A bike advocate group is renewing calls for protected bike lanes after transport authorities removed improvised bike lane markers along Quezon City’s Commonwealth Avenue this morning, citing safety reasons and lack of permits.
“We removed them, we need to remove them,” Celine Pialago, the spokesperson of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) told reporters in Filipino.
Well, Happy World Bicycle Day to you too, chief.
MMDA could not be reached for further comments.
Bikers United Marshalls meanwhile, the group which set up the DIY bike lane told Coconuts Manila over chat that the improvised cones made up of weighted 6-liter, orange painted bottles strewn across portions of the busy road were meant to help.
The temporary lanes were meant to be used during morning rush hour, as quarantine in the metro was eased and more workers went back on the road.
“We first set up the bike lanes last Monday, June 1, just in time for the GCQ [general community quarantine], when a lot of commuters are going back to work. We put up the bottles at 6am then clean them up again at 8am,” Geane, a volunteer member of the group, who asked to be referred only by her first name said.
Lanes were stationed near St. Peter’s Parish and in Diliman Preparatory.
According to Geane, at least 10 enforcers were onsite to remove the markers at around 7:40am between the stretch of St. Peter’s footbridge to Don Antonio’s footbridge, minutes before the group was supposed to take it down themselves.
“We told them to let us stay for a few minutes more because we were about to pack up as it was almost 8am. But they didn’t let us,” she added, finding the timing amusing.
Pialago also told reporters that members of the group will be given citation tickets and fined PHP1,000 each, but backtracked saying it was not a time to be “arresting and filing cases” to citizens.
“They did initially threaten to fine us and press charges. They said that statement was the only reason they didn’t,” Geane said.
“We tried to talk to the enforcers but of course, they are just doing their jobs and following orders. And Celine [Pialago] was there, watching them. [Pialago and her] team didn’t properly talk to us. It’s the enforcers who talked to us. They just kept on saying that we didn’t secure a permit and that what we were doing is not allowed as we are putting the bikers at risk,” she added.
The group had earlier released a statement saying that government inaction on the overdue bike lanes puts cyclists more in harm’s way.
In case you needed the reminder, Commonwealth Avenue is one of Metro Manila’s deadliest roads, according to an annual report made by MMDA itself last year.
“I personally believe that morning rush in Commonwealth Ave. is worse than EDSA. Commonwealth Ave. has 10 lanes but there’s still traffic, and an MRT7 construction that’s ongoing adds to it. Just yesterday morning while we were setting up a bike accident happened,” Geane said, adding that since the GCQ was imposed just two days ago, the road had seemingly gone back to its usual state, with “a lot of people and traffic.”
“That’s why we are trying to create a better normal by setting up temporary bike lanes every morning. We are bike advocates and volunteers with day jobs,” Geanne said, adding that while members of the group are life-long bike advocates, Bikers United Marshalls was only formed in late May to respond to current transport challenges.
“There are a lot of benefits in biking: health benefits, environmental benefits, it even benefits traffic, because bikers only need to take up a small space. Yes, the benefits are obvious, but it’s still not strongly supported in the Philippines,” she said.
Senator Pia Cayetano last month filed Senate Bill No. 1518 also known as the Safe Pathways Act, which proposed the creation of pop-up bike lanes amid the pandemic. Congress is taking is still sitting on the bill, while other proposals like the controversial anti-terror bill are prioritized as urgent.
“The government seems to be stuck at ‘planning.’ [Even before the bill] It’s been years since we’ve been hearing that they are planning protected bike lanes. And now, that we need it most, it’s still not here. It’s about time that we ask them to fulfill their duties and promises. Bike lanes and laws to protect bikers,” Geane said.
“But we hope we showed people that if you really want to do something, there’s a way.”
“We improvised everything. We have full time jobs. But we made it possible. What more the government who has the authority, manpower and resources,” she added.
Geanne said that the group will continue with its initiative, including marshaling and distributing vests to bikers “as long as we can, and until the government hears our plea.”
Bikers United Marshalls has an ongoing online petition addressed to MMDA and the Metro Manila Council to establish dedicated bike lanes in major roads in the city including Commonwealth Avenue and EDSA. You can help by signing the petition here.
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