Bike to work
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete (The Freeman) - June 25, 2019 - 12:00am

When we start talking about biking (or cycling as it is called in the west), it often invokes stereotype images of certain classes of people, with their trendy bicycles, wearing distinctly sporty attires and a host of gadgets and paraphernalia around them. More often than not, they belong to particular “biking” groups, too, and may often be seen together on weekends and other special occasions. And when there is an event like “Earth Hour,” you will see many of them, with their organizations, joining and supporting.

Nothing wrong with that. Except that they do not represent the majority of the “bikers” in our cities today, the ones which I called in my article last week as “The invisible bicycle rider.” On any particular weekday, the latter comprises more than 90% of all cyclists on the road, and you don’t notice them because many ride on worn-out bikes, wear office or school uniforms, or simply shorts and T-shirts, and have less “gadgets,” or none at all. And they don’t usually attend “occasions” and are not organized. They simply bike.

This has to do with the way bicycling is portrayed nowadays; how it is promoted and advocated, especially by government, if ever it was. You can search through all the literature and even articles in social media and you always end up with the political statement to bike, either “for its health advantages” or “for environmental reasons,” zeroing in on Climate Change. These are absolutely true, and we should promote biking for both these reasons. But the main raison d'être for biking is inclusive mobility.

You may say they’re the same. Let me illustrate with an actual anecdote. A city official who is a biking enthusiast once told me: “Oh, so I heard you’re biking. Let’s bike together!” “I don’t think that’s possible,” I answered, “where do you live?” “In Lahug,” she answered.

I said, “How can we bike together if you come from Lahug and I bike from Banawa?” You can see that the perspectives are different – enthusiasts bike together, usually on weekends or holidays along a pre-agreed route. We, “bike-to-work” (B2W) cyclists go to work, or school, every day from our homes, and return the same way in the afternoon. Or in my case, around thrice a week.

There are more B2W cyclists than enthusiasts, but the former are (almost) invisible, while the latter is what you see prominently. Majority of B2Wers in Cebu do so because it’s the only mobility they can afford. Others do it because it’s convenient especially with the traffic congestion.

And others still do it because it is inclusive, more efficient, and surprisingly, very liberating and exhilarating. When you add up all the numbers, this I can say – “when you bike for leisure or to get fit – you are doing something good for yourself.” “But when you bike-to-work, you are actually doing something to help alleviate traffic congestion in the city, and thus, you are doing something good for your country.”

So, if and when government gets serious with bike lanes, it has to keep “biking to work” in mind, and not build ones to allow people free exercise.

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