Walking and biking

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete - The Freeman

I read an interesting article yesterday in BusinessWorld, “Gridlocked Philippine capital tries to embrace bikes amid pandemic”. For the most part, it narrated the new openness in the Filipino psyche towards active transportation, biking in particular. But what caught my attention was a sudden vicious reaction some readers have towards our good friend, Rene Santiago, who stated two opinions, both of which I totally agree with. The first is, “Sidewalks should have a higher priority than bike lanes,” the second, “Bike lanes should be preferably on secondary roads and not on main thoroughfares.” I will write about the latter next week.

It is evident that most of the online detractors were bike enthusiasts who really do love biking and will support it all the way. I know how they feel about biking because I bike to work and will continue to advocate B2W as a mode of mobility equal to the others. It is unfortunate that many online comments were ad hominem remarks which attacked Rene Santiago, an accomplished transportation expert who worked here and internationally. Just because another person’s opinion differs from yours is not a license to smear his reputation. Especially when what he says has real, technical, and economic basis.

On the issue, his comment that “sidewalks have a higher priority than bike lanes” generated a hostile reaction from people who thought he was against bike lanes. He’s not, and this is clearly seen in his succeeding opinion that bike lanes “should be built on secondary roads where there are fewer cars.” Does this show a person who hates bike lanes? Just because we bike, and we love biking doesn’t mean building bike lanes everywhere is always correct. In fact, while loving biking that much, I do have issues with how the bike lane rollout is being conducted. I am ecstatically happy with the newfound interest of the government, but I am deeply worried with how it's being done, some parts of which are recklessly dangerous and wrongly placed or built.

As to priority, will those detractors openly say that sidewalks and pedestrian lanes are not, or less, important? Just because we own and ride our bikes doesn’t mean we are more important than the throngs of people who walk every day. Those who are well-versed in transportation science know that walking is the most widespread of all transport modes because it is always part of every purpose-trip, mostly at both ends, and in between when there are modal changes (transfers). And no one will disagree that we have one of the worst walking infrastructures in the world. We need to build and improve our sidewalks. Including us bikers.

Let us not create a divide between walking and biking. Both are part of active transportation and we need both. Rene just stated the obvious because in terms of number of users, in terms of economic value, and by common sense, sidewalks should have a higher priority. All bikers are also walkers, only a few of the all of us who walk, actually bike. Everybody walks. We need to prioritize active transportation, walking and biking, but the former much more than the latter. I am speaking as a biker.



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