The essence of the bicycle (Part 2) - The government’s role

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - June 15, 2021 - 12:00am

Now, it can be said, if not for COVID-19, the government wouldn’t have had anything to do with biking and bike lanes. Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did try to promote it officially, though, by issuing EO 774 s.2008 and AO 254 s.2009, establishing the National Environmentally-Sustainable Transport (NEST) Strategy, highlighting Non-Motorized Transport (NMT), which evolved into the current Active Transportation – walking, biking, and the like. But it did not advance.

Let’s clarify first, what government can and cannot do, when using taxpayers’ money, and this starts with its reason for being – to govern, to build the economy for the people’s well-being, and to provide the services and infrastructure that the private sector cannot and will not do. The other underlying principle is that it has to be fair to all as can be seen in the mandates of all government agencies. And they have to be economically sound to support the use of people’s money.

Why is this important? Because the government should build infrastructure, which is usable and accessible to everybody, for all walks of life, from the richest billionaire to the poorest of the poor. Equally! Whatever government builds should be in accordance with certain mandates – schools for education, hospitals for health, transport infrastructure for mobility. Therefore, when we talk about bike lanes, these are for mobility and EO 774, AO 254, and the NEST strategy addresses transportation and mobility.

When we talk about bike lanes, these are basically mobility infrastructures and are constructed and designed for bike-to-work (B2W) bikers, not for bike enthusiasts to be used for sightseeing, leisure, exercise, or as a hobby. Now before anyone reacts, we have to emphasize that everybody is welcome to use bike lanes, whoever you are and whatever purpose you use it for. But their design, especially location and alignment are in answer to the need of B2W bikers. They’re made to accommodate people going to work. Building lanes designed for people to exercise or have a good time on weekends is one sure way to get a Commission on Audit (COA) disallowance and a probable graft case. That’s the reason why the roll-out is spearheaded by DPWH and DOTr, which are the transport agencies of the country! It would be interesting to expect when the first case will be filed once COA, and the Ombudsman find out someone is building a bike lane where no one bikes from their homes to their work.

Which is why the first step to be done is to determine where the B2W people live and where they work, and which way they prefer to pass. That’s how we develop the bike lane network, and this can only be done by an honest-to-goodness survey. Don’t ask the bike organizations, they’re mostly enthusiasts, many of whom don’t bike to work on a daily basis. Ask the barangays, ask the students, ask the companies where many workers bike to work. Let’s hope after all the billions of pesos spent for bike lanes all over the country, we won’t find a lane where not a single biker passes by on a weekday, signifying a waste of money. (To be continued)

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