Bikeshare at UP Diliman
The University of the Philippines’ Bike Share shows that, pandemic or not, two wheels are better than four.
UP Bikeshare via official Facebook

Bikeshare at UP Diliman: A glimpse of sustainable transport for cities

Keisha Mayuga (Philstar.com) - January 12, 2021 - 5:24pm

Miguel Laperal was a freshman engineering student at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2015 when he read about bikesharing in the library. The concept of pooling bicycles for the use of many users caught his fancy.

He thought this system could work in the university. He pitched the idea to some of his friends, and that’s how UP Bike Share was born. Laperal and his team have broken new ground and shown how practical two-wheeled travel can be in the country.

Bikesharing isn’t a new idea. A group in Amsterdam, now known as one of the best cities to cycle, started the first generation of bikesharing in 1965 with the Witte Fietsen, or White Bikes, which were placed in public areas for anyone to use. The system had many flaws, such as security and theft, but it paved the way for the idea of sharing bicycles with community members who needed to get to places.

The concept of bikesharing then picked up 30 years later in 1995 as Copenhagen launched its first coin-operated bikesharing system called City Bikes. For the past 24 years, bikesharing schemes in cities around the world started becoming popular in Europe and the US. As of 2016, an estimated 2.3 million bicycle units were active within bikesharing schemes alone, with China leading in recent years.

Bikesharing has also become popular on university campuses. Universities such as Princeton, Purdue, Penn State, and Dartmouth have adapted bikesharing schemes within their campuses. In the Philippines, the UP Diliman campus remains the only university with a working bikesharing system in the country.

The University of the Philippines Diliman remains the only university with a working bikesharing system in the country
UP Bikeshare via official Facebook

Yet the beginning of UP Bike Share wasn’t so glamorous. Laperal’s team needed to call on other students and supporters to help raise money to purchase the first fleet. They worked out how they could use a simple system with number locks and just a few stations at the time.

In a few months, the ragtag team of students launched ten bikes with a limited number of users, mostly dorm residents, and figured out the next steps. Three things made the whole system work: the boundaries were defined within the university; there were clear and easy steps on how to use the bikes; and there was a sense of community among the riders to safeguard the proper use of the shared bikes.

The team soon grew into an organization made up of students from different fields—engineering, fine arts, science, communication, and business administration, just to name a few. As the operations of the system were being refined, UP Bike Share became more than just the system. It also became the best case for sustainable transportation and sustainable cities.

A student-led initiative, the campus bikeshare grew from having 10 bikes on offer to 100 units in three years.

The student-led organization grew from offering 10 bikes to 100 bikes in three years, with a peak of 200 riders in 2016. Although the current system is not enough to serve the needs of more than 24,000 students, faculty and staff members within the 493-hectare campus, UP Bike Share has been working towards promoting cycling culture in the university through its different campaigns to promote cycling even outside the university. The group organized Shifting Gears: Sustainable Solutions Fair 2020 last January and Sabay Lakbay, an eco-tour on bicycles around Quezon City.

The team’s hard work resulted in a ?15-million grant from the Department of Science and Technology for UP Bike Share to develop its entire system in 2016. The current system in place is considered to be a first-generation semi-public bicycle sharing scheme for students. The grant awarded to UP Bike Share had the potential to grow into a more advanced local system that institutions and LGUs can implement in their own localities.

When the pandemic hit, students were no longer physically attending classes. This led to the temporary closure of the bikesharing system. Despite this hurdle, UP Bike Share was able to lend the fleet of bicycles to hospital frontliners so that these essential workers could bike to and from work. Amid this health crisis, UP Bike Share continues to spread the message of the power of a bicycle to get people to places.



Keisha Mayuga is a transport practitioner and urban cyclist working towards better and safer cycling infrastructure in the country. She is the founder of Life Cycles PH, an initiative that helped almost 1,500 frontliners get to work with bicycles during the pandemic.

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