DURING the most stringent quarantine status, all modes of public transportation such as buses, trains, jeepneys and even tricycles were halted. Since some industries and businesses were allowed to open, workers were left with no means of transportation. The few lucky ones have cars and motorcycles. Those who have no company-provided transport have to resort to biking, or even walking. Now that lockdowns have eased up and most public transportation have resumed, others are still afraid to take them for fear of contracting the coronavirus.
It's not just in the Philippines. In many places around the world, people don't take trains and buses to avoid Covid-19 infection. Across Europe, people are even buying old cars for their daily commute. This is bad news for the environment. More old cars on the road will mean more carbon dioxide emissions. Older vehicles are not as fuel efficient as new ones.
But there's good news. The Covid-19 pandemic has boosted demand for bicycles. Good for the environment and good for health too. This trend is true in many countries. In the Philippines, bike shop owners in Metro Manila say demand for bikes has been stronger than at Christmas. In the United States, bicycle sales saw their biggest spike in the US since the oil crisis of the 1970s.
In a survey conducted by the Institute for Labor Studies, the research arm of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the use of bicycle came up as a safe and convenient alternative mode of transport during the time of the pandemic. The research is part of DOLE's Bike-to-Work Project, which aims to assist workers in this time of pandemic by providing bicycles as a transport option or a livelihood opportunity.
Around 85 percent of the survey respondents said that they use bicycles primarily for its health benefits. Another 82% chose biking as a mode of transport to get to work because of pandemic concerns and limited transportation.
There are some issues though that were raised by the biker-respondents. The presence of bike lanes and road safety are among their foremost concerns. They also mentioned poor road conditions, lack of secured bike parking or storage facility and support infrastructure like shower or change rooms.
Providing bike lanes will take years and billions of pesos to implement but I hope the government will address this. I saw in a recent news report that the newly opened section of the ongoing Tagaytay bypass Road Project has a bike lane. I hope bike lanes will be a standard feature in future road construction.
Incidentally, President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the fourth Sunday of November of every year as "National Bicycle Day" in a bid to ensure ecological integrity and a clean and healthy environment.
Happy and safe biking!