Buy 'em bikes!

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By Gary Covington

Looking In

Monday, February 17, 2014


'CITY hall might buy new cars for council.'

I've a better idea - buy them each a spanking new bicycle. Infinitely cheaper, maintenance costs next to nothing and, best of all, our honorables astride bicycles - even one day a week - would signal that their years of speechifying on how we must care for the environment and that something really must be done about the traffic fug was not just political hot air.

In 2005, in response to a forecast shortage of oil, senators up there in Manic Manila 'encouraged the public to walk or use bicycles to go to their places of work'; a flurry of national interest which prompted a reciprocal flurry down at Davao's Sangguniang Panlungsod. Beneath the headline 'Avila seeks bike lanes amid looming oil crisis' Councilor Leo Avila said 'that the city must finally put up lanes exclusively for bicycles. ‘and that 'his proposal also aims to promote cycling or biking so as to help lessen air pollution' adding, enthusiastically, that 'Here we recognize bikes as a cheap form of transportation'. Then Traffic Management Center chief Celso Gempesaw noted that 'the establishment of bicycle lanes along selected city streets is a good way to decongest roads of gas-guzzling vehicles' while then City Legal Officer Melchor Quitain, contributing his ten-cent's-worth, said if 'bike lanes push through', 'I will be personally using my bicycle. '

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That was almost ten years ago - go on, count them - and yet today there is not the slightest sign that our councilors are willing to implement even the most modest of concessions to bicyclists. Roxas Avenue is wide enough for ukay-ukay and eat-on-the-hoof food stalls but not a bicycle lane. The vast and up-market malls which our councilors so love and promote are not obliged to provide bicycle racks (The voluntary and honorable exception being NCCC Mall on McArthur Highway which has had one for years). Even at the SP itself, where the city supposedly serves the people, bikers are hard put finding a place to chain up their machines.

So, Mayor Rody, buy a roadster or boulevard tourer for each of the councilors. Nothing fancy. Gears of course and a basket up front to carry their privilege speeches. Think of the financial advantages - buying a new bike for every honorable would cost less than P100, 000, running costs minimal. Mention the benefits of biking - no parking problems, leave traffic behind (And that bunch of sycophantic noddies you see on TV interviews). Bicycling is an individual pursuit, commune with yourself, polish up those draft ordinances and, in these cooler months, biking is actually less sweaty than walking - different muscles, different load distribution. Mostly the city is flat. Come to a hill - like the ski-jump on Bacaca - and every bike comes with a hassle-free alternative - get off and push. And bicycling is no more dangerous than any other form of wheeled transport providing you keep your wits and senses about you. DO wear a hardhat, eye protection and face mask. DO NOT wear ear buds.

Lastly, more-money-than-sense department, and I couldn't help goggling at a robbery report the other day where one of the items stolen was a pair of Haivana slippers valued at P1000. Can you imagine - shelling out a thousand smackers for a pair of rubber flip-flops? Try Spartan, P40 at the local variety store.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 18, 2014.

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