During a recent online discussion series to promote health, environmental consciousness, and climate-adaptive practices dubbed, "Stories for a Better Normal," MMDA Undersecretary Frisco San Juan expressed support to a move for a bike masterplan in Metro Manila, which would include dedicated and protected bike lanes, to be incorporated in House Bill 6864, or the "Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020" (Better Normal Bill) authored and sponsored by House Deputy Speaker and Antique Congresswoman Loren Legarda.
“We are in full support of the bike lane program under the Better Normal Bill. Bago magkaroon ng pandemic, mayroong ongoing bike lane project along Pasig River, from Pasig to Manila. Inaayos pa po ang obstructions para maging continuous bike lane siya. Ang ating panaginip ay binibigyan ng pagkakataon na maging isang katotohanan in our near future, sa mga darating na buwan,” San Juan said.
Joining the discussion, which aims to change the mindset of individuals, families, and communities to lead sustainable lives towards a healthier, safer, and much better normal than we used to have, were Red Constantino, the executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities; lawyer Crisanto Saruca, the MMDA Director, Legal and Legislative Affairs; Edison Nebrija, MMDA Task Force of Special Operations head; Life Cycles PH founder Keisha Mayuga; MNL Moves founder Aldrin Pelicano; and Climate Reality Leader and Triabetics member Rommel Miles Corro.
This online discussion is organized in partnership between the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda and the Climate Change Commission (CCC), with support from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), The Climate Reality Project-Philippines, and Mother Earth Foundation.
“Sustainable urban mobility should no longer be a dream. Let’s make it permanent. The government must address the struggles of our frontliners and daily commuters. Sa ating Better Normal Bill, I will see to it that all constructions have green spaces, may mga pagtataniman ng halaman at puno, akma sa ating klima, at may pedestrian at bike lanes. Let’s give back the space to our people,” said Legarda, who will donate one new bike each for Life Cycles PH and MNL Moves.
“Cycling to work as a mainstream and essential service and option is good for the economy, in terms of less fuel use, less imports, better air quality, and better health of workers, with co-benefits to climate action. A lot of projections are showing that the amount of carbon emissions that we can reduce is really substantial—cities could save $25 trillion over the next 25 years due to cycling and could avoid 300 megatonnes of CO2,” Constantino said, for his part.
Constantino shared the Department of Transportation’s projection of at least 50% reduction in passenger capacity for buses, jeepneys or PUJs, and public utility vehicles or PUVs, as well as an 80-90% reduction for the rail sector. He also cited figures on benefits of cycling to the economy and climate.
Mayuga shared Life Cycles PH’s initiatives to help frontliners during this pandemic and in calling for dedicated, protected, and connected bike lanes in Metro Manila and neighboring areas.
“I started the group Life Cycles PH when we heard that there’s no mass transport. It broke my heart to learn that people won’t be getting home. Now, we’ve provided more than 1,400 bikes through a donation drive, which already raised over P3 million pesos, and through community matching on Facebook, where private individuals and frontliners can lend or borrow bikes. Also, through EDSA Evolution, we advocate for permanent and protected bike lanes to ensure the safety of our frontliners and bikers,” said Mayuga.
Pelicano shared how MNL Moves started as a passion project, which has now become a community of cycling advocates. He also shared the survey they did together with ICSC and the University of Twente (UT) in the Netherlands on the regular bike routes of more than 400 cyclists and the resulting recommendations on interconnected bike lanes.
“Ang pagkakaroon ng mas maraming oras para sa pamilya dahil sa pagbibisikleta ang naging mensahe ko para mapalawak ang MNL Moves into a community. We then started reaching out to organizations even outside the cycling community to hold trainings and knowledge exchange programs. Local governments can implement temporary bike lanes to learn how to build permanent ones,” said Pelicano.
Corro talked about his experiences cycling from Muntinlupa, where he drops off his kids for school, to Makati for work.
“Why am I passionate and committed to cycling? It’s not just because I get to save a lot. It is not just because I’m minimizing my carbon footprint. There’s something spiritual about it. I’ve developed a natural abhorrence to being alone inside a car. Nakaka-konsensya kasi I’m part of the traffic and not part of the solution. But when you bike to work, it’s allowing you a certain degree of freedom. It gives me a lot of controlled time,” said Corro.
The bike advocates and cyclists also shared how biking is helping frontliners move during this community quarantine and how cities and provinces can support biking for a healthier and better normal for commuters and the transport sector.
To recall, a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan is a planning concept applied by local and regional authorities for strategic mobility planning. It encourages a shift towards more sustainable transport modes and supports the integration and balanced development of all modes.
Meanwhile, the House’s Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) on Thursday, May 28, approved “The Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities, and Public Spaces Act of 2020,” which states that several government measures being implemented by the government now in response to the coronavirus crisis will be extended for three years or “sooner upon official declaration of the President.”
The bill that defines the “better normal,” institutes protocols such as the wearing of face masks in public spaces, provision of handwashing and sanitation stations in public areas, temperature checks, and observance of physical distancing, among others to curb COVID-19 spread. (PIA NCR)
By Jimmiley E. Guzman