Solving our traffic woes, two wheels at a time — PinoyExchange

Solving our traffic woes, two wheels at a time
Solving our traffic woes, two wheels at a time

BACKSEAT DRIVER By James Deakin (The Philippine Star) Updated February 22, 2012

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been riding my bicycle more and more to work. Sure I smell a little ripe when I arrive, but by my calculations, I’m up around 220 pesos a day just in fuel and parking – which buys a lot of deodorant and cologne.

But perhaps even more important than all the fuel savings I’ve made, I have also shed off 30 unwanted pounds and managed to keep it off. It’s a lifestyle that has seen my sugar levels stabilize, cholesterol and blood pressure normalize and given me new-founded energy to tackle things I once never thought possible.

I live exactly 10 kilometers from my office, and no matter how bad the traffic is, the commute never takes any longer than 30 minutes. In fact, there are many days when I get home a lot faster on a bicycle than had I driven.

But as much as I would love to recommend this to everyone, sadly, until the government can come up with some decent infrastructure and policies, and the public could undergo a complete reboot in their attitude towards bikers, I cannot in good conscience encourage anyone else to join me.

It’s such a shame, really, because the solution to our traffic problem relies heavily on alternative transport. You hear about the cost of building skyways, flyovers, mass rail transit systems, extra lanes – all of which contribute to pollution – when the most basic tried and proven zero emission solution sits right underneath our noses. Yet not just is there no attempt to encourage the use of bicycles, there actually seems to be a disturbing prejudice against the bike commuting community.

Aside from the fact that there are no bike lanes, or none that are properly enforced anyway, it’s the pollution as well as the general disregard that motorists have for cyclists that is the biggest deterrent. I’m not saying that this is a one way street (I have seen inconsiderate riders out there as well) but when a motorist gets cocky, it can very often be fatal to a rider, whereas it is rarely, if at all, any threat to a motorist when it’s the other way around.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times that cars will overtake you just to slam on their brake to turn in front of you. Or those that pull out of a side street, check both sides for cars, yet look straight through you like you’re invisible and drive right into your path.

The lack of concern is actually shocking. The attitude seems to be one of resentment that you don’t have to suffer the same congestion that they do. It’s as if some people get so upset to see you get ahead that they wanna pull you down a peg or two.

The sad reality that these inconsiderate selfish thugs can’t seem to process through their feeble, bigoted minds is that if they succeed, they would have only driven the cyclist to either hop back into a car, bus or jeep and take up an even bigger footprint – both environmentally and physically. Good one.

I’m not trying to cause an even bigger rift between motorists and cyclists here; to the contrary, I write this with the sincerest hope that we could respect and appreciate each other. And the only way to achieve that is by making the rules clear.

First of all, a bicycle is a vehicle. Meaning that once it is ridden on public roads, it is subject to the same road rules. That means that we cannot run red lights, stop signs and the like. We cannot ride counterflow to the traffic or make illegal turns. In return, however, we must be given the same respect as every road user. Technically speaking, we are entitled to one lane, although we will rarely (if ever) exercise that right for the sole reason that less is more. If we take up less of the road, there’s more for everybody. So go ahead, feel free to take it, but please, just don’t act like you own it.

Being a non-motorized vehicle, however, we have the unique privilege of riding on paths and sidewalks. This is a universal rule around the world, although we must give priority to pedestrians. A lot of tension comes from the lack of understanding of the rules, or what we are or are not entitled to do. And sadly, the ones who understand the rules the least are usually the ones tasked to enforce it. Like the other day, while riding through Ayala Triangle, I got chased down by their security. Strange thing is that I regularly ride through there but on that occasion, I was harassed and forced to get off and walk the bike.

Naturally I demanded to know why. Eagle One basically told me that bikes are no longer allowed to ride through the park anymore. That’s it. Final. Their prerogative, you may say, as it is private land after all. But I pointed out to him that the printed rules on their own signs clearly state that the use of non-motorized bicycles are allowed. He told me to ignore the sign because he was told verbally by his commander that it is no longer allowed.

Of course it would have been just as fast to ride around the park, but once again, it’s clarity and consistency that I’m after; imagine being told by a cop that a green light now means stop simply because he had a verbal instruction that morning from his commander.

Despite the fact that the bicycle is older than the car, there’s still this sense that we are second-class road users. And if we want to encourage more people to commute with them, we need to be clear about their rights and offer more incentives.

Just remember that one more cyclist on the road means one less vehicle. Sure you can argue that if that person catches the bus then the theory is flawed. Until you take into account that the average commuter here in the Philippines tends to catch two or three different public utility vehicles to get to work (a bus, tricycle and jeep). Each way. Even in the rare case that it’s just one, no matter which way you cut, slice or dice it, as far as congestion and pollution is concerned, there will never be a more convincing argument to support taking a car over a bike.

So the next time you see a cyclist on the road, try and not look at them as a problem but as the closest thing to a solution to your traffic woes.


  • ^
    Wrong forum. Dapat sa LAFI ito. Too many idiotic drivers on this forum.
  • Mentality of typical manila drivers is that bicycles do not have a right of way, one you get that planted on your mind you can ride defensively, always think that there is a monkey driving that heavily tinted SUV (usually this is true).

    You need to figure out the best route if you ride a bike. If you are coming from say san juan or manda area and work in makati, you can use alternative route and totally avoid EDSA. I go thru nueve de pebrero if traffic allows, or in rush hour there is another route that is less traversed.

    The biggest problems with bikes are when it rains or it gets too hot.
    Everything has its limits, otherwise use your car or commute.
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