statistics showed that more men cycle than women. And this is not unique to the Philippines. It is happening all over the world. Despite this, very few ask the question why. It’s because we do not feel safe,” Amarnani said. “We need a safe bicycle infrastructure that has us in mind front and center,” she added.

Roy Maceda of BeSeekLeta for EveryJuan, on the other hand, invited viewers to join their mission to provide bicycles to marginalized, healthcare, and heritage sectors. He explained that they collect spare bike parts from citizens to refurbish and assemble them into bicycles that they provide to recipients for free. On top of that, they also educate bikers on road safety and awareness.

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