Pedaling Into The New Normal: Bikes Take A Slow But Expanding Route To PH

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MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the door to a cycling boom across the world.

In 2020, the boom was felt in the Philippines.

A study by e-commerce aggregator iPrice Group showed growing interest in bicycles from Filipinos.

The volume of Google searches by Filipinos for bicycles, e-bikes and electric scooters continued to increase from January to March of last year.

From 503,720 in April 2020, the number of bicycle searches among Filipinos tripled to 1,168,520 in May of the same year. It rose again to 1,477,860 in June, a month later.

“The Philippine government has severely restricted the use of public transport, which has left many drivers and public transport drivers distraught,” according to iPrice.

“Therefore, it makes sense that searches for bikes on Google this year are 163% higher than last year, as commuters have a harder time getting to work or buying essentials,” he said. he added.

The study also indicated that most Filipinos are looking for mountain bikes and road bikes. The motocross or BMX bike was the third subject of Filipino research.

Some were also exploring alternative and modern versions of bikes.

“Google’s search volume for electric bikes increased 189% in May, while electric scooters rose 151%,” the group said.

“Both vehicles are proving to be good for the environment because they do not run on gasoline, which is a huge advantage for many consumers because of its long-term benefits in terms of cost and environmental sustainability.” did he declare.

Higher demand, better sales

As interest in bicycles increased during the pandemic, vendors and distributors saw increased demand and sales in 2020.

In a Philippine Daily Inquirer article published in May 2020, Celeste Cycles, a 33-year-old bicycle distribution company with more than 500 dealers nationwide, said stocks at the time were selling faster than before the pandemic.

Pandemic forces turn to the pedal

Ram Nieves III, owner of a small shop selling surplus Japanese bikes, was also able to increase his sales of 20 bikes in a ‘good month’ before the pandemic to around 100 units by mid-April 2020 .

More stores and distributors across the country had a similar experience last year.

COVID-19 pandemic: Filipinos turn to pedal power amid transportation crisis

Road safety

Amid the emerging cycling culture among Filipinos, bicycles were seen as an alternative mode of transportation in the new normal. However, concerns about road safety and cycle paths have arisen.

In a Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll released last January, 87% of Filipinos said they prefer bicycles and public transport to be given priority over private motor vehicles on city or town roads.

87% of Filipinos want government priority over public transport, bicycles over private vehicles

According to freelance photographer and writer Lester Babiera, creator of First Bike Ride, an online community for novice cyclists, the spacious sidewalks and protected bike paths make the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

“Roads designed for pedestrians and cyclists are important. For me, they should be the priority when we are building transport infrastructure, because they are the most vulnerable road users, ”he said in an interview.

Wide sidewalks, cycle paths secure cities

In 2020, Bill 4493, or “Bisikleta Para sa Kinabukasan (Bicycles for Tomorrow)” law, was introduced to create a national cycling program and promote cycling-friendly communities nationwide.

The bill seeks to establish the appropriate infrastructure to make cycling on the country’s roads safe for everyone.

“Post-quarantine scenario, we see cycling as the primary mode of transportation for our people due to limited public transportation aimed at ensuring social distancing,” said President Lord Allan Velasco, author of the bill.

Last February, the Senate approved at third and final reading its own version of the bill to establish “safe lanes” for those who prefer to walk, cycle or use other non-motorized vehicles to reach their destination.

The bill mandates the Ministry of Transport (DOTr) and the Ministry of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in coordination with local government units (LGU), to identify and create a network of cycle paths connected to essential destinations such as workplaces, medical facilities or grocery stores, schools, banks and more.

Bill to create “safe lanes” for pedestrians and cyclists gets final green light from Senate

Last May, the House of Commons transport committee approved a consolidated bill pushing for the establishment of a network of cycle paths and slow streets in the country.

House sign approves bill creating cycle paths and slow streets

Several local government units (LGUs) have also set up and introduced cycle lanes with the aim of making roads and highways suitable for bicycles.

