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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Jul 10, 2024

Investing in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure

In our quest to make our cities and communities sustainable and inclusive, one important aspect that we must focus on is transportation — providing citizens access to mobility options that are safe, environment-friendly, and affordable.

In essence, almost everyone can walk and many can afford to buy bicycles than motorized vehicles. However, accessibility also means having safe infrastructure that will allow people to make walking and cycling as means for transportation, in combination with the use of public transport.

In Vienna, Australia — the most livable city in the world according to both the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index and Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking — creating shared spaces and improving mobility options resulted in a better quality of life for its citizens. They prioritized pedestrianization, improving walkability, and making investments on cycling infrastructure, along with improvements to make public transportation accessible, affordable and efficient.

Here in the Philippines, the Covid-19 pandemic saw a rise in bicycle use and ownership. In fact, at the height of the pandemic, the government designated bicycle lanes on major thoroughfares and mandated that all projects involving new road and bridge construction will include in their design the provision of bicycle facilities whenever feasible.

Even beyond the pandemic, more Filipinos started to own and use bicycles. A March 2023 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that one out of three Filipino households uses bicycles. The number of cycling households (families with at least one member who cycles for any activity) rose to 36 percent, or an estimated 10 million households. This is higher than the April 2022 survey figure of 29 percent, and the May 2021 figure of 24 percent.

The survey further revealed that there were more bicycle owners than car owners nationwide, with a resulting ratio of bike-to-car owners at 4:1.

Most Filipinos, or around 27 percent, cycle for recreational activities, which include sightseeing and exercising; while 24 percent cycle for essential activities, such as market or grocery store runs, going to and from work, and going to places aside from the workplace. 

The main reasons for choosing to cycle include saving on fares and improving one’s health. Other reasons cited were to save on travel time, to lose weight, for recreation, and to meet other people.

We need to convince more citizens to favor cycling and walking as much as possible. Aside from being healthier options, living car-free can reduce a person’s annual carbon footprint by up to 3.6 tons, so walking and cycling are definitely environment-friendly mobility options.

However, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the absence of appropriate pedestrian infrastructure in Metro Manila is the main culprit behind more citizens still choosing to use paratransit vehicles such as jeepneys or tricycles, as well as cars, even if approximately 35 percent of locations can be reached within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.

Thus, in order to greatly encourage people to walk and cycle, it is high time that we invest more in building cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. We need to create interconnected bike lane networks and connect sidewalks and foot paths across the metro.

There needs to be more bike racks, storage, and other cycling-friendly facilities; and safer bike and walk paths with shady trees and lighting. Local governments should also create appropriate policies that will support this change in lifestyle and mindset.

Walking is among the most mundane activities for individuals without mobility impairments. In fact, it’s the most ancient mode of transport. It is time that we seriously reconsider it, along with cycling, as a major mode of transportation — one that is inclusive, sustainable, and affordable.

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