Bikers, commuters: Removal of 'gold standard' Ayala bike lanes puts many at risk

Jonathan de Santos - Philstar.com
Bikers, commuters: Removal of 'gold standard' Ayala bike lanes puts many at risk
Bikers and e-scooter commuters gather in Makati on February 12, 2022 to protest the announced removal of bike lanes on Ayala Avenue that they said was part of a systemic removal of active transport infrastructure put up during the pandemic lockdowns.
Photo courtesy of Miguel Nacianceno

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:39 p.m.) — Cyclists, commuters — who use bikes, e-scooters and public transportation — and even car drivers are protesting the looming removal of bike lanes on Ayala Avenue in Makati and the implementation of "shared" lanes that would see bicycles and e-scooters squeezing alongside other vehicles.

Privately-driven vehicles will retain their lanes in the Shared Lane Markings scheme that the city said had to be done to accomodate an increase in public utility vehicles. 

In a joint statement signed by nearly 100 people and by 22 groups as of Sunday, the cyclists and commuters said the removal of bike lanes on Ayala is part of a systemic removal of the protected lanes that were put up during the pandemic lockdowns.  

"The removal of what used to be the gold standard for protected bike lane width has dashed the hopes of many road users for safer streets in our cities," they said. Despite the designation of bike lanes in Metro Manila's cities, motorists frequently stray into lanes that are not closed off by bollards or barriers.

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"Sharrows (shared lanes) will not keep us safer. Paint is not protection. Removing bollards is a death sentence. There are design options to keep all of us safe and keep public transport moving without taking space away from our most vulnerable road users: cyclists, pedestrians, women, children, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities," the statement reads. 

They also noted that many bike commuters and delivery riders have been injured because of the lack of infrastructure for them as well as because of potholes and poor road maintenance.

"We feel we have been neglected for so long even when, according to [pollster Social Weather Stations], we outnumber car owning households 4 to 1," they said.

"We office workers rely on protected bike lanes to get around safely while saving money given the high cost of gas. We delivery riders rely on protected bike lanes for our livelihood, and to ensure we deliver people’s orders safely to our customers’ homes. We deserve to be protected on the road."

Car drivers in support of bike lanes

Signatories included car owners, who said they recognize that they are a privileged minority on the road. 

"We are tired of traffic and years of ineffective solutions. We understand that a good public and active transport system that includes protected bike lanes and accessible walkways is the way to truly make moving around easier and ultimately beneficial for everyone," they said.

Signatories stressed that road users should not be pitted against each other and that they have the same call: to be able to travel safely. "We want to have safer streets where any person can feel safe to walk, bike, go on a wheelchair, commute, and even drive safely."

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The statement, released Sunday as dozens of bicycle and e-scooter users converged at Ayala for a protest ride, is the latest in a conversation that gained ground during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 when lack of public transportation options prompted many to commute on bikes other forms of personal mobility.

Despite local government initiatives to accomodate, if not promote, biking, vehicles have more and more often go onto the lanes because of traffic.

They called on the government to implement the 2023-2028 Philippine Development Plan, which includes putting up active transport infrastructure.

They said the Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority already has active transport projects — P2 billion in 2022 and P705 million in 2023 — "which the movement has fought hard to achieve" and have yet to be implemented.

The Department of Public Works and Highways is also required by law to include active transport facilities in its road and brige projects, they also said.

They said they are also ready to work with the Makati city government and the Makati Central Estate Association, Inc. for alternatives to the "sharrow" scheme that is will be implemented by February 15. 

RELATED: At least 200K commute on bikes each day, according to tally in key cities

In a separate statement, PARA! Advocates for Inclusive Transportation said it was in solidarity with commuters and mobility advocates in their call for pro-people road policies and in condeming the removal of protected bike lanes in cities that have them.

"The removal of protected bike lanes removes the democratic rights of bike commuters and pedestrians for safe and inclusive roads," it said in Filipino.

The alliance said that, instead of removing protected bike lanes, the government should provide more public spaces and improve public transportation.

In its announcement of the Shared Lane Markings scheme, the city said that "Makati continues to be a bike-friendly city with all the available biking initiatives in place, from the bike racks, bike repair stations, various sharrows in the MCBD, to the Moovr app bike rental service, and [National Bike Organization] Bike Lessons during the Makati Street Meet."


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