The Pasig City local government began adding extended cycle lanes and sidewalks as early as May of last year.

It was the first local government in April to recognize the bicycle as a necessary form of transportation by Executive Decree PCG-18 and City Council Resolution No.59, which had a substantial impact on people forced to work despite the ECQ during which all forms of public transport were banned.

Bike lanes were quickly added to the streets and roads of Manila, Quezon City, San Juan, and Parañaque City.

Bike lanes open near QC and Manila hospitals on August 26

San Juan sets up a cycle path, a track dedicated to motorcycles on Ortigas Avenue

Parañaque fast track bike, motorcycle track project

Pop-up bike lanes, however, have been banned by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

This came after Bikers United Marshalls (BUM), a biker group, erected temporary barriers to protect cyclists on Commonwealth Avenue in June 2020.

MMDA spokeswoman Céline Pialago said in a previous statement that MMDA would prosecute the group for obstruction.

She added that cycle lane protectors made from plastic bottles were unsafe and “not sufficient to keep motorcyclists safe from speeding.”

MMDA will sue and impose a fine of 1000 P.

The MMDA will later announce that it will no longer bring charges and fines against the cycling group, but maintained it will no longer tolerate pop-up cycle lanes.

MMDA says no to pop-up bike lanes

“Slow progress”

The Department of Transport (DOTr) last November secured 1.3 billion pesos to finance the installation of a network of cycle paths in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao as part of its recovery plan in the event of a pandemic.

Cycling is about to get safer: DOTr secures P1.3B to build cycle lane networks

The budget was part of the 9.5 billion peso funding allocated by Congress to DOTr under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act.

However, cycling advocates in February criticized the transportation department for its lack of urgency to create a network of protected cycle lanes in the metropolis.

Cycling supporters condemn government for not delaying construction of cycle lanes

In March, the DOTr reported that the national government had so far constructed 19% of the proposed 522.73 kilometer cycle path network.

On Tuesday, June 1, the ministry said it planned to complete the project by June 15.

According to its latest data, the DOTr said in Metro Manila, 270.23 kilometers of the target 338.53 kilometer cycle path has already been completed.

Outside the capital, 105.09 kilometers and 46.13 kilometers of cycle paths in Metro Cebu and Metro Davao have also been completed.

This means that 427.44 kilometers of the 522 kilometers of cycle paths in the three regions have already been built.

Road accidents

The need for bicycle-friendly roads has been highlighted as the number of bicycle-related accidents skyrocketed in 2020.

According to MMDA’s Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System (MMARAS), there were a total of 3,026 accidents involving bicycles, e-bikes and pedicabs last year. .

It represented 2.4% of the total number of road accidents that year.

The latest figure was nearly double the number of bicycle-related accidents in 2019, which was 1,759.

Cycling for better health

Cycling, whether for recreation, exercise or transportation, offers many health benefits.

Citing several studies, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) said cycling can help prolong life and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

The ECF added that cycling can help prevent a large number of serious and chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and osteoporosis.

Cycling also offers mental health benefits and helps reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 29% and cognitive decline by around 26%.

“Physical activity was also linked to a 17% lower chance of developing depression in a large meta-analysis of relevant studies,” the organization said.

A 2010 study by Ingrid Hendricksen, Monique Simons, Francisca Garre and Vincent Hildebrandt examined the association between commuter biking and sickness absence from work.

The results of the study showed that employees who cycle to work regularly have an average of 1.3 days less sick leave per year.

“Cycling to work is associated with less sick leave. The more people cycle to work and the longer the distance traveled, the less sick they report, ”the researchers said.

The University of Montana has attributed the following health benefits to regular cycling:

  • Burn calories and define muscle tone
  • Builds strength
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Develops endurance and endurance
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Reduces stress levels and the risk of anxiety and depression
  • Improves general mood and promotes productivity
  • Increases the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain


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