By: Buena Bernal
A quick search of #BikersLog on social networking site Twitter provides you snippets of journalist Robert JA Basilio Jr’s journey as a cyclist.
Mr. Basilio has been biking to work for half a decade now.
In one log, he shares how he chose the two-wheeled ride that day even when the weather was uncooperative. In another, he narrates how a driver of a public utility vehicle tried to sideswipe him, a water delivery truck driver refused to respect his right of way and rabid dogs ran after him.
As part of a series called #WorkersWhoBike, Workers of PH caught up with Mr. Basilio about his thoughts on biking as a mode of transportation. In this short Q&A, Mr. Basilio talks about motor vehicles being used as weapons on the road and the ways authorities can help bikers like him.
Q: Why do you bike to work?
A: “I used to go to the gym irregularly. I then decided to ride a road bike to get to the gym. A few days later, it dawned on me: If I can get to the gym on my bike, I pretty much could go anywhere on my bike. And when I was able to regularly ride my bike to work — at that time I was working in Pasig — I realized that I had no need to take public transportation at all.
On top of all that, riding a bike to work not only allows you to exercise, it also gives a point to riding a bike — because you have somewhere to go to. I’m more of that kind of cyclist than, say, those who ride for recreation, not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Q: From your experience, how dangerous are Manila’s roads for a biker?
A: “It takes courage to ride a bike regularly on Metro Manila’s roads. But having said that, it’s not as dangerous as it looks. To get to their destinations, cyclists can always take side roads or take the highways, which when congested are pretty safe since vehicles are forced to slow down. Otherwise, highways are generally wide, allowing cyclists to just take the rightmost side of the right lane. Again, having said that, cyclists should wear helmets and install lights on their bikes to ensure that they are seen when riding at night.
It takes practice on the part of the cyclist to commute by bike and respect on the part of the vehicle driver. Unfortunately, car owners and drivers — of which I was once — use their vehicles most of the time as weapons against other road users. That kind of attitude — and the dangerous consequences of failing to address its root causes — poses as the larger threat to the safety of road users. Weaponizing vehicles is premised on road entitlement — that drivers are just the only class of people entitled to use the road. And that’s absolutely unjust. As the bike to work slogan says: We all should share the road.”
Q: What policies do you wish the government or businesses enforced for the safety of bikers?
A: “Government should install bike lanes. That may not work out for all roads — and I personally feel it won’t work at all and I bike to work — but signs and other road indicators that bike lanes are available will at least make other road users aware that cyclists are road users too.
Government should make it easier for other road users to report incidents of abuse committed by drivers.
Government should de-emphasize the importance of private motor vehicles as a form of transport. After all, the era of the motor car is very, very slowly coming to an end. Besides investing in public transport infrastructure, the government should also stop putting much importance on cars when planning and/or designing cities.
Government should prompt buses and trains to allow bikes onboard. That’s a long shot — as with other biking policies — but it has got to start somewhere.
Government should allow bike parking in all public buildings. It should also install showers to encourage more people to bike to work.
The same goes for the private sector. Besides allowing bike parking on their properties, they should make it easier for cyclists to park their bikes. Some malls already have bike parking but they are either located on the basement or on higher floors, locations which make it difficult for cyclists to access them. The private sector should also make showers available for cyclists.“
Compared to motorists and pedestrians, there aren’t many #WorkersWhoBike yet. But by sharing their stories, perhaps another person would be encouraged to follow suit or would at least be a little kinder to those who do in order to help make our roads safer. (END) – WorkersOfPH.com
This story was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, the Department of Transportation in the Philippines and Vera Files.