ReCycling issues

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


MY ARTICLE on the use of bicycles as a mode of transportation in cities created a good discussion among my Facebook friends. Their ideas and comments generated a number of issues, as well as solutions to our existing situation and I would like to share these with you.

On the issue of safety, it was really a concern by many that accidents would likely happen if more bikers were on the road. Some advocated for separate and exclusive lanes just for bikers. This system has been done in a number of cities in Europe, Americas and even Asia. In the Philippines, I think Marikina City has these lanes courtesy of the World Bank project and several cities in Metro Manila are following suit. So how about here in the Davao Gulf cities? I think we are still in the process of advocating for cycling as a mode of transportation, so providing infrastructures for bicycles has yet to gain ground among our city engineers, planners, and policy makers. The more cyclists on the road, the more cautious motor drivers will be.

According to some bikers, we will need to educate motor vehicle drivers, especially the motorcyclists, to respect the right of the cyclists to use the road space in equal terms. I heard of horror stories that some drivers even try to sideswipe some bikers to hog the road. To our motor vehicle drivers and owners, bicycles have long been using the roads even before motor engines were invented.

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Cyclists, on the other hand, must also be educated on certain road safety rules. One concern is the use of reflectors or even better, battery-operated lights to make them more visible at night. Another is the proper obedience of traffic lights, I know that red light means stop for all vehicles but I see some bikers disregarding this rule. Unless we have a law that allows cyclists to cross intersections even during red lights then we have to abide by the general rule of stopping when the light is red. Wearing helmet is still a must if you ask me, although cyclists travel a lot slower than motorcycles but we still be must be on the safe side.

Some said that using the bicycle to work will not gain ground because it will be too hot and we do not want to smell sweat in our offices. I think a nice extra pair of shirts and a wet towelette to scrub yourself plus cologne will do the trick. At the same time, biking to work before eight in the morning will not be too hot and will be healthy to absorb the Vitamin D while biking home after five should be not a problem since the sun should be near sunset by then. One proposed that the LGUs should have ordinances on requiring offices to have showers and lockers so cyclists can take a shower in the office. Let's not be totally reliant on the LGUs to jumpstart the bike friendly policies but maybe these amenities can be included in the collective bargaining agreement of the employees with the business owners.

Another issue is the parking spaces for bicycles. Establishment especially malls and other offices must allocate spaces where their clients who bike can park their bicycles safely and securely. Ed Gan cautioned me in this proposal because most of the bicycles are now installed with quick-release parts and we do not want to have bike theft cases where the chassis remains chained to the bike rack with the seats, handlebars and wheels missing.

A number of friends offered me advice on what bicycle type to purchase to suit my needs. I suddenly realized that I now have to choose between a mountain bike, commuter bike, folding bike and what-have-you. I miss the days when choosing a bike was easy - it was just a regular bike or a ladies bike (difference on shape of chassis). So I am still studying my options on what will be the best buy for my limited resources.

I met with Monica A. to discuss possible actions on promoting bicycle as an urban transportation mode. We saw that there are already a number of everyday cyclists in Davao City and most come from the working class of our society. The middle class tend to use their bicycles for recreation purposes mainly. There are few students and teachers in all levels who bike to school. Riding to work or school is now being done by a few of our citizens so it is just a matter of convincing more to use the bicycle.

There will be future initiatives to organize gatherings of cyclists with the main idea of advocating for safer roads for cyclists. I hope that cyclists will come up with brilliant advocacy drives like a bike to work once a week, bicycle clinics for beginners, bicycle donations for school children and so on. With the help of other institutions like the LGU, national government agencies, international NGOs even the WB or ADB we will create a truly sustainable urban transportation system.

It is time to stand up for the right of the people to have a safe, sustainable and healthy mode of transportation.

Bicycle Riders of the World, Unite! We have nothing to lose but our treads. (I hope Karl Marx forgives me for this)

Our transportation engineers have to have a paradigm shift in their views on trying to solve the traffic congestion problem by building more roads by widening these. It has been proven that more road infrastructures to ease traffic congestion result in more traffic congestion in the near future because more vehicles are just added in the road. This becomes just a very expensive cycle of traffic congestion - road improvement - road congestion again.

[rpalabado@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 09, 2014.

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