HAS THE RISE of fuel prices inspired even more people to take up bicycle commuting?
On all Fridays of June, a network of volunteers took to the streets of Iloilo as part of a nationwide initiative called the June Bicycle Count, which is intended to fill in the data gaps about cycling commuters across the Philippines.
Iloilo, judged as the most bike-friendly city in the country by the Mobility Awards, saw a 33 percent increase between the first counting day on June 3, and the second count on June 17.
June also saw a significant spike in pump prices, as well as a “controversial new transport route plan for public jeepneys” in Iloilo, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Whatever the reason for commuters to hop onto their bikes, a team of researchers released a study hoping to quantify the benefits of cycling in a language everyone can understand: cold, hard cash.
Bikenomics study outlines peso benefits of biking
The result was a study conducted over the last quarter of 2021, focused on Metro Manila and published as a document entitled “Bikenomics: Assessing the Value of Cycling in the Philippines.” (You can view the full report here.)
“We saw over the pandemic how more and more people had shifted to cycling as a mode of transportation,” said Cola Cobarrubias, a BS Industrial Engineering Student at the University of the Philippine Diliman, who was part of the Bikenomics research team. “It’s an integral part of our post-Covid recovery solution, most especially now that we are experiencing a global oil crisis.
She added: “We wanted to dig deep at specific numbers.”
The research team focused on four key areas: Infrastructure and Business; Health; Energy and Environment; and Community Impact.
Perhaps of greatest interest to the general public is the first section, which weighed the cost benefits of bikes, both on a macro (building a bike lane versus building an existing road) and a micro level (how much a commuter will save in terms of time when using a bike).
They even put a price tag on how much money you can save when owning a bike versus owning a car.
“Adding all of these up and comparing [motor vehicle ownership] to bike ownership, biking can save an average of P281,461.92 (EUR5,026.10) annually,” claimed the report.
In a webinar presenting the results of the study, environmental planner Keisha Mayuga added, "Take note, we computed this end of 2021, so it might be higher now with the fuel prices."
Elsewhere, the research team also said that biking generates “P0.26 worth of health cost savings for every kilometer cycled.” Extrapolating this figure further, they concluded that even if just 5 percent of total Metro Manila trips are done on bicycles, this would result in annual health cost savings of P738.3 million — the equivalent, says the report, of 246 kilometers of bike lanes.
Speaking of bike lanes, the study also claimed that building a new bike lane on an existing road would save the Philippine government around P26.8 million per kilometer, versus building a new car lane.
“Considering the great majority of households that do not own private vehicles, building bike lanes is more cost-effective and quite literally leads to and can further increase savings on other factors identified in this section,” wrote the team.
Other data analyzed by the team include a qualitative look at how cycling promoted social cohesion and social initiatives, as well as benefited mobility opportunities for women and the LBTQ+ community.
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