biking in the city


Picture from Hello Kitty Hell

Yesterday a friend told me he just bought a bike. As in a bicycle.

My immediate reaction was, “Wow, joining the bandwagon.” But thinking about it now, it does make sense, and is actually very laudable– committing to a bicycle (he said he’ll use it when he goes on quick errands, plays tennis, visits friends nearby).

Last year, biking became the new “in” thing among a group of boys I know, and I sat in amazement at their dedication to it. What started off as weekend trails in the mountains has now grown into weekday love affairs with pavement, pollution, and those stick horses on wheels (think 6-hour “expeditions” from Ortigas to the Antipolo mountains from 5pm-11pm on a workday!).

First heard about biking as an actual sport (fitness-social lifestyle) in late 2006 when I met extreme sports fanatics (note: I find wall climbing “extreme”, i.e. non-traditional, and in some real sense, dangerous) who biked in the Bicol mountains for fun. Asked if it was safe, they plainly answered, “You can die if you fall off a cliff.” Hmmmm…

In Madrid, I had a French classmate who biked almost everyday. I asked him if Madrid was a bicycle-friendly city, and if I remember right, he said it was not, at least not as much as Paris was (or was it the other way around?). In my third-world eyes, it was waaaaaaaaaaaay friendlier than Manila could ever be.

Can biking be integrated into daily life in Manila?

Back in 2004, I made plans to meet up with another good friend, Noelle, for after-dinner coffee. Her main requirement was for the venue to have something she could chain her bike to (she’s an athlete by lifestyle and was one of the three Pinays who climbed Everest). I found that endearing then, quite an unusual request, but it never occurred to me to even entertain having the “everyday biker” mindset as my own.

The last time I vividly remember riding a bike outdoors (i.e. not in the gym) was when I was 14 and eager to canvas the boys in my neighborhood. Fifteen hit and along with it that magical “student permit” to drive, so naturally, byebye bike.

I’d trust Urbano dela Cruz to come up with a real answer to the biking feasibility question. I have yet to read his take on this properly, I’m pretty sure he’s already gotten comprehensive about biking in Manila. In any case, did a quick search on his blog for “bicycle” just now. You can read his bike-related posts here.

My thoughts: We all can do our share in having “greener” lifestyles… biking is a possibility, and as my friends have shown, it’s already a possibility NOW. Personally, I can see myself biking in the greater area around my community, as long as I don’t have to cross major streets (Ortigas Ave., C-5, Katipunan). Without designated bike lanes, I’d probably just stare at cars passing by, fearing for my life on the sidewalk.

Interesting links I found on google:
– Recreational Bike route in the Philippines from bikely.com
– Manila Times editorial by Ernesto Herrera, “The not-so-lowly bicycle” (Jan. 16, 2008): with little info on Marikina’s successful bike campaign
– Philippine bicycle hunt written by a Canadian writer and art history major as instructions on how to buy a used bike in Manila (July 2007)
– Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities’ ADB Forum on Improving Pedestrian Facilities and Bikeways in Metro Manila (Sept. 2005), with issues raised/discussed and PDF files of lectures/position papers
– 11 Most bike-friendly cities in the world found through trinainmanila, who says Japanese cities should’ve made the list.

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