BAYANIHAN 2 — or as it’s officially known, the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act — was officially signed into law on September 11. Among the provisions of the government’s COVID-19 response plan is an allocation of P814 million for more than 300 kilometers of protected bike lanes in Metro Manila.
According to a statement released earlier this month by a coalition of unified bike groups, “[W]e have yet to see a single kilometer of protected bike lanes funded by Bayanihan 2 built on EDSA and other national roads in Metro Manila.”
Screenshots from a press conference of Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Steve Pastor showed the status of Bayanihan 2 bike lane construction in the country’s three major metropolitan areas as of February.
“Dun sa Metro Manila updates, wala silang napakitang progress,” said We Move As One Coalition spokesperson Jedd Ugay to SPIN Life. “The most they showed is that there [are] 730 meters in pavement markings established along R3.”
He continued: “Sobrang layo nung Metro Manila compared to Metro Cebu. For Metro Manila, walang balita [kung] ano yung design, wala pa sa balita na na-procure na, and all they have is this 730 meters of pavement markings. [And that’s just] paint. [I]t's not a barrier, it's not protected.”
In addition, Pastor’s presentation also shows a target of June 2021 to set up at least 140 kilometers of bike lanes across the country. This is a far cry from agency’s combined goal of 522 kilometers for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.
Fast track bike lanes?
The Move As One Coalition — an umbrella group of 27 different organizations that was founded in March last year as pandemic restrictions brought bicycles and other forms of active mobility to the national conversation — released a strong statement earlier this week urging more concrete action.
“This delay is unacceptable,” it read in part. “It is a slap in the face of hardworking Filipino frontline and essential workers – taxpayers all – who have taken to riding their bicycles to work to cope with the lack of public transport during the lockdown.”
The statement also said that bicycle lanes will become a key issue of the 2022 elections.
“We have been seeing a lot more bikers now,” explained Ugay. “But in particular, in a recent SWS survey, it says that 87 percent or almost 9 out of 10 respondents agree that roads in Philippine cities and municipalities will be better off if public transportation, bicycles, and pedestrians are given priority over private vehicles.”
(The Department of Transportation has acknowledged the results of this survey, and said in a statement yesterday that "we are determined in our push for more infrastructure to serve the needs of pedestrians and cyclists." It also touted the 29 kilometers of bike lanes it has already put up.)
Ugay also cited a JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) study from 2015 which showed that only 11.5 percent of Filipino households owned a car.
“So the majority of your people are not car users. These people are significantly affected by the lack of public transport, the lack of protected bike lanes,” he said.
While the coalition recognizes the significant steps some local government units have made in setting up bike lanes across their own locales, Ugay stresses that it isn’t enough without an overall guiding framework to link every community via two wheels.
“Makukulangan siya dun siya sa integration because it's not planned on a macro, mas region-wide level,” he said. “You [may] live in Rizal or the outskirts of Quezon City, and you work in Makati, for example, so it's unavoidable na magkakaroon ng inter-city trips. So medyo kulang sa integration. Madalas may diskonekta. Mapapansin mo na, ay, wala na ako sa Pasig. It's a disconnect that we've seen.”
Ugay believes that the lack of action on the national level comes from the “car-centric thinking” of the current leadership.
“Most of them would not use bikes as transport mode, so they wouldn't know,” he said. “They would prioritize private vehicle movement rather than bike safety.”
With its strong, unified statement, the Move as One Coalition hopes that the government can kickstart both dialogue and action in the matter of Metro Manila bike lanes. “The pandemic offers you an unparalleled opportunity to transform the country’s roads into fairer, safer, and more inclusive infrastructure now and for generations to come,” it said.
“Please don’t waste it.”