The cycle of life-A A +A
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
HAVE you ever noticed that during traffic hours in the morning or afternoon that your 180 kilometer per hour (kph) capable vehicle is being laughed at by cyclists who zip past your car? Let's face it; bicycles will get you faster to your destination than your car within the downtown area.
Reading the past pronouncements of our traffic officials and legislators, everyone is really excited about the introduction of mass transportation systems within the city in the next few years. Yes, I, too, am very excited of the possibility of increasing the access of Dabawenyos to their desired destinations. But, I was also disappointed to read that bicycles are still being relegated to the sidelines literally because it is alleged that there is no more road space for bicycles.
I believe that if you read history, you will find that bicycles have been road users even before motor vehicles were invented. It was the gas guzzling and pollution-causing motorized vehicles who muscled out these non-motorized modes. By providing road space for bikes, be it exclusive or shared lanes, is just merely returning the road space that was confiscated by climate change causing vehicles. Nowadays, we should penalize motorized vehicles for the pollution and congestion they cause.
Inclusive growth you advocate? Then, what is more inclusive than providing more access and better infrastructures by constructing sidewalks and bicycle lanes. It is the poor who walk in towns and cities not because they think it is healthy but because they are too poor to afford a jeepney or tricycle fare or maybe they rather spend their hard-earned money on food than on transportation. It is the poor who commute to work using their bicycles because they cannot afford to pay at least twenty pesos daily to get to their work place.
Just look at the budget for infrastructures that cities and towns are spending for road infrastructures? Budget is allotted to the construction, maintenance and repairs of roads so that the private vehicles and jeepneys will have a smooth ride while they conveniently forget to build the sidewalks for the poor to walk on. Come rainy season, the rich and middle class can have their smooth ride inside their cozy vehicles while the poor can trudge on along muddy paths.
If we are to build world-class communities then we may have to follow the trends on urban transportation. Let us learn the lessons from China.... two or three decades back China was known for its bicycles. They had millions of bicycle users then, then came economic progress when the growing middle class shifted from bicycles to personal vehicles.
Look at China now, it is smog filled and have some of the worst traffic congestions one can observe in this planet. Surprisingly, the US and Australia is going the opposite way... bicycle lanes are now being installed in major cities while bike sharing schemes are fast spreading. Europe has always been in the lead in integrating non-motorized transportation in its urban transportation system.
Bicycles are now seen as an ESSENTIAL mode of transportation if we are to mitigate climate change, clean our polluted air, have healthy lifestyles and lessen traffic congestion in our cities.
As of now, we need to really examine the options we have to encourage the use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation of our locals.
I heard that people are concerned that they may get a tan if they ride the bicycle. I also read that the morning sun is healthy and that we all need to have about half an hour of sun so that we can absorb a good dose of Vitamin D that will help our bodies absorb calcium. Afraid to sweat? Be more afraid of the lack of exercise which can lead to cardio vascular diseases and obesity.
Afraid to be sideswiped by vehicles? The speed limits within city streets are now being strictly implemented so the risk of an accident is now much lower. A study shows that the more bikers are on the road, the lesser the accidents because vehicle drivers adjust their driving habits accordingly. Need to save money? Then ride a bicycle to school or work. I figure that you can save at least thirty pesos of transportation fare a day if you bike to school.
The traffic managers do not need to put separate lanes for bicycle users, we can have priority lanes for bikers or shared lanes. This means that a section of the road is painted to distinguish the lanes for bikers and when there are no bikers using it then other vehicles can use these.
These bicycle priority lanes will be usually busy with bicycles between 6-8 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. only. The main principle of this proposal is that every mode of transportation must have its share of the road – sidewalks for pedestrians, a one meter or one and a half meter lane for bicycles and the rest of the pollutive motorized vehicles including motorcycles.
Can the city council impose the installation of bicycle racks on all commercial malls or establishments of a certain size so that bike users can safely park their bikers? Maybe the SP building and the City Hall can serve as models by installing these bike lanes for their employees who use the bike to work. The local and national government, large factories and commercial companies should also provide loan access to their employees to buy their bicycles to use for commuting.
The City Council can designate a Bike to Work and School Day maybe a day per month wherein all those with bicycles will be encouraged to go out in full force and use their bicycles in our streets to spearhead the campaign for shared and separated lanes for our bicycle rides. Our everyday bike users do not have a voice in the council but perhaps our weekend bikers have the luxury of time and resources to advocate for such. Our weekend bikers can bike their talk by using their bicycles to work or school at least once a week so that our traffic managers will realize the need to fast-track the installation of bike lanes in the city.
I will bike my talk and buy myself a commuter bicycle as my Christmas gift to myself and as my contribution to climate change mitigation.... A New Year's resolution will be to ride it once a week to work or the mall.
Allow me to quote H.G. Wells, a known writer of science fiction and utopian novels, "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 05, 2013.