Teaching people about biking
STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - October 20, 2020 - 12:00am

Two Facebook posts caught my attention yesterday. One is a rant about people riding bicycles, in the middle of the road, at night, without lights, blinkers and/or reflectors, and posing grave danger to themselves and to other motorists on the road. The other is about those newly painted bicycle lanes along V. Rama Ave. that are being used as parking spaces for other vehicles, obstructing the bicycle riders they were supposed to be constructed for.

Biking, or cycling as they call it in other jurisdictions, has been gaining tremendous traction during the pandemic and in planning for the “new normal.” Together with other modes of “Active Mobility,” like walking or other micro-mobility modes like scooters and the like, biking is becoming more popular, not only here in Cebu but throughout the whole world, actually. In fact, in more advanced countries, there is a tremendous shift in policies and directions in the transport and mobility sectors gearing up to bigger modal share in bicycle trips.

Those of us who were advocating for biking were delighted, of course, although the initiatives still need many things to be desired. For one, there is a tendency to focus more on infrastructure, with both national and local governments taking steps to build bike lanes. That’s fine, although a more holistic approach should be better. As former Bogota, Colombia Mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, always say, “We cannot continue to deceive ourselves thinking that to paint a little line on a road is a bike way. A bicycle way that is not safe for an 8-year old is not a bicycle way.” Safety is paramount. And government has to ensure that.

The best and easiest way for people to bike safely is for government to teach them properly. This is where “bike clinics” are of paramount importance. It’s not only about the basics of riding a bike, it includes teaching them how to bike safety – knowing the bike parts, what minimum paraphernalia are required (lights – main, blinking, reflectorized), what are the road rules in navigating the roads, especially that bike lanes are still minuscule, maintenance, even clothing color (some colors can seen ten times farther away than others). And bike clinics are not expensive, can be done easily, can be done in schools or barangays.

As for bike lanes, they’re not really bikes unless we keep them open and free. Just go to V. Rama and you can see all sorts of vehicles parking on those newly-painted lanes. It’s okay for loading and unloading of PUJs or buses, these are complimentary mobility users. But not for parking – those are bike lanes, not parking lots. Now they’re even used as parking spaces for those stores and businesses in V. Rama. The government just gave them free parking spaces for their private use using government funds!

Many of us are happy with how biking became a new thing these days. But there’s a long way to go towards Inclusive Mobility. Engineering is good, but enforcement is also necessary – keep those lanes free. And more importantly, education is crucial. We would like to ask again the Metro Cebu LGUs – conduct Bike Clinics for your residents. Keep them safe!

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