WITH mass transportation still banned under modified enhanced community quarantine, biking has become the only mode of transportation for many in the city.
Lawmakers are even prepping bills that would accelerate the establishment of bike lanes and a local bikeways office as more and more commuters take the streets on two wheels. Several of the country’s top cycling organizations also convened this week to chart out a long-term course for sustainable bike commuting in the country.
But Bong Nebrija, special traffic and transport zone head of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), also warned bikers to be careful as they navigate through the city.
This morning, he posted a photo of a biker whom he claimed collapsed in the Magallanes southbound stretch of EDSA.
Nebrija expressed his condolences, saying that the biker was pronounced dead on arrival when brought to a nearby hospital.
“To all fellow bikers out there,” he wrote on his post, “please make sure you’re fit enough to endure the distance and heat while pedaling to work.”
The metro’s punishing heat is undoubtedly one thing every bike commuter must contend with.
Throughout this week, Manila has been experiencing an average temperature of 34.8 degrees Celsius. Today, the heat index — or the apparent heat felt by the human body thanks to a combination of the actual temperature and the humidity — reached 41 degrees.
"I would say that the heat of the day would be the more dangerous part of bike commuting," said strength and conditioning coach and SPIN Life fitness columnist Julio Veloso.
A bike commuter himself, Veloso adds that the current MECQ protocol of wearing masks could also make a bike commute more difficult.
In addition, many bikers now are riding with masks on; not just as a protection against pollution, but to comply with MECQ protocols.
"It'll be definitely harder to bike or do any sort of extraneous physical activity with a face mask on. How hard? It'll most likely depend on which sort of mask you be using," he said.
The best option, he said, would be a cloth mask, as it isn't as restrictive as surgical or N95 masks. "Get the thinnest mask you can use, just so you won't get caught," he said.
Still, he maintained that biking with a mask is not inherently dangerous. "You just have to listen to your body and stop if you start feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or palpitating."
To work on your conditioning for your bike commute, Veloso advised commuters to take it slow if you're new to a bicycle. "Start out with weekend biking in UP Diliman or any other safe place to get your conditioning up to par with your bike commute distance/time," he said.
He also recommended that you test-ride your route on weekends, when there's less traffic, "to know if you have to deal with any steep uphills."
"Uphills are what make biking hard," Veloso stated.
Strength training for your legs and upper body, he said, "will make the commute much easier together with the cardiovascular conditioning you will get from riding to work."
With no mass transportation available for at least the next week, many commuters have no other choice.